XFL season is only just over two weeks old but already, there is one team that stands out from the pack in the (2-0) DC Defenders. They will look to stay undefeated today when they take on the winless (0-2) Los Angeles Wildcats (6pm ET Sunday on FS1).
When the 2020 XFL season began, the DC Defenders (+750) opened with the fifth best odds (in an eight-team league) to win the league’s championship. This put them behind the Dallas Renegades (+300), Tampa Bay Vipers (+400) and New York Guardians (+450), who the Defenders beat handedly in week two by a final score of 27-0. Also ahead of the Defenders in the odds were the team they’ll play on Sunday, the Wildcats (+500), a team that hasn’t been able to buy a win yet and whose season perhaps hangs on this weekend’s result.
Before we get to the struggling Wildcats, let’s address the Defenders and how they went from fifth best odds in the lead-up to the season, to sitting in the power rankings and the standings as the XFL’s top unit. The first question to answer naturally, is what makes DC so good and thus far, two things in particular stand out: their defense and Cardale Jones.
Formerly of Ohio State and the NFL’s Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Chargers, the Defenders’ QB Cardale Jones, has not lost a start since he was in high school. That’s insanely impressive. Among those victories, Jones has to his name a win in the 2015 Sugar Bowl and College Football Playoff National Championship.
Entering into week three, it is Jones, who sits among the top of the XFL QB rankings and early MVP standings, holding a share of stat leads with PJ Walker of the Houston Roughnecks. Walker had another great game, his best yet on Saturday, tossing for 306 yards, three touchdowns and a QB rating of 120.8. He also rushed for 34 yards and another three touchdowns to add to his already league-high mark of seven, in the Roughnecks’ week three victory.
So there’s no doubt, Walker has been prolific and efficient. To many within the league, it’s Jones who has actually played slightly better. Entering week three, Walker had the XFL highs in touchdowns and rating but it was Jones who had the top mark in total yards. Jones has been great for DC, specifically in regards to how he’s managed to avoid turnovers and give his team every opportunity to score each time he touches the ball. To Jones’ benefit, he’s got some talented guys catching passes in the secondary (two of the top five receivers after week two were DC’s Rashad Ross and Eli Rogers) which has made Jones the XFL’s best deep threat thus far.
Quarterback play is often what separates the good teams from the great, but the Defenders also don’t lack in another key area of the ball, that being on defense. Defensively, no one has been better than DC, whose dominance has begun at the all-important line of scrimmage. The Defenders are winning that battle right now and it’s not even close as DC ranked three players in the top nine of sacks entering week three.
In week two against New York, the Defenders wreaked havoc on the Guardians and QB Matt McGloin, who presided over one of the worst games of football ever played at a higher level. The Defenders defense had an answer to everything New York threw at them, allowing DC to outmatch their opponents. McGloin was held to just eight completed passes out of 19, 42 yards and two interceptions. His QB rating before being pulled from the game, was a 10.1 Replacing McGloin was Marquise Williams, who fared only slightly better, completing passes for 50 yards and a QB rating of 70.3.
Get to Know the Worst Team in the XFL: LA Wildcats
Okay, so this description for the Wildcats may not be fair given LA has been competitive in both games they have played, which is more than some of these teams can say. That said, LA has a league-worst 0-2 mark and finds their season perhaps on the line if they don’t turn things around quickly.
Attempting to do that, the Wildcats actually fired their defensive coordinator, Pep Hamilton, after a 20-point week one loss. The following week, LA played much better on that front, losing to Dallas by just seven points. Now, in defense of Hamilton and the Wildcats’ defense, their week one loss did come against the Roughnecks, who have the best offense in the entire league. A loss is a loss and the Wildcats are still winless on the year.
Something has to give for LA and it starts with their performance on offense. Josh Johnson replaced Chad Kanoff after the latter’s uneven week one performance and he didn’t play all that bad. In his first XFL start, Johnson completed 18 of 34 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Johnson benefited from the presence of the XFL’s best pass catcher, former Colorado and LA Chargers wide out, Nelson Spruce. In two games, Spruce has caught 17 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns.
Only Houston’s Cam Philips has more TDs with four and no one has more yards or more receptions. Spruce has played so well and been a constant for a struggling LA team, that some are even beginning to discuss a case for him to return to the NFL. And ultimately, that’s what the XFL is for a lot of these players, a chance to play football again and impress enough to get back to the country’s premier league. In the meantime, Spruce is hoping to make the Wildcats viable. He won’t be able to do it alone, but now with a full week of practice under his belt, there is optimism to how Johnson will pair with his top option.
Our Betting Preview’s DC Defenders vs Los Angeles Wildcats Predictions & Picks Verdict
Despite being on the road for the first time this season, the Defenders are 8.5 to 9 point favorites. In the XFL, nine points counts as a one possession game as you can make that up with a touchdown and the three-point conversion.
If the first two weeks have taught us anything, these eight teams are still struggling when it comes to the point/s after attempt. These are today’s DC Defenders vs Los Angeles Wildcats predictions: