To many observers, the Houston Roughnecks are looking like the best team in the XFL right now. And they have the quarterback who is the front-runner (albeit through just two weeks) for the MVP award. Can they get much better? Or are they as good as all that? They will try to move to 3-0 as they take on the Tampa Bay Vipers in Week 3 action, which will be seen live starting at 2 PM ET on Saturday via the FOX Network. The site is Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
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Last week the Roughnecks (priced at +245 to win the XFL title) turned back a game St. Louis BattleHawks team 28-24 and moved to 2-0. Phillip Walker is turning out to be a revelation, as he had three more touchdown passes to go with the four he threw in the opener against Los Angeles. Cam Phillips was on the other end of all three of those scores last week. He was the XFL’s “Star of the Week,” joining Walker, who held that honor in Week 1. So it’s been a pretty good week for the team, which found out that it was being awarded the league championship game for TDECU Stadium.
The Vipers continue to experience offensive problems. They played last week without starting quarterback Aaron Murray and went with Taylor Corneliius, the former starter at Oklahoma State, who went 16-of-27 for 154 yards, with two interceptions in the 17-9 loss at Seattle. In all fairness, he found out just hours before kickoff that he had gotten the starting nod. Maybe with more time to work with the first unit, he’ll be more comfortable. Meanwhile, don’t be surprised if we see some more of Quinton Flowers at QB, as head coach Marc Trestman struggles to find solutions. But the truth is, Flowers was shaky back there too, tossing a pick-six. The Vipers have yet to score an offensive touchdown in two games.
Here are the XFL betting odds, as they are posted at BetAnySports:
Houston Roughnecks -6.5
Tampa Bay Vipers +6.5
Over 45 points -110
Under 45 points -110
Walker, who has completed 62.3% of his passes, has a nice, deep receiving crew, with the aforementioned Phillips, along with Nick Holley, Sammie Coates and Khalil Lewis. And that is exactly what you need when you are implementing the Run ‘n Shoot offense that coach June Jones practices. Walker originally became known to Jones during his freshman year at Temple, when he drove Jones’ SMU Mustangs crazy with 293 yards passing and 92 on the ground. And as the coach recalled, he thought Walker could be an ideal guy to run an offense like his. On top of that, Andrew Luck, who Walker briefly played behind as a practice squad member in Indianapolis, wholeheartedly recommended him as an XFL player to his dad Oliver, who is the league’s commissioner.
The Vipers (+1050 longshots for championship honors at BetAnySports), who have played New York and Seattle thus far, have not faced this kind of test defensively. What we have to determine is what kind of test it really is. Interestingly, Houston has not piled up the yardage, with only 553 over these first two games. What they have been able to do is take advantage of turnovers when they present themselves. You have to wonder what would happen if that evened itself out, but this Tampa Bay team has been a comedy of errors thus far, with a minus-7 turnover ratio already.
The performance of the Roughnecks’ defense last week doesn’t inspire confidence, as they allowed 390 yards, 26 first downs and 11-for-19 on third down. But the Tampa Bay offense doesn’t give us any confidence whatsoever. Can they even dent the board with anything but a field goal? We also have to take into account that XFL teams have not been very good with extra point attempts, converting less than 31% of them. Ultimately that will reduced total scores by a few points. So considering all this, the most judicious thing we can do is go UNDER in this XFL matchup.
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