If there was one team that surprised an awful lot of people last week, it was the St. Louis BattleHawks. They were regarded somewhat lightly by most; in fact, the folks over at CBS Sports had then rated the worst XFL team. But they turned back the challenge of the Dallas Renegades last week, and on the road no less. So there is no reason they should not come in with some confidence as they oppose the Houston Roughnecks in a game that is set to begin at 6 PM ET at TDECU Stadium in Houston, with television provided through Fox Sports 1. .
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The Roughnecks found themselves at a 14-6 deficit at halftime against the Los Angeles Wildcats last week, but it was almost nothing but good news the rest of the way, as Philip “PJ” Walker threw for touchdown passes in what ended up a 37-17 victory. The rally was enough that L.A. coach Winston Moss fired defensive coordinator Pepper Johnson and traded defensive captain Anthony Johnson afterward.
Still, Houston may need to improve on some of its numbers. They didn’t exactly run amok against L.A., with 315 yards on offense. They didn’t have a heck of a lot of balance on the offensive end (just 50 rushing yards) and converted just three of 10 on third down.
But June Jones’ team has a lot of buzz around it right now, and they are not lacking for public support.
In the XFL odds that have been posted at BetAnySports on this game, the Roughnecks are the favorites:
Houston Roughnecks -8
St. Louis BattleHawks +8
Over 49 points -110
Under 49 points -110
Those who expected the BattleHawks to roll over against the Renegades last week were sorely disappointed. They have an offensive coordinator who is well-schooled in the Air Raid, and a quarterback who has played in that same kind of system, but they looked like the Baltimore Ravens, running the ball on 61% of their snaps and rolling up 191 rushing yards, better than any other XFL team.
It is evident that quarterback Jordan Ta’Amu is going to be a big part of that rushing attack. He chalked up 77 yards on the ground, including a 37-yard ramble. Matt Jones, the former Washington Redskin, had 85 yards, and he has the makings of a #1, workhorse back. We’re still waiting to see something out of Christine Michael, another former NFL back, who had exactly one yards from scrimmage.
It’s been tricky trying to gauge Ta’Amu, who was a starter from beginning to end only one season in college (Ole Miss) but appears to have more upside than any XFL signal-caller. He completed 20 of 27 passes, and his passer rating was actually higher than Walker’s was.
St. Louis may have been a bit fortunate last week in that they opposed a quarterback (Philip Nelson) who wasn’t too anxious to get the ball down the field. They’ll see something different this week. But let’s keep in mind that they held Dallas to just one third down conversion in ten attempts, and without a touchdown. They’re showing the ability to run the ball, control the pace and the clock, and play defense. Head coach Jonathan Hayes stocked up on defensive backs, so they should be well-equipped to deal with Walker.
Houston is anxious to get off to a better start in this one, and we saw last week that they didn’t exactly put together long drives. St. Louis can slow them down and shorten the game, and that is one of the principal characteristics in a viable underdog that is getting more than a touchdown. We’re moving in the BattleHawks’ direction.
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