I have no idea if I'd be saying this if the XFL team here in town wasn't undefeated and power fueled by the most dynamic quarterback-wide receiver combination in the entire league, but so far, so good for the XFL in Houston! On Saturday afternoon, the Houston Roughnecks went on the road for the first time all season, and they answered the counterpunches of the hometown Tampa Bay Vipers enough times to come away with a 34-27 victory.
Let's rapid fire some winners and losers, as the Roughnecks continue to avoid the first loss in franchise history....
4. P. J. Walker
The early leader in the clubhouse for league MVP, Walker's story has been getting quite a bit of run in national circles. He was a backup in Indianapolis with Andrew Luck, who recommended Walker to his father, XFL commissioner Oliver Luck. In June Jones' offensive system, Walker has quickly become an NFL prospect once again, and on Saturday he channeled some Deshaun Watson yet again for this Roughnecks touchdown....
3. Florida memes
I realize I'm cherrypicking still shots from the telecast, but if you can find fans that embody their home state better than these Tampa Bay Viper fans, then lunch is on me! Commissioner Luck, if you're going to expand next season, may I recommend these cities — Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Tallahassee, and Gainesville.
This Viper fan is Florida AF pic.twitter.com/0mbY4xfWb2— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) February 22, 2020
2. Math brain teasers
We are three weeks in on the XFL, so we've now had a chance to really assess some of the differences between the XFL game and the NFL game over multiple weeks, and by far, the one that is the most intriguing to me are the extra point tiers that the XFL has in place. After a touchdown in XFL play, you can run a play from scrimmage, and try for one point from the two yard line, two points from the five yard line, and three points from the ten yard line. I'm still trying to figure out the strategy of which one makes the most sense, and situationally, when you're managing margin later in the game, which one makes the most sense. More than anything else, it messes with the gambler in me. The NFL is largely a cookie cutter game with sevens and threes. This XFL thing is one giant math brain teaser. Pretty cool.
1. Cam Phillips
If Walker isn't the league MVP, then his top target Phillips might be, as he is now at seven touchdowns in three games. Here is Saturday's Phillips highlight reel:
4. Jerry Glanville
I guess at this stage of life and his career, maybe it's fun being around football, and I would imagine the competitive spirit never goes away, but poor Jerry Glanville having to coach this Tampa Bay defense. The Roughnecks got pretty much what they wanted whenever they needed it, gaining 417 yards on 53 plays for a whopping 7.9 yards per play. That's just, yuck.
3. Tom Luginbill
Luginbill was one of the sideline reporters for Saturday's game, and if you're a sideline reporter in the XFL, you're going to be tasked with a whole lot more awkwardness than your NFL and collegiate counterparts. In the XFL, the production team tasks the sideline reporters with interviewing players who just screwed up. It's a pretty fascinating watch, and the strategy has already yielded one viral moment when, in Week 2, New York QB Matt McGloin said at halftime that the team needs to change its whole offensive strategy. The coaches obliged. They benched McGloin.
2. Spoiler alerts
One XFL "advancement" that I am not wild about — the content peek in on the mic'd up play callers for both sides. Offensively, this usually leads to the color analyst giving us some degree of a preview as to what play is coming. I don't like that. I watch football for drama, and knowing what play is coming doesn't do it for me. Also, being able to hear EVERYTHING on the field is something we've seen in exhibition games like the Pro Bowl. For the XFL, this particular nuance makes the games feel less significant.
1. Johnny Manziel
So Johnny Manziel apparently did the Twitter equivalent of drunk dialing the XFL on Friday night....
Oliver Luck. If ya wanna boost your ratings to another level just send me the contract tomorrow and we’re in there. Like I said YEARS ago... XFL2020 give the people what they want— Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2) February 22, 2020
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Then on Saturday, Johnny said he was trolling all along....
Have zero desire to play any football these days. Just love stirring up controversy.— Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2) February 23, 2020
Johnny's 15 minutes are about up, right?