XFL Week 3 storylines: Renegades look to ground game, Josh Johnson faces the league’s top defense

It’s only been two weeks, but already some themes are developing in the new XFL. The most apparent is that teams with good quarterback play — D.C., Houston and St. Louis — are separating themselves from the rest of the pack. However, there are still eight more weeks of football left. And with no preseason, maybe it’ll take a couple weeks for some other teams to catch up. 

But time waits for no team. Football will be played this weekend, and based on the early returns some of it will be exciting and some of it will be tough to watch. Say this for the XFL, though: When the football is good, this league is a lot of fun. And who knows, maybe we’ll finally get our first overtime, or first kickoff run back for a touchdown, or first big play off a double forward pass. 

Here’s what to watch for in the four games this weekend.

Who should you back against the spread and on the total in every Week 3 XFL game? And which team dominates the competition? Visit SportsLine now to see their Week 3 cheat sheet, all from the pro football expert who is an astonishing 7-1 on XFL picks this season. 

Will the Renegades ground the Air Raid?

If you only looked at the stat sheet of Dallas’ 25-18 win over Los Angeles in Week 2, you would have seen that quarterback Landry Jones threw for 305 yards in his debut. Good, right? Sort of. He threw two interceptions, and frankly the offense only started moving in the fourth quarter when the Renegades started running the ball heavily with Cameron Artis-Payne and Lance Dunbar. With Hal Mumme calling plays and Jones taking snaps, there’s an expectation that the Renegades were going to air it out this season, but what if Dallas’ best offense is pounding the rock instead? The Dragons have a decent run defense, allowing just under 3.5 yards per attempt while averaging the most tackles for loss of any XFL team. If Dallas’ run game gets stuffed, will Jones be able to bail them out?

Josh Johnson faces the XFL’s top defense

The former NFL signal-caller wasn’t terrible in his debut against the Renegades in Week 2 … but he wasn’t great, either. Now the Wildcats will face the XFL’s top defense when the Defenders come to town on Sunday evening. D.C. leads the league in points per game allowed (9.6), yards per play allowed (4.03) and yards per passing attempt (4.6). They’ve also been exceptional at creating takeaways. Johnson brings a wealth of experience to the quarterback spot in the XFL — something not all other players at his position have. Still, this is a big challenge to get win No. 1. If the Wildcats are going to pull the upset, Johnson, along with receiver Nelson Spruce, needs to have a big day.

St. Louis and New York try to rebound

The BattleHawks and Guardians lost in Week 2, but those games could not have been more different. St. Louis looked the part of a playoff contender by coming up just short against Houston. New York laid a goose egg against D.C. while quarterback Matt McGloin asked if it ever occurred to anyone that, uh, instead of uh, you know, running around blaming him, uh, that the problems behind the scenes could be a lot more uh … uh … uh complex. Uh, uh, it might not be so uh simple, uh, you know?

What’s telling is that the BattleHawks are nearly a double-digit favorite coming off their loss. McGloin isn’t New York’s only problem seeing as it ranks near the bottom of the XFL in most defensive categories. But right now this team is in a lot of trouble, and you have to figure coach Kevin Gilbride will have to go in another direction at some point. 

Will Tampa Bay finally score its first offensive touchdown?

For as bad as things have been with the Guardians, they’ve been even worse for the Vipers. Marc Trestman’s team is a mess, and frankly, it’d be nothing short of stunning if a game against the Roughnecks fixes that. Houston is simply on another level right now.

So while there’s not much to pull from this game from an interest standpoint, one fact remains is that Tampa Bay is the last XFL team to not have scored an offensive touchdown yet. Can the Vipers get that proverbial monkey off its back against arguably the best team in the league? #TampaBayTouchdownWatch2020 is underway. 

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