XFL Week 4 storylines: Cardale Jones tries to rebound, Houston’s slumping defense vs. Landry Jones and more

One of the fun things Week 3 proved about the XFL is that just when you think you have a handle on this league, it turns everything upside down. Obviously, L.A.’s 39-9 beatdown of DC was a wake-up call, proving that any team can win in any given weekend. But even some of the more predictable results had their drama. Tampa Bay had an unexpected surge against Houston, forcing the Roughnecks to cling to a win. 

And, now, with the Defenders and Vipers facing off in Week 4, a sure thing just a week or so ago is far less certain (here’s a look at Cody Benjamin’s Week 4 picks). With the midway point of the season already approaching, let’s look at the storylines that could make for yet another unpredictable weekend of football, and be sure to check out all our XFL coverage, from standings to individual stats and more. 

Cardale Jones responds after four INT game

It would be wrong to place the blame of DC’s stunning loss on Jones’ shoulders. The Defenders played poorly all around, and the Wildcats’ defense had the downfield passing windows on lockdown. Still, Jones had four interceptions and they were brutal. So now DC goes on the road for the second straight week — not easy considering road teams are 4-8 straight up so far — against a Tampa Bay team that suddenly looks a bit more formidable. However, the Vipers still rank last in the XFL in points per game (24.7), second to last in passing yards per attempt and completion percentage, and have the lowest sack rate in the league. And keep in mind they’ve played against only one (1) good quarterback, P.J. Walker. That should bode well for Jones and this wide receiver unit as they try to get right and advance to 3-1. But if DC’s offense fails to take off again, it might be a sign of a bigger issue. 

Who should you back against the spread and on the total in every Week 4 XFL game? And which line is way off? Visit SportsLine to see their Week 4 cheat sheet, all from the pro football expert who is 11-1 on XFL against the spread picks.

Roughnecks’ defense faces Landry Jones

I touched on this last weekend, but Houston’s defense is a low-key storyline to follow. We all know about P.J. Walker and how electric the Roughnecks’ offense is, but the defense, which has allowed the third-most points in the league, has taken a step back each week. Two areas in particular — yards per completion and sack rate — have plummeted. Some of that is the competition. St. Louis quarterback Jordan Ta’amu played great against Houston two weeks ago, and last Saturday, Taylor Cornelius had a breakout day for Tampa Bay. Some of that is positioning; opponents have typically played from behind against Houston. But in facing the Renegades’ pass-happy offense on Sunday, it’s something to be aware of. Landry Jones is averaging just over 40 pass attempts per game, which leads the XFL. And he’s had one less week of starting time than Walker, Jones and Ta’amu. Renegades offensive coordinator Hal Mumme enjoys a lot of quick passes, something Cornelius had a lot of success with a week ago vs. Houston. Don’t be surprised if the Roughnecks give up a lot of yards, so they’ll need some turnovers to balance it out. 

Wildcats try to get to 2-2

If you watched L.A.’s Week 1 loss to Houston, a .500 record would have seemed laughable. And, yet, here we are, and there’s an argument to be made that Winston Moss’ team is the most improved since the start of the season. The defense, despite being shorthanded at times, has rallied behind his play-calling. On offense, quarterback Josh Johnson took a noticeable step forward in Week 3 as weapons started to emerge around him. Up next on Saturday is a road trip to New York to face the Guardians. Cross-country games are never fun, especially for west coast teams, but there’s no denying the Wildcats and Guardians are headed in completely opposite directions. Can L.A. build on its upset over DC and get to 2-2? A little momentum might make the West race a lot more interesting down the stretch. 

Can the Dragons slow St. Louis’ rushing attack?

One thing that sets St. Louis apart from other top-end XFL teams is its running game. It has been the most consistent from Week 1 and it’s helped open up the entire offensive playbook. The BattleHawks lead the league in yards on the ground (473) and attempts (122). They’re a true 60-40 ground attack offense with a triple-headed monster of Ta’amu, Matt Jones (the XFL’s leader in rushing) and Christine Michael. While St. Louis will be favored at home against Seattle on Saturday, it’s worth noting the Dragons have one of the XFL’s better run defenses. They rank in the top three in yards per attempt allowed and lead all teams with a nearly 15% tackle for loss rate. Ta’amu tends to be clutch on third downs — St. Louis leads the league in third down completion — but getting the BattleHawks behind the sticks via negative plays is how the less explosive Dragons stay in this game. 

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