XFL Week 5 storylines: Can DC stop the bleeding? Can Dallas win with backup QB? Here’s what to look for

The midseason point for the XFL is officially upon us. Before long, we’ll be talking about the back end of things, like playoff runs. Speaking of which: Other than the top two teams, this league is chaos. You could make the case for about five other teams to grab two other playoff spots. And, who knows, maybe Week 5 turns things upside down for favorites like Houston or St. Louis. Or both. 

On top is another fascinating slate of games for Saturday and Sunday. What storylines should you be watching for as each on kicks off? Let’s get you primed for Week 5 action in the XFL (you can also check out all our XFL coverage, from stats to picks to power rankings, plus XFL betting tips from an expert who’s gone 14-2 ATS). 

Can the Defenders stop the bleeding?

In the XFL, there are good teams, not so good teams, and then teams that give you something new every week. But no team over the past two weeks has nosedived with authority like the Defenders. DC has given Los Angeles and Tampa Bay their only wins of the year, and those wins came by a total score of 64-9. Sixty-four! Nine! And this came after literally being the most dominant team in the league by point margin through the first two weeks. So what can we expect on Sunday when St. Louis comes to town? Obviously, there will be a lot of eyes on quarterback Cardale Jones, who has been a turnover machine lately. Would Tyree Jackson be the answer? Perhaps, but Jones is not the only reason DC is sliding. The run defense allowed 266 yards against the Vipers in Week 4. This has been a complete meltdown. The BattleHawks are one of the two best teams right now, but as we’ve seen over the past couple of weeks, anyone can circle the wagons in a home game. DC needs to do that here. 

Renegades move forward without Landry Jones (again)

Philip Nelson will start for Dallas for the second time this year. He certainly wasn’t bad in a Week 1 loss to St. Louis while Jones was out with the same knee injury he re-aggravated a week ago, but he also played conservatively. Jones is out for at least another couple of weeks, which would seem like bad news on the surface. However: Jones had seven interceptions in three starts and one thing you can say about Nelson is he was more careful with the ball. Everyone I’ve spoken to behind the scenes feels more confident in Nelson this time around, too. They feel offensive coordinator Hal Mumme will try to stretch the field earlier in the game. New York’s defense is worst in the league against the pass and in yards per play allowed. Will that matter? We’ll see, but Dallas has established it has two solid running backs and a game-changer at tight end (Donald Parham). 

Are the Vipers actually a threat?

Tampa Bay is the anti-DC. Though still 1-3, they’ve been the most improved team in the league. The culmination of that improvement was a 25-0 shutout of the Defenders in Week 4. There are a few reasons for this sudden surge. The running game with De’Veon Smith and Jacques Patrick is working and that pair represents two of the top three running backs in the XFL. That’s helped quarterback Taylor Cornelius play with more confidence. And the defense, other than the one loss to Houston, has been generally good. Is this the team projected by bookmakers to finish with the highest win total before the season coming to fruition? Getting L.A. seems like a good way to keep trending in the right direction, but as we’ve seen already, traveling cross-country can take a toll on visiting teams. 

Can Seattle wear down the Roughnecks?

Maybe B.J. Daniels is a better option at quarterback for the Dragons, but getting into a scoring match against the XFL’s best offense is probably not the game plan coach Jim Zorn wants to implement. Rather, despite not having a true bell cow back, Seattle’s best bet is to use its respectable running game (it ranks third in YPG) to play some keep away from P.J. Walker and Co. St. Louis had some success doing that in the second half of their Week 2 loss to the Roughnecks, and nearly came back to win. The thing is, Seattle’s probably not winning this thing with defense, so slowing things downs and possibly incorporating more of Daniels into the ground attack is the best chance to pull off one of the biggest upsets so far. 

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