Now It’s Real – Week 3
By: Connor Lenahan
Before we get started this week, we must take a moment to remember one of the most important players in XFL history, Rob Bironas, who passed away this past weekend. Bironas became quite possibly the most famous kicker in our league’s history after his 2007 season. Bironas has a game while on free agency of 8 field goals. This made him the only kicker to ever put up more than 200 points in a game – a distinction he still holds today. After this massive game I was lucky enough to snag him as the kicker for my Waverly Chargers team. Down by a considerable amount of points in the first ever championship game against Las Vegas I needed Bironas to have an amazing game to win. He needed to boot some big kicks and outscore Dallas Clark. He did just that and brought home a championship for me in the first year of the league. It was in large part thanks to Bironas coming up huge on the most important night of the year, making the championship game a classic, that we knew that the XFL would stay around. In the years to follow he was a journeyman around the league as the kicker for a few teams including a few more with the Chargers. Before he was cut by the Titans earlier this year I was all set to bring Bironas back for another tour of duty. After his passing this weekend Bironas’s time in the league physically is finished, but his impact will be around forever.
On a brighter note, we are another week into the XFL season and now we are getting to a key point. Three weeks don’t really mean much unless you are doing really well or really poorly. For example, the three teams tied for first can now go 4-6 for the remainder of the year and still finish north of .500 and in the playoffs. Meanwhile, our two defeated (0-3) teams need to win right away or else they are in dire need of help.
This week we are going to look where everyone is at and assess their future. Some teams look to have a fun year, others not so much. Without further ado, here are your stock reports for each team.
Looking Good – (3-0) – Houston, Seattle, Minnesota
Slowly but surely we are dwindling our number of undefeated teams down. Hell, this week Seattle and Houston play each other. But for now these three sit atop the standings. It’s only a tad bit terrifying that the three best teams in the league are not helmed by Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees but instead Jay Cutler, Tom Brady, and Cam Newton. That’s the XFL in the nutshell.
Houston looks to be in relatively good shape going forward. Cutler is playing an an offense that puts up absurd numbers. They are built to succeed. Meanwhile the backfield of Monte Ball and Fred Jackson isn’t exactly an A+ tandem, but agh least they’re both playing, which is asking a lot these days. Jonathan Stewart is going to miss extended time but he’s a flex anyway. Eric also gets to start Calvin Johnson, so there are good days ahead.
Seattle is quietly incredible. Cam Newton looks worse in overall standings than he is given that he missed week one. Then the running back corps of Reggie Bush, Darren Sproles, and Knile Davis seems to be a potato sack of wolverines (Extreme bonus points to anyone who knows what I’m referencing). Then there’s DeSean Jackson turning back into DeSean Jackson. I don’t know how Greg went about selling his soul to start 3-0 – was it PayPal? – but I want to as well. Oh, and Arian Foster is on his bench. Seriously.
For right now Minnesota seems good, but there’s some reason to be concerned going forward. Brady isn’t playing well. Forte is awesome but CJ Spiller never stays healthy. Lamar Miller is on a possibly bad Miami team, as is Mike Wallace. Suddenly the team is Antonio Brown and Matt Forte with a crazily weak bench – Shaun Hill is the backup QB – and that makes the footing at 3-0 not terribly solid.
Real Contenders – (2-1) – Oklahoma City, Denver, Waverly, Green Bay
If some of these match ups were different then the top of the leaderboard would be much different. Green Bay’s one loss is Waverly. Waverly’s is Houston. Oklahoma City’s is Denver. Denver’s is Miami. Save for that last one all of those are respectable losses. And the final loss, the Denver loss to Miami, included Matt Ryan putting up 755. These are really good teams. There are a lot of reasons to be excited about these four all year long.
Oklahoma City got a great chance to rebuild by picking first. They decided to take the fantasy golden ticket that is Drew Brees. Brees puts up numbers like nobody’s business. Even with a struggling Saints team around him Brees has averaged 366 points for the first three weeks. That’s what we call “really, really good.” Andrew somehow hit a jackpot by getting two of the top six running backs in the league with DeMarco Murray and Giovani Bernard. Then he took Julian Edelman two picks before I was going to. Andrew’s team is really fun. Now, it’s important to watch DeMarco Murray, as he has about as long a history of injury issues as I do. But if he holds up then OKC will be really good.
Denver has some real assets in Alfred Morris and Rashad Jennings. They will do work. Plus Peyton is Peyton. Those three alone can and do account for a lot of the offense that Denver puts up. That’s actually a problem. The rest of their team looks fairly shaky. Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley are not great options at wideout and Anquan Boldin is worse. And Rob Gronkowski has yet to return to form. If this changes then so does my faith in Denver, but at the moment I don’t want to bet on a three person squad.
Green Bay is horrifying. Philip Rivers is playing really well as of late. Zac Stacy and Ahmad Bradshaw are really solid power backs that, while not flashy, put up numbers. Then there’s the trio of wideouts that’s the best in the last few years in Emmanuel Sanders, AJ Green, and Julio Jones. Yikes. Those three had a combined 920 this week – enough to beat three teams on Sunday. Those three are talented enough and on the right team to carry a team with no other options. Giving them Rivers as a bonus makes Green Bay frightening.
Then we have Waverly. Matt Stafford had a horrendous day on Sunday. When he returns to form he will be one of the best QBs in the league as he has been for years now. Then the backfield of Donald Brown and Khiry Robinson may not be stars, but again, they’re all the Chargers and Saints have. Depth charts don’t lie. Then TY Hilton has been progressively improving. Alshon Jeffrey is not only healthy but benefitting from a Brandon Marshall injury. Cordarrelle Patterson is a game breaker that is going to love Teddy Bridgewater as a QB. Then Larry Donnell is actually somehow playing well. Solid production from everyone is a great quality to have. That’s the name of the game for Waverly right now.
Make or Break Week – (1-2) – Washington, Miami, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Chicago
These teams could go either way at this point. Here’s the key – it’s not the end of the world to start off 1-2, but it’s not a good position to be in if you’re suddenly 1-3. It makes it that much harder to get back to/above .500. That’s why winning this week is important for all six.
Washington made the brilliant decision of starting their draft with Andrew Luck, who is averaging 500 a game (not a typo) and is in first place in the MVP standings. Meanwhile the rest of this squad is crumbling. Roddy White is hurt again. Danny Woodhead is done for the year/was a starter in the first place? Cary’s running backs are exclusively backups, and not great ones at that. This can be salvaged, but Cary has to go where he’s never gone before, the trading block, to fix it.
Miami has some issues. Matt Ryan contributed 50% of their points last week. The rest of the team managed a poor 450. That’s not a good number. The talent just really isn’t there. And there’s no easy fix either. No trade to make. Cole might just have to ride it out.
Las Vegas made the steal of the draft with Nick Foles who has been a monster, narrowly trailing Luck for the lead on MVP (highest scoring player). Le’Veon Bell is also an absolute beast. Outside of those two Dan has problems Demaryius Thomas is no longer a world destroyer. Bishop Sankey is terrible. So is Toby Gerhart. He has no backup for Foles. This might be a really, really rough year for Las Vegas, who seem to have had every gamble go wrong.
Chicago had Adrian Peterson. The entire team was constructed around that pick. With Peterson (presumably) being done for the year there is a simple line to draw about why Chicago is struggling. It’s not a complex idea.
Philadelphia might be in really big trouble. A previously stellar running back corps of Jamaal Charles and Eddie Lacy now looks like a total bust. Charles is hurt and Lacy isn’t Lacy. Plus with the Saints struggling the wideouts of Marques Colston and Brandin Cooks are not doing the job. Pray for Philly, they’ll need it. Andy Dalton cannot carry this entire team. He needs help from someone.
Pittsburgh is probably the most unlucky team so far. Romo and Roethlisberger cannot figure out how to get Matt the points he needs from either one. At least when they’re starting. Romo put up 385 on the bench. Then the running backs are talented – Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore – but Gore had a terrible game last week. Kelvin Benjamin and Percy Harvin are great but Vincent Jackson is awful. The talent is there. It just needs to figure itself out. If Matt wins this week than any and all panic dissipates.
Panic Mode – (0-3, and 1-2) – New York, New Orleans, Kansas City
This is not the group you wish to be a part of. This is the group you are in when things go wrong. This is the group when your best laid plans get obliterated. This is the group you’re in if you’re Dan Schlosser – a man who once successfully started the year 6-1 only to go 0-6 afterwards and drop from standalone first place to missing the playoffs.
New York is in big trouble. Here is the sad truth about this team right now: they need this win more than any other in the league. This team, as currently constructed, is not good enough to overcome an 0-4 start for much more than hopes of, at best, 7-6. If Chase loses this week he is in for an almost impossible task if he wants to have a “good” season – which is normally viewed as 8-5 or better. 0-4 means going 8-1. With Chris Ivory and hopefully Doug Martin Chase can make a run, but he has to beat a good Waverly team to get going. If not, he has to go on an absolute tear for the rest of the year.
Meanwhile New Orleans has lucked into finding the two most attractive backup QBs in the league in Kirk Cousins and Blake Bortles. These two can legitimately play. In fact, both pose as improvements for the players around them. This means all Washington and Jacksonville wide receivers stand to play better (I say as an excited Allen Robinson owner). It’s a testament to bad luck for New Orleans that Cousins could lead all players with 710 points yet the Tigers would still lose. Getting Cousins to replace the previous options of Josh McCown, Matt Cassel, and Derek Carr to begin the year is an inarguable upgrade, as is the return of Wes Welker. On paper the Tigers are looking better than they have in recent weeks. But part of me almost wants to see the Tigers make a big play and move Josh Gordon or Blake Bortles for better pieces and/or better depth to a team more desperate in need.
Like Kansas City. Dan has hit yet another string of bad luck this year. First he lost Ray Rice because he’s an awful human being. Then he loses Robert Griffin III because he’s as fragile as I am. Then he drops Carson Palmer with a shoulder injury. Dan is forced to play Austin Davis while New Orleans has Blake Bortles and Houston has Colin Kaepernick on their respective benches. But wait, there’s more. Dan’s tight end, Dennis Pitta, is again out for the year with a dislocated hip. I’m genuinely concerned for the physical and mental safety of LeSean McCoy at this point. Here’s the funniest part – Kansas City isn’t all that bad. Sure, they’ve hit some crazy bad luck, and their only win is against New York, but still, they aren’t terrible. They’ve dropped the other two games by a combined 195 points. That isn’t a large margin. That’s a “Robert Griffin III got hurt in the first quarter and missed the remainder of the game” margin and a “LeSean McCoy had 40 while Lamar Miller had 230” margin. Kansas City can do well. In fact, they might do well. But they’re still Dan’s team, and the curse is real.