Week 4 of the 2020 XFLseason kicks off with two teams searching for a big win. The New York Guardians host the Los Angeles Wildcats (both are 1-2) with each team needing a win for different reasons. The Guardians need to break a two-game losing streak, while the Wildcats are looking to start a winning streak.
In Week 3, the Wildcats posted their first win of the season by shocking the visiting DC Defenders to the tune of 39-9. The 30-point margin is the largest win of the season thus far. Josh Johnson has established himself as one of the better quarterbacks in the league after missing the season opener.
The Guardians are hoping that a return to MetLife Stadium will get them back on track. Back in Week 1 on their home field, the Guardians put the hammer to the still-winless Tampa Bay Vipers, 23-3. But since then, the Guardians have taken to the road, they've struggled on both sides of the ball, and the free fall is evident with them outscored 56-9. I expect this to be a hard-hitting game.
Los Angeles at New York
Kickoff: Saturday, Feb. 29 at 2 p.m. ET
Where: MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, N.J.)
Spread: Wildcats -7
Three Things to Watch
1. Josh Johnson steadies the ship
Johnson missed the Week 1 opener at Houston due to injury. In that game, the combination of Charles Kanoff and Jalan McClendon combined to complete just 22-of-43 passes for 214 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Los Angeles was held scoreless in the second half of that game. But since Johnson took over in Week 2, the Wildcats have been much more efficient. The 12-year NFL veteran is completing 61 percent of his passes (36-of-59) for 474 yards and five touchdowns with no picks.
Johnson leads the XFL with 8.0 yards per attempt, has only taken two sacks (tied for second), and has a 114.7 passer rating (second in the league). If Johnson stays healthy, then the Wildcats have a chance to pick up some wins down the stretch due to his efficiency. Thanks in large part to Johnson's efforts, the Wildcats rank second in both total points scored (74) and points per game (24.7).
2. The Guardians have a revolving door at quarterback
Inconsistency, and more recently Matt McGloin's chest injury, has plagued Kevin Gilbride's offense. McGloin along with Marquise Williams and Luis Perez have combined to complete 52 percent of the team's pass attempts for 494 yards and two touchdowns. McGloin has thrown two interceptions, and as a group, this unit has taken six sacks; they're constantly under pressure, and they have a team passer rating of 63.1. McGloin has been a limited participant in practice this week, so there's a chance not that he might not play. But if the Guardians want to get back in the win column, then they need to find some stability for an offense that ranks last in total points scored (32).
3. Defense could decide this game
The conclusion of this game could be decided by a defensive stop or two. Both teams haven't exactly been the most defensively savvy this season, but they will need to make an effort in this department in order to win on Saturday. After limiting the Vipers to a field goal in their opener, the Guardians have since given up 56 points (6 touchdowns, a two-point conversion, 6 field goals), they've allowed their opponents to gain 645 yards of total offense, and they only have one takeaway. And despite the Wildcats' competitive style of play over these last two weeks, they still allow the second-most points per game (23.7), the second-most yards per game (349.7), and the second-most total points this season (71).
Both teams are coming into this game with some sense of urgency. But with the Wildcats having more stability on offense, and with the Guardians' recent struggles on defense, I see the Wildcats leaving MetLife Stadium with the win.
Prediction: Wildcats 24, Guardians 17
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.