BattleHawks, Roughnecks close out the Week 2 slate looking to improve to 2-0
While Week 2 of the 2020 XFL season will start with a matchup between two of its top teams, it will conclude with a matchup of arguably it's two best quarterbacks. That's exactly what we'll see when the Houston Roughnecks (1-0) host the St. Louis BattleHawks (1-0) this Sunday.
Both teams put together impressive debuts in their respective season openers. The Roughnecks got it done on both sides of the ball as they defeated the Los Angeles Wildcats, 37-17. Meanwhile, the BattleHawks won a hard-fought and tightly contested matchup on the road against the Dallas Renegades, 15-9.
The BattleHawks look to shine on the Sunday evening stage once again, while the Roughnecks are hoping to dominate for the second straight week. Expect plenty of social media highlights from this game.
St. Louis at Houston
Kickoff: Sunday, Feb. 16 at 6 p.m. ET
Where: TDECU Stadium (Houston)
Spread: Roughnecks -8.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Walker and Ta'amu steal the show
Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker and BattleHawks signal-caller Jordan Ta'amu were both nominated for the XFL's "Star of the Week" award after their standout performances last week, with Walker receiving the honor via Twitter vote. Both men put on quite the show in Week 1. And when all was said and done, they collectively totaled 481 passing yards, 103 rushing yards, and five total touchdowns. Walker is being praised for his consistency and athleticism, while Ta'amu is being recognized for taking St. Louis' on what essentially was game-winning drive last week.
Walker led an offense that totaled 315 yards and averaged 5.7 yards per play. Each of their scoring drives was conducted in less than eight plays, and they had six drives of 30 or more yards. The Roughnecks overcame an early 14-6 deficit and were on cruise control the rest of the way. The Wildcats defense performed so poorly down the stretch that defensive coordinator Pepper Johnson was relieved of his duties on Monday.
The BattleHawks only scored 15 points against Dallas, but they stood out in other areas. They posted the second-most total yards in Week 1 (374), ran the second-most plays (71), and had the second-most third-down conversions (6-of-12) while leading the league in total first downs (24). Seven of their 11 drives went for 20 or more yards with four of those drives going more than 50 yards. What the BattleHawks lack in points they certainly make up for it in efficiency with Ta'amu under center. It wouldn't be surprising if Walker and Ta'amu are looking at Star of the Week honors again.
2. Both teams can play defense as well
Although both teams lit up our television, computer, and mobile screens with what they did on offense last week, they also put the hammer down on defense. Houston held Los Angeles scoreless in the second half, sacked both quarterbacks (Chad Kanoff, Jalan McClendon) a total of five times, posted eight tackles for a loss, and leads the XFL in both quarterback hits (10) and pass deflections (11).
As for the BattleHawks; they held the Hal Mumme-coordinated Dallas offense to just three field goals, forced them to punt four times, surprising a Renegades team that was considered a favorite heading into the season. The big plays were there too with three takeaways, four sacks, and seven tackles for a loss.
Two players to watch for on this side of the ball are Roughnecks defensive end Kony Ealy (3 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 4 QB hits, 2 TFLs), and BattleHawks linebacker Terrence Gavin (9 tackles, 2 TFLs, 1 sacks vs. Dallas).
3. The home fans have responded positively
A total of 17,815 fans in Houston showed up to watch the Roughnecks defeat Los Angeles last week in 40,000-seat TDECU Stadium. That's not a bad turnout for a startup franchise. Although the BattleHawks have yet to play a home game — the first professional football game in St. Louis since the Rams left in 2015 — almost 2.5 million fans watched them defeat Dallas. The St. Louis market posted a 7.4 television rating, which bodes very well for a team that's trying to renew faith in a fan base that's seen two NFL franchises come and go through the years.
Both defenses will keep the scoring from getting too out of hand, but this will be an exciting game to watch. Each offense will have its moment but the Roughnecks have a little bit more firepower and will emerge the winner in a close game.
Prediction: Roughnecks 28, BattleHawks 25
— 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.