The XFL continues to deliver in the excitement and action departments
Week 2 was certainly enjoyable, but Week 3 of the 2020 XFL season showed the rebooted league has even more to offer. The weekend's games featured some surprises, some momentum swings, and some history-making moments. Here are five observations from the XFL's third week of play.
1. A week of firsts
On Saturday, the Houston Roughnecks became the first team to hit the 30-point mark twice this year in their 34-27 win over the Tampa Bay Vipers. The duo of quarterback P.J. Walker and wide receiver Cam Phillips accounted for 340 total yards and four touchdowns that helped propel Houston to another strong victory as they are the XFL's lone remaining unbeaten team. That game also was the first one at home for the Vipers, who did manage to score 24 points after totaling 12 in their first two games combined. On Sunday, the St. Louis BattleHawks made their home debut, defeating the New York Guardians 29-9.
In that game, the BattleHawks recorded the first kick return touchdown in league history, thanks to some misdirection and safety Joe Powell. It was the first pro football game to be played under the Arch since 2015. Later that night, the Los Angeles Wildcats posted the biggest win of the season (and their first win of 2020) with their 39-9 thrashing of the DC Defenders, knocking them from the ranks of the unbeaten. During that game, the Defenders attempted the first onside kick of the season, albeit unsuccessful. The XFL continues to make things interesting.
2. Attendance continues to grow
Week 3 saw the league post its biggest overall attendance of the season.
Revenue ultimately decides the league's success, ticket sales are a main driver of revenue, and the fact that fan attendance has increased by more than 12,000 fans from Week 1 is proof of both the fan interest and the XFL's growth. The 29,554 fans that filled the first level of The Dome at America's Center in St. Louis is the biggest crowd of the season thus far. And if the BattleHawks keep winning that number should grow. And while the Seattle Dragons couldn't match the total they drew in their home opener (29,172), more than 22,000 still flocked to CenturyLink Field for Saturday's game against Dallas.
The Tampa Bay Vipers also had a decent showing (18,117) in their first home game at Raymond James Stadium considering they are the XFL's lone winless team. The Los Angeles Wildcats saw a dip of about 2,800 in attendance at Dignity Health Sports Park in comparison to their home opener, but perhaps their dominating win over previously undefeated DC will draw more fans for their next home game. St. Louis and Tampa Bay are both at home again this weekend while the biggest game of the week, both in terms of importance and attendance, could be undefeated Houston taking on West division foe Dallas.
3. St. Louis believes
From Week 1, the BattleHawks have proven to have the XFL's most passionate fan base. Even before they played their first home game, the fan base made its presence felt in the form of television ratings. The St. Louis market posted a 7.4 rating in the BattleHawks' season opener at Dallas. That was followed by a 6.0 local rating in the team's close loss at Houston, which was better than what a St. Louis Blues, the defending NHL champions, game that same day drew. But for the home opener on Sunday against New York, the BattleHawks reached new heights with an 8.0 rating.
Once the dome reopened to football this past weekend; not only did they draw the biggest XFL crowd to date, but the fans were fully engaged from the pre-game tailgate until well after the action on the field was over. Commissioner Oliver Luck certainly picked a good game to attend. I think it's safe to say that the BattleHawks might be the league's most popular team. More thin mints please...
4. Who can stop the Roughnecks?
So far nobody has been able to. The Houston Roughnecks are undefeated for three main reasons — a seemingly unstoppable offense (leads XFL with 33.0 ppg), a defense that leads the league in sacks (10), and a roster full of speed. Quarterback P.J. Walker leads the league in passing yards (748), touchdown passes (10), and completions (67). He also leads the way in total yards (835) and total touchdowns (11). If that's not enough, Cam Phillips is the XFL's leading receiver (20 catches, 324 yards, 7 TDs).
Houston has been tabbed the favorite to win the XFL Championship, and that can be a reality in April providing everyone stays healthy. It just so happens to be that Houston is hosting this year's XFL title game, so you know they would love to have that home-field advantage.
5. Looking forward to Week 4
The BattleHawks hope to have an even bigger crowd on hand when they host Seattle on Saturday evening, the Renegades will try and hand the Roughnecks their first loss on Sunday afternoon, and the Wildcats look to make it two wins in a row when they travel to New York to take on a struggling Guardians team in Saturday's opener. The Vipers only lost to Houston by seven points last week, but on Sunday night they host a DC Defenders team that will be in a foul mood after last week's no-show out in Los Angeles.
— 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.
(Top photo courtesy of @XFLBattleHawks)