We've made it to the halfway point of the 2020 XFLseason. And in Week 5 we saw the standings get shaken up once again, the playoff picture is far from settled, and we've even had a shakeup among the league's officials. The next five weeks should be fun to watch. Here are five takeaways from the XFL's fifth week of play.
1. The NFL can take a lesson from the XFL in regards to officiating errors
From the get-go, the XFL has been transparent in regards to the officials both on the field and in the booth. From the replays and reviews, to the on-field discussions amongst the zebra stripes, cameras and microphones have shown us the league's process in evaluating and enforcing the rules (something the NFL doesn't do). In Saturday's opener between Houston and Seattle, we learned not only how transparent the league is with officiating, but we've also seen the league hold its officials accountable. It all came down to the game's final play.
Houston was attempting to kneel out the final four seconds of play to win the game. The underlying issue was that it was fourth down. Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker took the snap and tried to hang onto the ball for those final seconds before kneeling, but the Seattle Dragons' defense blitzed and it worked as they forced Walker to kneel down much sooner than he had planned. There should have been one to two seconds remaining as soon as the referees blew their whistle, which would have given Seattle a chance at throwing a hail mary. But the clock ran out and the officials left the field signaling the end of the game.
In the immediate aftermath, the ESPN crew broadcasting the game questioned the game's officiating supervisor, Wes Booker, about the on-field error. He was unable to give a justifiable response, and after the game, the league announced that Booker had been "reassigned" due to the mistake. Considering the many officiating gaffes that have taken place in the NFL in recent seasons, it's good to see that the XFL is proactive in trying to prevent these issues.
2. The XFL East just got interesting
After New York's big win in Dallas, and combined with DC's huge bounce-back win at home over St. Louis, there is now a three-way tie atop the XFL's East division with New York, St. Louis, and DC all sitting at 3-2. Only the top two teams will make the playoffs in April, so this week should start to sort things out. The Guardians will get a visit from the undefeated Houston Roughnecks on Saturday afternoon, the BattleHawks travel to Tampa Bay on Saturday evening, while DC takes on Dallas on Sunday afternoon.
3. P.J. Walker is running away with the MVP award
The Roughnecks quarterback continues to frustrate opposing defenses with his dual-threat skill set. His ability to lead his team from behind, make quick decisions, and sustain drives are the engine that makes this team go. Walker leads the XFL in passing yards (1,338), touchdown passes (15), completions (119), and has thrown the longest pass of the season thus far (84 yards). He also leads all quarterbacks in both total yards (1,437) and total touchdowns (16).
4. About the rest of the XFL West...
At 5-0 the Roughnecks have a very comfortable lead in their division. But with the league requiring the two top teams to make the playoffs, Dallas and Los Angeles (tied for second place at 2-3) will be hammering things out over the next couple of weeks. Dallas won the first meeting between these two teams back in Week 2, they don't play each other again until Week 10. But both teams will have their work cut out for them this week as Dallas travels to DC, and Los Angeles goes to Seattle.
5. Week 6 preview
The Guardians return home where they will put their two-game winning streak on the line against the unbeaten Roughnecks to start the week (Mar. 14, 2 p.m. ET). But after seeing how hard Tampa Bay and Seattle played Houston in consecutive games, the Guardians can try to use that game tape to their advantage. The BattleHawks will look to get back in the win column against the last-place Vipers (Mar. 14, 5 p.m. ET), but they'll have to stop Tampa's surging rushing attack (408 yards and 4 TDs in the last two games) on the road (St. Louis is just 1-2 in road games). The Defenders will host the Renegades, who are undefeated away from home (2-0), to start Sunday's slate (Mar. 15, 4 p.m. ET). And things will wrap up with the Wildcats heading to the Pacific Northwest to play the Dragons (Mar. 15, 7 p.m. ET) who are looking better on offense with B.J. Daniels at quarterback (328 total yards, 3 total touchdowns).
— 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 by Cooper Neill, courtesy of XFL.com)