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By the Numbers

Ultimate XFL Week 4 Preview: DFS, Picks, More

by Ian Hartitz
Updated On: February 28, 2020, 1:38 am ET

We’ve made it to Week 4 of the XFL, people. Let’s party.

My official XFL power rankings through three weeks are as follows:

  1. Houston Roughnecks (3-0)
  2. St. Louis BattleHawks (2-1)
  3. D.C. Defenders (2-1)
  4. Dallas Renegades (2-1)
  5. Los Angeles Wildcats (1-2)
  6. Seattle Dragons (1-2)
  7. New York Guardians (1-2)
  8. Tampa Bay Vipers (0-3)

The Renegades and Wildcats have each (understandably) played much better after getting their respective starting QBs back into action. Still, efficiency rates on both sides of the ball seem to paint a pretty clear picture that the Roughnecks, Defenders and BattleHawks have operated as the league's top-three teams more weeks than not.

XFL per play rates

There’s a fine line between too little and too much coverage of such an amazing niche sport, and we at Rotoworld fully plan on wrestling that line to the gates of hell.

What follows is an all-encompassing Week 4 preview featuring betting odds, key matchups, injuries, DFS thoughts (DraftKings) and betting picks. Thanks to XFL.com, Pro Football Focus, DraftKings and FanDuel Sportsbook for all stats and information.

Now let’s dig into all four of this weekend’s games.


Los Angeles Wildcats (1-2) at New York Guardians (1-2)

  • Favorite: Wildcats (-7.5)
  • Over/under: 39.5
  • Time: 2/29, 2:00 PM EST
  • TV: ABC

Week 3 Offensive Takeaways

Los Angeles' 39-9 win over D.C.

  • Josh Johnson settled down after a somewhat-erratic debut in Week 2, shredding the previously-stout D.C. defense for 279 yards and a trio of TDs. More impressive was the manner in which Johnson did so, averaging a pristine 11.1 YPA with a 72% completion rate. Defenses will be forced to account for virtually every square inch of the field vs. Johnson, as he boasts plenty of rushing ability and showed off his arm strength by completing 4-of-7 deep ball attempts for 111 yards and two TDs (with a drop) in Week 3.
  • Elijah Hood (ankle) was out last week, leading to Martez Carter (61% snaps) playing a leading role ahead of both Larry Rose (31%) and DuJuan Harris (19%). Carter certainly made the most out of his opportunities, racking up 75 total yards and three TDs on just 14 touches. Previously Hood posted snap rates of 71% and 64% in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively, but Carter's success makes it likely we see a committee of sorts in Week 4.
  • XFL star WR Nelson Spruce posted a solid 3-75-0 line on four targets in Week 3, but unfortunately he suffered a knee injury and has already been ruled out for Saturday. Week 3 stud WR Tre McBride (thigh) is also banged up, meaning we could get a three-WR set featuring Adonis Jennings (78% snaps), Jordan Smallwood (66%) as well as one of Kermit Whitfield (25%), Jalen Greene (10%) or Saeed Blacknall (thigh). I'd favor Whitfield to get the most opportunities among the latter complementary options.

New York's 29-9 loss to St. Louis

  • Matt McGloin had another middling week that consisted of more bad than good, while Marquise Williams also struggled to get much of anything going during his extended run. Luis Perez led the offense to their only score, but I'd keep expectations low here. Some have indicated that Perez was among the AFF's best QBs last year; this is definitely false. Overall, Perez is a statue in the pocket with a slow release and potentially slower decision-making ability that finished 11th among 12 qualified AAF QBs in yards per attempt.
  • This backfield has largely been a mess all season. Tim Cook and Darius Victor basically split snaps down the middle in Week 1, then Cook had a workhorse role in Week 2, but most-recently Victor (53% snaps) worked ahead of both Cook (38%) and scat back Justin Stockton (12%). I'd bet on Victor emerging as the lead back sooner rather than later; his average of 3.82 yards after contact per attempt trails only Cameron Artis-Payne (3.93).
  • Three-WR sets featured Mekale McKay (97% snaps), Colby Pearson (81%) and Teo Redding (67%) with TE Jake Powell (81%) also plenty involved. Look for Redding to be the odd man out if Joe Horn (shoulder) is able to return. Ultimately, it's been impossible to expect much of anything from any WR involved inside of the league's least-efficient passing offense. Only Dallas (15%) has a lower percentage of catchable deep balls than New York (20%).

Which team is healthier?

Both Josh Johnson (thigh) and Matt McGloin (thorax) are tentatively expected to play through their respective injuries.

Assuming both teams have their starting QBs, it's clear New York is the healthier squad at the moment. Johnson has clearly elevated a middling supporting cast during his first two starts, so it'll be interesting to see whether or not new faces will cause the offense to crumble.

TEAM PLAYER POS. INJURY PRACTICE STATUS

GAME STATUS

LA Latarius Brady DE Hip Did not participate --
LA Martez Carter RB Ankle Did not participate --
LA Nelson Spruce WR Knee Did not participate --
LA Brandon Barnes TE Knee Limited participation --
LA Jaylen Dunlap DB Ankle Limited participation --
LA Josh Johnson QB Thigh Limited participation --
LA Chad Kanoff QB Shoulder Limited participation --
LA Tre McBride WR Thigh Limited participation --
LA Harlan Miller DB Thigh Limited participation --
LA Larry Rose RB Foot Limited participation --
NY Garrett Brumfield OL Head Did not participate --
NY Darius Victor RB Ankle Did not participate --
NY Jawuan Johnson LB Head Limited participation --
NY Matt McGloin QB Thorax Limited participation --
NY Avery Young OL Shoulder Limited participation --
NY Garret Dooley LB Ankle Full participation --

You can view updated injury reports throughout the week at XFL.com,

Key matchup questions

Can New York slow down this suddenly lethal Wildcats' passing attack?

The Guardians have allowed a league-high 6.9 YPA this season and have graded out as PFF's single-worst defense in coverage. Their lone redeeming quality has been an at-times ferocious pass rush, as DT Cavon Walker (11) and DE Olubunmi Rotimi (10) join Houston LB Kaelin Burnett (10) as the only players in the league with double-digit pressures through three weeks.

This pressure might be the only way to slow down Josh Johnson and company.

  • Johnson when kept clean: 128.4 QB Rating (No. 1 among 12 qualified QBs), 5 TD (No. 2), 8.6 YPA (No. 2)
  • Johnson when pressured: 62.3 QB Rating (No. 6), 0 TD (tied for No. 5), 5.2 YPA (No. 6)

Los Angeles is averaging a pathetic 0.5 yards before contact per rush this season. New York needs to do everything in their power to make life as difficult as possible for Johnson if they hope to pull an upset.

Can Luis Perez (or anybody) make this offense respectable?

Marquise Williams (5.9 YPA) has been more efficient than Matt McGloin (5.3) while providing plus mobility, but neither has been what some might call "good."

Up next is a Los Angeles defense that has allowed the second-most yards per play this season, although they do boast three of the league's nine corners to record an interception in CB Mike Stevens (2), Arrion Springs (1) and Bradley Sylve (1). Toss in the presence of play-making safeties Ladarius Wiley (PFF's No. 1 overall safety) and Jack Tocho (No. 9), and it's clear that this isn't a secondary to make off-target passes against.

Both Williams and McGloin have been under pressure on over 40% of their dropbacks this season. Perez was one of just two AAF QBs to be under duress that often, and he responded with an absurd five interceptions in 101 pressured pass attempts. Responsible and mistake-free football will be needed this Saturday against the Wildcats' ball-hawking secondary, and none of these QBs have demonstrated much ability to do just that.

DFS thoughts

QB: Josh Johnson ($10,200) has sky-rocketed up the salary scale and is now the QB2. Still, Johnson might be playing through some pain and has yet to really even try to utilize his rushing ability. Feel free to toss Johnson into some GPP lineups, but paying all the way up for PJ Walker ($12,000) in cash games is still a must. I'm inclined to fade each of Matt McGloin ($8,000), Marquise Williams ($7,800) and Luis Perez ($7,100) considering snaps are a complete mystery for each.

RB: DraftKings is also seemingly betting on a two-RB committee featuring Elijah Hood ($5,500) and Montez Carter ($5,200). Carter is a brilliant value play if Hood remains sidelined, but otherwise shouldn't be relied on for anything out than some salary relief. I'd like to see evidence that Hood is 1) Healthy and 2) Didn't lose his job, before we go back to him. We continue to be dared to play Tim Cook ($4,200), while Darius Victor ($4,800) probably isn't worth taking over some of the superior options in the mid-$5,000 range. Ultimately, this New York offense is the league's worst unit in both yards per play and points per game. Roster anybody and everybody involved with extreme caution.

WR: The absence of the slate's second-highest priced WR in Nelson Spruce ($10,700) opens up a lot of value in this Los Angeles passing game. Tre McBride ($8,100) is also banged up and an extremely risky play after he posted a 5-109-2 line on just 16 snaps in Week 3. This leaves us with Jordan Smallwood ($6,700), Adonis Jennings ($3,000) or potentially Saeed Blacknall ($3,300). A Johnson-Smallwood-Jennings stack sure sound good to me. Mekale McKay ($8,000) is the only real pass-game option here as long as Joe Horn ($3,900) remains banged up. I'd feel better about taking a chance on McKay this week if the Los Angeles secondary wasn't full of ball hawks. 

Bets to watch

I'm going to have a real hard time betting on any of New York, Seattle or Tampa Bay until we see some semblance of consistent play under center. Los Angeles sure looked dangerous on offense in Josh Johnson's second week under center, while their defense has enough play-makers in the secondary to make this New York offense pay in a hurry. Give me the Wildcats -7.5.

A 39.5 point game total! In a professional football game! I love it, but this seems just a bit too aggressive on the low side of the scale. Give me over 39.5.


Seattle Dragons (1-2) at St. Louis BattleHawks (2-1)

  • Favorite: BattleHawks (-12)
  • Over/under: 38.5
  • Time: 2/29, 5:00 PM EST
  • TV: FOX

Week 3 Offensive Takeaways

Seattle's 24-12 loss to Dallas

  • Brandon Silvers threw a pair of pretty TDs in Week 3, but otherwise continued to struggle with his efficiency (6 YPA, 62% completion rate) and offered comical deep-ball ability. Only New York (20%) and Dallas (15%) have had a lower percentage of catchable deep balls this season than Seattle (25%). It's fair to wonder if backup QB B.J. Daniels would provide a spark.

  • This backfield has been a three-headed committee from hell all season. Not in the sense that any of Kenneth Farrow (40% snaps), Ja'Quan Gardner (27%), or Trey Williams (33%) have played badly; it's just been impossible to predict and incredibly well split. AKA: terrible for fantasy football purposes. Credit to Farrow in Week 3 for catching a TD after running a pretty sluggo route from the slot, and also Gardner for showing more burst than in previous weeks as well as for coming down with a contested one-handed catch (out of bounds).
  • The top-three WRs in this offense are Keenan Reynolds (99%), Austin Proehl (82%) and Alonzo Moore (79%), probably in that order. I say probably because Proehl (12-168-3) has out-produced Reynolds (9-129-1) this season despite seeing two fewer targets. Proehl ranks fourth in the league with 2.33 yards per route run through three weeks.

St. Louis' 29-9 win over New York

  • The BattleHawks asked Jordan Ta'amu to throw just 18 times in Week 3. He was efficient enough (6.6 YPA, 67% completion rate), but almost every pass was a screen or quick-hitting RPO. There isn't anything wrong with this as long as St. Louis continues to produce; it's just an interesting offense to watch. Overall, their 58% run-play rate easily surpasses D.C.'s 48% second-place mark.
  • Matt Jones (46% snaps) worked ahead of Christine Michael (43%) in Week 3, but the two power backs have largely worked in an even two-RB committee for the entire season. Neither has offered much receiving ability, but both Jones (2.87 yards after contact per rush) and Michael (10 broken tackles on 38 touches) have had their moments throughout the first three weeks.
  • The BattleHawks have consistently gone out of their way to get YAC-machine De'Mornay Pierson-El the ball, but his 33% snap rate in Week 3 is cause for concern. Each of L'Damian Washington (94%), Alonzo Russell (83%), Marcus Lucas (75%) and Brandon Reilly (46%) were more involved. Pierson-El is one of just seven WRs in the XFL to average more than two yards per route run. Russell (1.72) has been the next-best BattleHawk.

Which team is healthier?

St. Louis is in great shape at the moment, while Seattle has several more problems at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball to deal with.

TEAM NAME POS. INJURY PRATICE STATUS

GAME STATUS

SEA William Campbell G Knee Did not participate --
SEA Anthony Moten DT Ankle Did not participate --
SEA Kasen Williams WR Quad Did not participate --
SEA Isaiah Battle OT Ankle Limited participation --
SEA Jeremy Clark CB Hand Limited participation --
SEA Michael Dunn OT Calf Limited participation --
SEA Durrant Miles DE Knee Full participation --
STL Matt Jones RB Knee Did not participate --
STL Carlton Agudosi WR Shoulder Limited participation --
STL Matt McCants OT Knee Limited participation --
STL Marquez White CB Ankle Limited participation --

You can view updated injury reports throughout the week at XFL.com,

Key matchup questions

Can Seattle take advantage of this meh BattleHawks' run defense?

The Dragons are expected to get their first-round LT Isaiah Battle back this week, which is particularly good news given their matchup against the league's second-worst run defense in yards allowed per carry. Seattle already boasted the XFL's fourth-best offensive line in yards before contact per rush, so this should only mean good things in their ongoing quest to win games without much competence under center.

The latter point is the biggest problem for this Seattle offense as a whole. Silver's has been the league's fourth-worst QB in both completion rate and YPA through three weeks. His inability to get literally anything going on play-action theoretically won't help this offense's chances at convincing St. Louis to not load the box. Overall, Silvers has completed just 4-of-13 play-action passes (30.8%) for 16 yards (1.2 YPA).

Seattle has struggled to throw the ball all season. Unless we see some significant improvement or a change under center, it's hard to believe they won't look to pound the rock this Saturday.

Can Jordan Ta'amu continue to win without stretching the defense?

The BattleHawks have functioned as the league's most run-heavy offense while simultaneously refraining from pretty much ever testing defenses downfield. Overall, just three of Ta'amu's 82 pass attempts have gone at least 20 yards downfield, good for a league-low 3.7% deep-ball rate.

There isn't anything inherently wrong with not making a habit of throwing downfield. Last season Drew Brees (8.2%) and Jimmy Garoppolo (6.5%) still managed to lead two of the league's top-three scoring offenses despite finishing as the bottom-two QBs in deep ball rate. The difference is both Brees and Jimmy G made a habit of cashing in on their limited opportunities; so far Ta'amu has just one completion thrown more than 20 yards downfield.

Seattle at least made life difficult on both Cardale Jones and Landry Jones for stretches of their matchups. They'll need to be even better this week in order to elevate their porous offense, as failure to play soundly against St. Louis' RPO-heavy attack could lead to death by a thousand paper cuts.

DFS thoughts

QB: Jordan Ta'amu ($9,500) is now just the QB5 on DraftKings, undoubtedly due to the run-first nature of this offense. Still, Ta'amu showed off b-e-a-utiful ability on the ground in Weeks 1-2 before only posting a 3-14-0 rushing line in Week 3. The BattleHawks' 23-3 halftime lead undoubtedly had something to do with this change in usage. Ta'amu is my favorite price-adjusted QB on the slate for tournaments. And then we have Brandon Silvers ($7,400), who *should* be on the verge of getting benched for BJ Daniels ($6,600). Both are off limits until we see some combination of clarity and decent performance under center.

RB: Matt Jones ($7,100) doesn't deserve to be priced so far ahead of Christine Michael ($5,700). There's been little to no difference in usage between the duo, making the idea of rostering both in the same lineup far from crazy. Either way, the league's most run-heavy offense is a good place to start when looking to fill the RB slot. I'm continuing to fade each of Kenneth Farrow ($5,900), Trey Williams ($4,400) and Ja'Quan Gardner ($3,800) due to the limited ceiling and floor associated with each due to their evenly split three-back committee.

WR: It's tough to warrant paying up for Demornay Pierson-El ($9,500) following his completely bizarre part-time role last week. L'Damian Washington ($7,500) is also a little pricey, making Alonzo Russell ($5,800) and Marcus Lucas ($4,200) more appealing price-adjusted options. I wouldn't be afraid to stack Ta'amu with one of these receivers along with a RB, as the BattleHawks have had some success on screens to their backs all season despite the limited sample size. This week's lesson in following opportunity over production features Austin Proehl ($8,500) and Keenan Reynolds ($7,000). Both are talented real-life options, but the potential for this game to become a run-heavy and quick-paced race to the finish makes me cautious to get behind this Seattle passing game as a whole. 

Bets to watch

The St. Louis crowd was ELECTRIC in Week 3. Expect more of the same against another mediocre opponent. I'm sticking with my #BetAgainstBadQBs strategy and taking the BattleHawks -12.

Once again, a game total under 40 is just too tough to not pass up. Over 38.5 is my pick.

Ian Hartitz

All things NFL. Great day to be great. You can follow Ian on Twitter @Ihartitz.