Ultimate XFL Week 2 Preview: DFS, Picks, More

Ian Hartitz
Rotoworld

We’ve made it to Week 2 of the XFL, people. Let’s party.

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.

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What follows is an all-encompassing Week 2 preview featuring betting odds, key matchups, injuries, DFS thoughts (DraftKings) and betting picks.

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

New York Guardians at D.C. Defenders

  • Favorite: Defenders (-6.5)

  • Over/under: 48

  • Time: 2/15, 2:00 PM EST

  • TV: ABC

Week 1 Offensive Takeaways

New York's 23-3 win over Tampa Bay

  • Matt McGloin wasn't awful last week, although his 46.7% pressure rate is certainly cause for concern. This isn't exactly a mobile QB we're dealing with here. The Guardians put up middling ranks in yards per play (5th), net yards per pass attempt (5th) and yards per rush (7th) despite the win.

  • The Guardians are utilizing a two-RB committee between Tim Cook (53% snaps) and Darius Victor (51%). Neither are likely to be confused as elite pass catchers, so it wouldn't be surprising if backup RB Justin Stockton sees more action moving forward.

  • Colby Pearson, Mekale McKay and Joe Horn Jr. are locked into three-WR sets. Each flashed on different occasions last week, although I favor McKay as a fan purely because he wears a hoodie underneath his shoulder pads for some added #swag.

D.C.'s 31-19 win over Seattle

  • Cardale Jones led the XFL's most-efficient passing offense in Week 1. His 32.3% play-action rate was the highest mark in the league. The Defenders ranked highly in yards per play (3rd) and net yards per pass attempt (1st), but struggled to get too much going on the ground (8th).

  • Jhurell Pressley (59% snaps) lost some reps to Donnel Pumphrey (43%), but Pressley racked up 14 combined carries and targets compared to just seven for Pumphrey. The Defenders' starting RB looks a lot like the best RB in the league after racking up seven broken tackles (PFF).

  • Eli Rogers (27% target share) was the clear No. 1 pass-game option ahead of Rashad Ross (8%) and Malachi Dupre (15%), although most of Rogers' targets were of the underneath variety. Look for former NFL-preseason superstar Ross to continue to see plenty of downfield shots.

Which team is healthier?

Definitely New York.

Only two players failed to practice in full for the Guardians on Wednesday, although a pair of defenders suffered mid-week setbacks and were listed as limited on Thursday:

  • RG Garrett Brumfield (head, DNP, DNP)

  • Ian Silberman (thigh, DNP, DNP)

  • DB Dravon Askew-Henry (shoulder, full, limited)

  • DT Cavon Walker (ankle, full, limited)

Meanwhile, D.C. has more than a few names to worry about, particularly in the passing game on both sides of the ball.

  • TE Khari Lee (foot, DNP, full)

  • LB A.J. Tarpley (hand, DNP, full)

  • WR DeAndre Thompkins (foot, limited, full)

  • WR Malachi Dupre (thigh, limited, full)

  • LB Scooby Wright (knee, limited, full)

  • S Shamarko Thomas (thigh, limited, full)

  • CB Desmond Lawrence (shoulder, limited, full)

  • DT Kalani Vakameilalo (ankle, full, DNP)

Key matchup questions

Can New York slow down Jhurell Pressley?

The Guardians were largely pushed around by De'Veon Smith and the Tampa Bay Vipers' rushing attack last week, but they managed to bend not break and ultimately got stops inside their red zone. A repeat performance would be bad news against Pressley, who offers the type of speed (4.38-second 40-yard dash) to make defenses pay in a hurry. DE Olubunmi Rotimi will need to again be on his A-game after racking up seven tackles and three pressures in Week 1.

Can D.C. pressure Matt McGloin?

The Defenders somehow managed to allow 115 passing yards and two touchdowns when pressuring Brandon Silvers despite benefiting from two drops during 12-such dropbacks (PFF). Only the L.A. Wildcats had a tougher time protecting their QB than the Guardians last week, and now it looks like they could be without both their starting C and RG. That's bad news against a stingy Defenders' secondary led by PFF's No. 1 CB Elijah Campbell.

DFS thoughts

QB: It's wild that Cardale Jones ($10,200) comes in as only the QB3 after demonstrating plenty of downfield goodness and rushing ability in Week 1. Still, I'd recommend paying down at the position this week in favor of true dual-threat QB Jordan Ta'amu ($8,900), or QB/RB Quinton Flowers ($7,500) if Aaron Murray (foot) is ultimately sidelined.

RB: Jhurell Pressley ($7,000) is worth paying up for, even with the position's second-highest price tag. Both Tim Cook ($4,400) and Darius Victor ($4,100) seem a bit too cheap after each playing more than half of the offense's snaps, although there are real concerns about the New York offensive line's ability to hold up at far less than 100%.

WR: Malachi Dupre ($4,500) is more than half the price of both Eli Rogers ($9,700) and Rashad Ross ($9,900), but his own thigh injury, combined with a return from DeAndre Thompkins (foot), renders him a risky value play. There's no reason to bother, particularly when Joe Horn ($3,400) is so egregiously underpriced despite commanding a team-best 24% target share on a more-than-fine 78% snap rate. He's my second favorite cheap sub-$4k value play on the slate. McKay and Ross are worthy GPP plays to pay up for thanks to their respective big-play ability.

Bets to watch

I'm pessimistic on New York's ability to consistently move the ball. This seems like a bad matchup for their passing game, and it's unclear if anybody can slow down this Defenders offense. I like D.C. -6.5.

Over 48 is also a bit enticing. I realize last week's Sunday games didn't produce as much promise as we saw on Saturday, but the league's quickened pace and scoring-friendly rules were clear. I'd expect the totals to get back into the 50s as offenses start to gel more.

Tampa Bay Vipers at Seattle Dragons

  • Favorite: Vipers (-3)

  • Over/under: 45

  • Time: 2/15, 5:00 PM EST

  • TV: FOX

Week 1 Offensive Takeaways

Tampa Bay's 23-3 loss against New York

  • Aaron Murray led the Vipers up and down the field in Week 1, but threw two inexcusable interceptions and didn't lead the offense to the end zone despite having four drives end inside the opposing 10-yard line. Only Houston (5.6) averaged more yards per play than Tampa Bay (5.5).

  • De'Veon Smith (65% snaps) worked well ahead of Jacques Patrick (39%). Overall, only Matt Jones (22) had more combined carries and targets than Smith (17). The former Michigan RB leads the XFL with 10 broken tackles after one week (PFF).

  • WR Daniel Williams (100% snaps), WR Jalen Tolliver (97%) and TE Nick Truesdell (96%) are cemented as the offense's top-three options in the passing game. There seems to be a decent chance that Truesdell finishes the year as one of the league's most-productive TEs.

Seattle's 31-19 loss against D.C.

  • Only stud Houston QB Phillip Walker (28.9% deep-ball rate) threw the ball downfield more often than Brandon Silvers (17.5%). The problem was Silvers didn't boast the same elite efficiency, ultimately leading Seattle to sixth-place ranks in both yards per play and net yards per pass attempt.

  • This backfield is a three-headed mess at the moment after each of Kenneth Farrow (42% snaps), Trey Williams (32%) and Ja'Quan Gardner (28%) were plenty involved in Week 1. Williams (3.3 YAC per attempt) appears to be the better talent over both Farrow (2.3) and Gardner (2.2).

  • The offense's top-two WRs were easily Keenan Reynolds (94% snaps) and Austin Proehl (70%). It was Proehl (24% target share) who worked as the No. 1 option ahead of Reynolds (17%) from an opportunity perspective, but the former Navy QB still appears to be a big part of the offense.

Which team is healthier?

Probably Tampa Bay.

The big issue for the Vipers is the status of their QB, although a healthy serving of Quinton Flowers certainly wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if Murray is ultimately sidelined.

  • QB Aaron Murray (foot, DNP, DNP)

  • TE DeAndre Goolsby (neck, DNP, limited)

  • G Jerald Foster (shoulder, limited, limited)

  • C Jordan McCrey (knee, limited, limited)

  • DT Jason Neill (groin, limited, limited)

  • DL Bobby Richardson (knee, full, limited)

  • CB Rannell Hall (thigh, limited, limited)

  • CB Shelton Lewis (hand, IR)

Maybe consider pounding this game's under considering both starting QBs failed to practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Silvers suffered his injury at the end of Week 1 and didn't appear to be in particularly good shape afterwards. Further worsening matters is the reality that he wasn't the only Dragons player to be sidelined to start the week.

  • G Cyril Richardson (ankle, IR)

  • QB Brandon Silvers (ankle, DNP, DNP)

  • TE Cam Clear (undisclosed, DNP, DNP)

  • TE Isaiah Battle (ankle, full, DNP)

  • C Dillon Day (calf, DNP, DNP)

  • TE Ben Johnson (back, DNP, DNP)

  • WR Kasen Williams (quad, DNP, DNP)

  • DT Anthony Moten (ankle, DNP, DNP)

  • CB Mohammed Seisay (groin, full, limited)

Key matchup questions

Can Seattle shut down this Tampa Bay rushing attack?

We already mentioned De'Veon Smith is a beast, but backup QB/RB Quinton Flowers is a whole different headache for defenses to deal with. Tampa Bay utilized the former South Florida beast as a QB and slot WR, utilizing misdirection and motion to create plenty of rushing lanes for everyone involved. The Dragons did a great job limiting the Defenders to a league-worst 2.43 yards per carry last week, but this matchup will be even tougher to win.

Can Brandon Silvers and company create big plays?

Silvers only completed 1-of-7 deep balls last week. This can't be chalked up to the receivers, as the lone completion was the only ball that was deemed catchable by PFF. Both Reynolds and (especially) Proehl showed off some great ability to create after the catch, but they'll need their QB to do a better job putting them in positions to succeed. Perhaps they'll target CB Shelton Lewis, who allowed 57 yards and a touchdown on just two targets into his coverage last week.

DFS thoughts

QB: Neither Aaron Murray ($9,200) nor Brandon Silvers ($8,200) demonstrated much mobility even before suffering their respective lower-body injuries. I'm way more inclined to chase Tampa Bay backup Quinton Flowers ($7,500) than Seattle backup BJ Daniels ($8,000) considering the former QB's proven ability to rack up rushing yards from all over the field.

RB: De'Veon Smith ($7,500) should continue to see all the work he can handle after an impressive Week 1 performance. He's worth rostering in cash lineups if you're able to pay down at QB and at WR. I'm inclined to not touch this Seattle backfield with a 10-foot pole until we see some sort of evidence that one of the three RBs involved is pulling away.

WR: Hopefully you checked out last week's preview when I dubbed then min-priced WR Daniel Williams ($7,600) as my favorite play on the slate. I wouldn't chase this massive salary increase, nor take chances on TE Nick Truesdell ($6,700). The easy value play is Jalen Tolliver ($3,900), who posted elite 97% snap and 19% target rates last week. Tolliver is my favorite sub-$4,000 value play on the slate. The only viable receivers in the Seattle offense are Keenan Reynolds ($6,300) and Austin Proehl ($9,200). This massive salary disparity between the pair is probably unwarranted.

Bets to watch

The Vipers' Week 1 loss was at least a little bit fluky considering their efficient performance on a per-play basis. Still, they now have to travel across the country to take on a Seattle team that also had some misfortune last week in the form of a blocked punt recovered for a touchdown. Note that injuries to both starting QBs makes this a matchup to pay particularly close attention to in the lead up to kickoff.

I like both under 45 and Seattle +3.

Proceed to the next page for coverage on Dallas Renegades at Los Angeles Wildcats and St. Louis BattleHawks at Houston Roughnecks.

Dallas Renegades at Los Angeles Wildcats

  • Favorite: Renegades (-4)

  • Over/under: 48

  • Time: 2/16, 3:00 PM EST

  • TV: ABC

Week 1 Offensive Takeaways

Dallas' 15-9 loss against St. Louis

  • Life without Landry Jones (knee) was rough, as Phillip Nelson inefficiently dink-and-dunked his way to a putrid overall performance. Overall, the Renegades failed to get much of anything going on both a yards per play (7th) and net yards per pass attempt (7th) basis.

  • Cameron Artis-Payne (52% snaps) worked ahead of Lance Dunbar (37%), Austin Walter (24%) and Marquis Young (23%). The problem is that Dunbar is clearly the offense's primary pass-down back, and this four-headed committee doesn't appear to be going anywhere.

  • Jeff Badet (61% snaps), plus-sized TE Donald Parham (60%) and Flynn Nagel (56%) were the only receivers to play even half of the offense's snaps last week. Perhaps Jazz Ferguson (40%) will see a larger role after reportedly playing through some pain in Week 1.

Los Angeles' 37-17 loss against Houston

  • Starting QB Josh Johnson (thigh) was replaced by Chad Kanoff and later Jalen McClendon last week. They were pressured on 28-of-53 (53%) combined dropbacks and led the league's single-worst offense in both yards per play and net yards per pass attempt.

  • Elijah Hood (71% snaps) worked well ahead of both Larry Rose (24%) and DuJuan Harris (15%), although Hood's zero targets are a bad sign for his chances of capturing a true three-down role. Nobody posted a lower run-play rate than the Renegades (27%).

  • No. 1 WR Nelson Spruce racked up a league-high 15 targets last week. Saeed Blacknall (77% snaps), Adonis Jennings (60%) and Jordan Smallwood (58%) were also plenty involved in this pass-happy offense. It remains to be seen if Spruce will be fed so heavily if Josh Johnson returns.

Which team is healthier?

Definitely Dallas. They have relatively few concerns outside of their situation under center:

  • QB Landry Jones (knee, limited)

  • DL Winston Craig (thigh, DNP)

  • LB Hau'oli Kikaha (wrist, limited)

  • DE Jonathan Calvin (undisclosed, IR)

Meanwhile, the Wildcats have a number of players on both sides of the ball operating at less than 100%:

  • WR Saeed Blacknall (thigh, DNP)

  • WR Dujuan Harris (ankle, DNP)

  • QB Chad Kanoff (shoulder/head, DNP)

  • QB Josh Johnson (thigh, limited)

  • C Kahlil McKenzie (ankle, limited)

  • DT Trevon Sanders (hand, limited)

  • LB Tre Williams (hand, limited)

  • CB Harlan Miller (ankle, DNP)

  • CB Jack Tocho (hip, limited)

  • S Jerome Couplin (ankle, LP)

Key matchup questions

Can Dallas figure out the right set of receivers to capitalize on this weak secondary?

The Wildcats were absolutely shredded by Phillip Walker and the Roughnecks last week, allowing more yards per pass attempt than everyone other than Seattle. Overall, nobody allowed more yards per play than L.A. (5.6) in Week 1. OC Hal Mumme at least needs to test what looks like a weak secondary, regardless of who winds up being under center. Backup QB Phillip Nelson threw the ball downfield on just 2-of-46 dropbacks (4.3%) last week.

Can this Los Angeles offensive line give whoever is at QB a chance to succeed?

The Wildcats didn't come close to slowing down their opponent's pass rush last week. Only four players in the league have at least five pressures ... and they're all on Houston. Pressure and sacks are usually more of a QB stat than an indictment on the offensive line, but L.A.'s inability to slow down literally any of their opponent's defensive linemen was extremely troubling. DE Johnathan Calvin leads the Renegades in pressures and appears poised for a big day.

DFS thoughts

QB: It's tough to warrant paying up for either Josh Johnson ($10,400) or Landry Jones ($9,500) without knowing how close either is to 100%. I'd lean towards riding with Jones due to the Wildcats' aforementioned brutal secondary. None of the backup QBs showed enough ability do warrant exposure if either starting QB remains sidelined.

RB: Dallas might be the league's most pass-heavy offense when it's all said and done. They're currently utilizing a four-back committee. I'd be more inclined to take a chance on Lance Dunbar ($4,600) if he didn't lose so many targets and snaps to Marquis Young ($3,700). Stay away. Meanwhile, Elijah Hood ($6,500) is the slate's third-most expensive RB after tying Houston RB James Butler for the position's highest snap rate. I'd feel better about trusting Hood in this spot if he had any sort of pass-game role, although that could change this week considering his 24 routes were more than backup RBs Larry Rose (11) and DuJuan Harris (5) had combined.

WR: There are so many moving parts in the Dallas passing game that we're probably better off rolling with the value plays. Jeff Badet ($8,700) doesn't deserve to be priced so far above any of Flynn Nagel ($5,200), Jazz Ferguson ($5,000) or Donald Parham ($3,200). Of course, there's enough value here to warrant including Badet with Jones in some GPP stacks. I wouldn't recommend paying up for the slate's most-expensive WR in Nelson Spruce ($10,400) if Johnson manages to return due to the potential for different target share. Still, there's again enough value elsewhere to warrant exposure to the more-expensive talents if you wish, as both Saeed Blacknall ($4,100) and Adonis Jennings ($3,000) are in play at their respective low cost points.

Bets to watch

Dallas is clearly the more-complete team in my humble opinion. Jones also *appears* to be closer to 100% than Johnson. I love the Renegades -4 as well as under 48 due to the potential for backup QBs and/or rusty starters.

St. Louis BattleHawks at Houston Roughnecks

  • Favorite: Roughnecks (-8)

  • Over/under: 50.5

  • Time: 2/16, 6:00 PM EST

  • TV: FS1

Week 1 Offensive Takeaways

St. Louis' 15-9 win over Dallas

  • Jordan Ta'amu is orchestrating the league's most run-heavy offense, as the BattleHawks ran the ball on 62% of their plays last week. The good news is Ta'amu demonstrated plenty of ability to rack up explosive plays, converting his nine rush attempts into 77 yards and four first downs. 

  • Matt Jones (64% snaps) worked well ahead of both Christine Michael (31%) and Keith Ford (8%). Nobody received more combined carries and targets than Jones (22). His average of 2.57 yards after contact per attempt wasn't great, but clearly St. Louis plans on feeding the big-bodied RB.

  • L'Damian Washington (96% snaps), Alonzo Russell (80%), De'Mornay Pierson-El (77%) and Marcus Lucas (73%) are the top-four WRs in this run-first offense. Slot WR Pierson-El might be the best bet to see consistent targets, while Russell flashed big-play ability on multiple occasions.

Houston's 37-17 win over Los Angeles

  • Phillip Walker threw 11-of-38 pass attempts at least 20 yards downfield, good for an astronomical 28.9% deep-ball rate. This was possible thanks to the Roughnecks' QB-friendly scheme and offensive line, as Walker was pressured on a league-low 15% of his dropbacks.

  • Both James Butler (71% snaps) and RB/WR Nick Holley (66%) posted snap rates above 50%. This is life in an offense that literally doesn't have a TE on the roster. Andre Williams (13%) and De'Angelo Henderson (3%) also saw some reps, but clearly Butler is the lead dog at the moment.

  • Cam Phillips (100% snaps) worked as the offense's alpha No. 1 WR last week, while Sammie Coates (71%) and Kahlil Lewis (66%) filled out three-WR sets. Perhaps Coates can bounce back this week after catching just one of his league-high five targets thrown 20-plus yards downfield.

Which team is healthier?

Neither team is too bad off at the moment, but St. Louis has more players that failed to get in even a limited practice session to start the week. Note that Christine Michael could see all the touches he can handle if the BattleHawks don't have a healthier backfield come Sunday:

  • RB Keith Ford (knee, DNP)

  • RB Matt Jones (knee, DNP)

  • WR Brandon Reilly (back, DNP)

  • DB David Rivers (head, DNP)

  • DL Will Clarke (calf, DNP)

  • TE Cole Hunt (knee, IR)

Houston has some banged up players on offense, although they're just about fully healthy on the defensive side of the ball:

  • RB De'Angelo Henderson (shoulder, DNP)

  • RB Andre Williams (wrist, limited)

  • WR Sam Mobley (hip, limited)

  • OL Marquez Tucker (ankle, limited)

  • DL Caushaud Lyons (knee, DNP)

Key matchup questions

Can the BattleHawks' rushing attack help slow down this Roughnecks' pass rush?

Houston LB Kaelin Burnett (6), LB LaTroy Lewis (5), DT Gabe Wright (5) and DE Kony Ealy (5) racked up at least five pressures last week. Their ability to generate pressure from all over the field is problematic for any offense to deal with, although St. Louis might boast the right scheme to combat this pressure-heavy approach. Jordan Ta'amu constantly flustered Dallas with designed QB runs, something that Houston didn't have to worry about last week.

Can this St. Louis secondary hold up against Houston's high-flying offense?

The BattleHawks only had to defend against two passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield last week. That certainly won't be the case this time around against coach June Jones and the league's most-aggressive passing attack. Seattle did a solid job at tackling in Week 1, but allowing Phillip Nelson to complete 33-of-42 passes (79%) still wasn't ideal. A similar showing on a much-larger sample of downfield passes would be extremely problematic.

DFS thoughts

QB: Phillip Walker ($10,600) is the slate's most-expensive QB. His dual-threat ability and fondness for testing defenses downfield in this pass-happy attack makes him worthy of cash game exposure. Still, the same exact rationale can be made for Jordan Ta'amu ($8,900), who has a higher rushing floor and significantly cheaper salary. Obviously Walker has the higher ceiling and median projection thanks to Houston's proven offensive excellence, but Ta'amu will likely be the chalkier QB thanks to this low price point.

RB: Matt Jones ($5,900) is only the sixth-most expensive RB despite his massive role in Week 1. This is likely due to negative projected game script as well as Houston's overwhelming success in wreaking havoc at the line of scrimmage last week. Even if Jones is out and Christine Michael ($5,300) gets handed a featured role, I'd still lean towards paying up for James Butler ($6,300), who seems to have a more secure snap rate regardless of how the game winds up flowing. Again, favoring the better offense as opposed to the cheaper player seems like the better decision, particularly for cash games. There's an overwhelming amount of value at WR on this slate.

WR: Each of Sammie Coates ($9,500), Kahlil Lewis ($8,900) and Cam Phillips ($8,400) are priced among the slate's top-10 most-expensive WRs. Consider stacking Walker with one or two of the above WRs as well as with Nick Holley ($4,800), who is curiously listed as a RB on DraftKings despite spending 40-of-41 snaps in the slot or out wide last week. The potential for the BattleHawks to function as the league's most run-heavy offense renders each of De'Mornay Pierson-El ($8,000), Alonzo Russell ($4,800), Marcus Lucas ($4,600) and L'Damian Washington ($4,400) as low-floor plays. I'm inclined to fade all of these St. Louis pass-game options considering the copious amount of sub-$4,000 value elsewhere at the position.

Bets to watch

I'm not ready to crown this Houston defense as a true difference-making unit, as there's a real chance that they simply benefited from facing a backup QB and overwhelmed offensive line in Week 1. It's also not clear how much of their pass-game success was due to Walker, and how much was a result of porous secondary play.

With that said: Give me Houston -8. The BattleHawks weren't nearly as impressive as Houston in their victory over a backup QB, and their run-heavy style could be extremely problematic in a potential shootout vs. a much better opposing offense. I'm also inclined to take under 50.5 due to the uncertainty surrounding Ta'amu's ability to keep up in a high-scoring game.

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