After becoming the only XFL team to win a road game in the new league’s opening week, defeating the Dallas Renegades 15-9, the St. Louis Battlehawks enter their Week 2 contest as the biggest underdog in any of the weekend’s games. This is likely due to the ‘Hawks playing their second consecutive road game and second straight in Texas as well. And when they face the Houston Roughnecks on Sunday afternoon, they will also be taking on Phillip “P.J.” Walker, a former practice squad signal-caller for the Indianapolis Colts, who was one of only three XFL quarterbacks to achieve a passer rating over 100 in the opening week.
On the other hand, St. Louis quarterback Jordan Ta’amu, who played college ball for the University of Mississippi, was also over 100, at 108.4 to Walker’s 103.8.
According to odds published by USA Today, Houston enters the game favored by 8 1/2 points after blowing out their Week 1 opponent, the Los Angeles Wildcats, by 20 points, 37-17. In terms of the straight moneyline, Houston is a heavy favorite at -304, while St. Louis comes in at +240.
Walker put up impressive — if not spectacular — numbers against the Wildcats last weekend, throwing for four touchdowns against one interception, for 272 total yards in the air on 23 completions in 39 pass attempts. Against Dallas, Ta’amu managed just one TD, albeit without throwing a pick. He completed 20 of 27 for 209 yards.
Overall, however, quarterback play proved to be an issue in the opening weekend of the XFL, as reported by Pro Football Talk. In the league’s first six games, quarterbacks threw as many interceptions as touchdowns, while in the NFL last season, TDs outnumbered INTs by nearly a 2-1 margin.
While quarterbacks in the new league are not expected to play at an NFL level, “the XFL at least needs quarterbacks who are able to play well against XFL defenses,” wrote PFT analyst Michael David Smith, adding that through the first two weeks, “the XFL doesn’t have enough of those quarterbacks.”
The spotty quarterback play led to a lack of offense through the first six games in the eight-team league, with teams averaging just 17 points, six points below the average NFL squad, per PFT.
At least through Week 1, however, fans did not seem bothered by the lack of offense or quality quarterback performance. The four inaugural XFL games averaged 3.12 million TV viewers, per Forbes.com. That was only about 800,000 fewer, on average, than last season’s NBA playoffs, before the finals.
But as Forbes.com pointed out, last season’s new pro football league, the Alliance of American Football, also did impressive opening TV numbers, pulling in an average of 2.9 million viewers for its two opening prime time games. But that did not stop a severe drop-off in subsequent weeks, leading the league to fold just eight weeks into its first and — as it turned out — final season.
The St. Louis Battlehawks vs. Houston Roughnecks XFL Week 2 clash kicks off at 5 p.m. CST at TDECU Stadium, home of the University of Houston Cougars, on Sunday. That start time will be 6 p.m. EST, 3 p.m. PST, when the game will be broadcast nationally on the Fox Sports 1 cable network.