After the first week of play in the new XFL, Houston Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker was one of only three to record a passer rating of more than 100. Three weeks into the season, and Walker has firmly set himself as the league's top MVP candidate, as the only passer to rate over 100 in every game. But he faces perhaps his most important test on Sunday in the league's featured matchup of the weekend, when Houston faces the Dallas Renegades in a battle for Texas bragging rights.
More importantly, the late afternoon game is also a battle for the top of the XFL West Division. Thanks in large part to Walker's league-elite quarterback performance, the Roughnecks now stand as the last remaining undefeated team. But Dallas, at 2-1, sit right behind them in the West standings.
The Renegades' defense, which has allowed just 15 points per game over the first three XFL weeks, will provide the test for Walker. Dallas quarterback Landry Jones, the former six-year backup to the Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger, has proven shaky in his move from the NFL to the XFL. Though Jones has thrown four touchdown passes in his two starts, he has matched that total with four interceptions, according to an NFL.com evaluation.
Jones' 579 yards in the air rank him fifth among XFL quarterbacks.
With Walker and the Houston offense putting up an average of 33 points per game through three contests, oddsmakers are favoring the Roughnecks' scoring machine over the rock-solid Renegades' defense. According to odds published by USA Today, despite playing on the road, the Roughnecks come in as 2 1/2-point favorites. But both teams have posted 2-1 records against the spread so far this season.
Houston has already played two road games, and won both. Dallas has been on the road for the last two weeks but lost their only home game, the Week 1 opener, 15-9 to the St. Louis Battlehawks.
In addition to Walker, who appears to be the league's best quarterback, Houston also boasts the XFL's top wide receiver in former Virginia Tech star Cam Phillips, who leads the league with 324 yards receiving. Phillips won the league's Star of the Week award in Week 3, for the second week in a row, as Pro Football Talk reported.
Phillips caught three touchdown passes, with 194 yards total, in Houston's 37-24 victory over the Tampa Bay Vipers -- who are now the only winless team in the new XFL.
The Houston Roughnecks vs. Dallas Renegades Week 4 clash kicks off at 3 p.m. CST on Sunday, March 1, at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. That's 4 p.m. EST, 1 p.m. PST for viewers planning to tune in to the game on Fox Sports 1, which carries the national telecast.