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XFL Week 5 Preview: St. Louis BattleHawks @ DC Defenders

St. Louis BattleHawks (3-1) vs DC Defenders (2-2)
Sunday, March 8, 2020 3PM EST @ Audi Field
Odds: BattleHawks (-3.5) O/U 39.5 (According to DraftKings)

BattleHawks look to continue their winning ways while DC attempts to stay undefeated at home

Cardale Jones and the DC Defenders are at a crossroads this week with the East-leading St. Louis BattleHawks coming to town this weekend. DC has dropped 2 straight on the road capped with an embarrassing loss to the winless Tampa Bay Vipers. The Defenders are undefeated at home this season and are hoping to take back control of their season before it spins too far out of control.

On the other side of the spectrum, the St. Louis BattleHawks are riding a two game win streak as they go into the nation’s capital. Coach Johnathan Hayes and his squad are trying to come down from the high of the two week honeymoon that was their return to St. Louis. Keep in mind the last time St. Louis on the road, they suffered a loss at the hands of the Houston Roughnecks.

Key Matchups

Jordan Ta’amu (QB) vs Cardale Jones (QB)

I know what you’re thinking. They never share the field at the same time. But these are two quarterbacks who have been surging in opposite directions over the last couple weeks. Cardale has suffered his first two losses since his high school days and it will be interesting to see how he bounces back after having a little bit of home cooking where he has averaged 250 yards passing per game.

Ta’amu however, has been one of the more consistent quarterbacks in the league as he leads the league in completion percentage. But the scary thing if you’re a Defender’s fan is that it has seemed Ta’amu is starting to really click with the offense after nabbing the XFL player of the week for his performance against the Seattle Dragons last Saturday.

Will Hill/Kenny Robinson (S) vs Eli Rogers/Rocket Ross (WR)

BattleHawk safeties Will Hill and Kenny Robinson have been a no-fly-zone as of late. Both guys have picked off opposing quarterbacks in the last two weeks and have led the charge in causing both the Seattle Dragons and the New York Guardians to reconsider their quarterback situations. That is possibly the highest sort of praise you can put on a defensive backfield. Partner that with the flair for the dramatic Hill has shown with 2 game-clinching interceptions in the early going of the season.

On the other side of the ball, DC has two deep threats that got off to hot starts to begin the year with Eli Rogers and Rashad “Rocket” Ross. Though they have cooled off with the inconsistent play from their quarterback, these two are more than capable of taking the top off the defense. Look no further than Ross who is garnering 18 yards per reception.

St. Louis Running Backs vs DC’s Front 7

St. Louis is going into another week with one of the XFL’s most dynamic rushing attacks even with the emergence of Jordan Ta’amu in the past week. One thing to keep an eye on is the health of leading rusher, Matt Jones. The former Florida Gator was tops in the league in rushing yards going into week 4 but missed a lot of practice time leading up to the Dragon’s game and it showed. Jones was held relatively ineffective which prompted the BattleHawks to lean more heavily on Ta’amu’s legs to pick up the slack. Look for Christine Michael and Keith Ford to get a majority of the carries as Matt Jones missed even more time in practice nursing a nagging knee injury.

The good news for the DC run defense? It can’t get much worse than their performance last week after they gave up a season-high 266 yards rushing to the Tampa Bay Vipers.

Injury Report

St. Louis BattleHawks
  • RB Sherman Badie (Knee) – DNP
  • RB Matt Jones (Knee) – Full participation
  • RB Christine Michael (Illness) – Full participation
  • CB Marquez White (Illness) – Full participation
DC Defenders
  • CB Doran Grant (Hip) – DNP
  • DB Desmond Lawrence (Back) – DNP
  • CB Elijah Campbell (Abdomen) – Limited
  • OL De’Ondre Wesley (Shoulder) – Full participation

Fantasy Preview

Jordan Ta’amu is looking to build on a great week 4 and will probably be more heavily relied upon given that Matt Jones didn’t get many reps in practice this week. Also look for Christine Michael and Keith Ford to maybe sneak in a touchdown in a short yardage situations. The St. Louis backup running backs could be a sleeper value play this week.

Cardale Jones has been lights out at home but prone to interceptions within the last few weeks. I would have a hard time starting him against a ball hawking defense like St. Louis. That trickles down to his receivers as well. But like I stated earlier, he has big time playmakers on the outside that could go for 50+ at any given moment. All it takes is 1 play of busted coverage and Rocket Ross could score you some much needed points for you daily fantasy players out there.

Preview Summary

Long story short, you have a battle between a team in desperation mode and a team that is gathering steam and trying to push themselves into the conversation with Houston as the best team in the league. DC has to stop the bleeding after being the butt of all the jokes on XFL twitter last week and try not to go into a tailspin. And there is nothing more dangerous than a team that is playing for their season even if it’s only the midway point of the schedule. The BattleHawks would be wise not to think the Defenders are what their last couple weeks have shown. This is still a team capable of putting up a good amount of points if you let Cardale Jones get into a groove. I think this game will be a lot closer than people think if DC can stay on the field more they have during their road trip. That being said, they face the stingiest 3rd down defense in the league.

A team on the brink against a team trying to validate themselves. This should be a fun one.

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