The prime jewels of the XFL (2.0) continue to impress football fans, media members, and the NFL community alike. Taylor Heinicke and PJ Walker came into week 9 and have continued to impress by putting the league on notice. Heinicke is now 2-0 in 2022 as a starter while Walker, arguably played his best game as pro, once again getting the nod as the week 9 starter for the Carolina Panthers.
Despite losing in week 8, Walker continued his string of success by almost leading a come from behind victory during the Panthers loss against the Falcons. A week after beating Tom Brady, Walker rallied the Panthers and heaved a last second touchdown to DJ Moore to put the Panthers in a position to win against the Falcons. Despite Walker’s heroics an excessive celebration penalty moved the extra point 15 yards in which Eddy Piñeiro missed, which would of given the Panthers a 35-34 advantage with 12 seconds left. Unfortunately for the Panthers, the would fall to the Falcons 37-34 in overtime.
Despite the loss in Week 8, Walker has been playing the best football the Panthers have seen since the 2015 MVP by Cam Newton. Walker in 2022, has amassed 614 Passing yards 3 Touchdowns and 1 interception while guiding the Panthers to a 1-2 record. As each week progresses it seems the Panthers coaching specifically Ben McAdoo continues to have more confidence in the former Houston Roughneck. For Walker who many attributed his staying power in the NFL was due to his connection with Matt Rhule (his college head coach), each game he plays is audition for him to solidify his status as an NFL Quarterback. With the NFC South an extremely lack luster division the Panthers who are 2-5 are still in a position to make a late season push for a playoff spot. Right now, as Walker continues progress to it’s not out of the question that the Panthers could win the South.
Panthers QB PJ Walker: “At one point, I was at home watching football, getting ready for the XFL. I told myself if I ever got another opportunity that I’d make the most of it.”
While Walker continues to revitalize the Panthers, Heinicke has been exactly the spark that the Commanders have needed. Heinicke is now 2-0 after going up against the Colts this past weekend leading his own game winning drive. Heinicke’s 4th quarter comeback at this point seems to be status-que as this was his fourth 4th Quarter comeback since 2021, which is more than Pat Mahomes, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, and Matt Stafford. While many agree that Heinicke’s 2021 audition solidified him as a viable quarterback in the NFL, his recent revival of the Washington Commanders continue to bring in the question, should Heinicke be THE GUY going into 2023?
Heinicke this year has thrown 3 touchdowns 2 interceptions and 480 yards in his two starts. With Carson Wentz, seemingly only being a stopgap at this point for 2022, is it possible that Heinicke finishes the season for the Commanders? While many expected that Heinicke would be used as place holder for Sam Howell, his recent play has halted all of the Sam Howell hype as of now. With Wentz out at least 4-6 weeks right now it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that Heinicke receives another opportunity to put together another Ten starts of strong play continue to thrust him the conversation as the Commanders QB for 2023.
Regardless of everything that happens, the emergence of Heinicke and Walker is extremely great PR for the XFL as the prepares for their draft and upcoming season. As Heinicke and Walker who are both XFL alumni, it proves to echo the message of many supporters of these alt-leagues. Ironically Walker and Heinicke are on complete opposite ends of the spring football spectrum.
As many know Heinicke didn’t play a snap for the Battlehawks, while PJ was viewed as the MVP through 5 games of the season for the Roughnecks. Regardless, the two signal callers continue impress at the NFL level, and each play with a tenacity that has sent waves to their teams. With ten weeks left in the NFL, both Heinicke and Walker have earned the opportunity to cement themselves in the NFL, with part of that opportunity coming from the XFL.
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