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XFL Week 5 Preview: Tampa Bay Vipers @ Los Angeles Wildcats

Wildcats QB Josh Johnson (via LA Wildcats)
Tampa Bay Vipers (1-3) vs Los Angeles Wildcats (1-3)
Sunday, March 8, 2020 9:00 pm EST @ Dignity Health Sports Park
Odds: Los Angeles Wildcats -1.5 (5DIMES Sportsbook)

Cross Country Clash

Two 1-3 teams meet in Los Angeles with a real opportunity to turn around their season and move up in the standings. Currently, the Wildcats are 3rd in the West division, one game behind the Dallas Renegades who just lost their starting QB in Landry Jones. The Vipers are fourth in the East division but are coming off their first win of the year against the DC Defenders in shutout fashion.

Key Matchups

Dan Williams (81) vs Arrion Springs (33)

The first key matchup is a classic receiver on cornerback battle. Williams has been the Vipers’ most consistent pass catcher this season and is ranked fourth in the XFL in receiving with 252 yards.

Springs was originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Vipers before being traded in training camp for CB Jalen Collins. Collins was waived by Tampa earlier this week, so the Wildcats have already won the deal. But Springs is becoming a leader in the Wildcats’ secondary posting an interception already this season.

De’Veon Smith (24) vs Wildcats Front Seven

There’s no hiding the fact that Smith has been giving teams fits all year long. He is first in the XFL in rushing with 296 yards and has gotten his way with opposing defenses each week. If Smith can have another strong showing against the Wildcats front seven, it could be the difference in the final score. Tampa’s power run game is how they wear down opposing teams and open up the play action. Smith and his running back mate Jacques Patrick are key to the Vipers success.

Andrew Franks (3) vs Giorgio Tavecchio

In a game with a point spread of less than three points, it becomes a “field goal game” so why not highlight both kickers are a matchup. Chances are if these teams are as close as the point spread says, it could come down to which kicker is on their game.

Franks has made six field goals this season, good for third in the XFL. And this will be the first action for Tavecchio as he was signed earlier this week after LA placed Nick Novak on the injured reserve for a knee injury.

Injury Report

Tampa Bay Vipers
via XFL.com

Los Angeles Wildcats
via XFL.com

Fantasy Preview

For LA, Josh Johnson has delivered at home. Even further, he’s been getting his receivers lots of work, connecting with McBride for two TDs in week three against DC. If Nelson Spruce is ruled out for the second straight week, expect McBride to get a lot of work Sunday.

For Tampa Bay, Taylor Cornelius has stepped and become the QB1. He has been a daily fantasy steal this season with his price tag and output. In addition, both of the Vipers’ running backs are coming off of 100+ yard games and are top-five in the XFL in rushing. All three of these are viable options for fantasy players.

Preview Summary

With LA back at home and Tampa Bay finding their stride on offense, expect Sunday’s late game to have a good bit of scoring. Both team’s have effectively move the ball down field and have gotten much better at finishing drives in the red zone.

Given the close point spread of this game, there’s a legitimate chance these two teams are playing close in the fourth quarter. We could possibly even be in for the XFL’s first overtime game. That would certainly be a treat for Tampa Bay’s fans back home on the East Coast watching the three-hour game that starts late at 9 PM.

The Wildcats will have to win the turnover battle if they want to beat the Vipers, in addition, their front seven will have to disrupt the passing game and put constant pressure on Cornelius in order to stifle his momentum. Tampa Bay will have to fight off the cross country flight blues if they want to be the first team this season to win a game of that fashion (they are 0-4). With flying to play on Sunday, the run game will have to be even more pronounced early to get going. Smith and Patrick will have to have close to a repeat performance if the Vipers want to be victorious Sunday.

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