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XFL Week 4 Preview: Fallout from Wildcats' upset

A week ago, the L.A. Wildcats shook up the XFL world with their lopsided upset of the D.C. Defenders.

Sure, it was only Week 3, but the Defenders had emerged as a championship contender and the Wildcats were in jeopardy of a winless start over three weeks perhaps effectively ending any postseason hopes.

That all changed in emphatic fashion as the Wildcats left the Defenders searching for answers after a 39-9 Southern California dismantling.

The result left just one undefeated team remaining (the 3-0 Houston Roughnecks), one winless team (the 0-3 Tampa Bay Vipers) and created a tie atop the XFL East between the Defenders and St. Louis BattleHawks as the XFL West all of a sudden got far more interesting.

And so Week 4 approaches with a new look and feel.

The Wildcats look to maintain momentum, the Defenders aim to rebound, the BattleHawks hope to stay in first place and a wild XFL West matchup awaits with first place on the line in the week's marquee showdown as the Dallas Renegades host the last undefeated team standing -- the Roughnecks.

L.A. Wildcats (1-2) at N.Y. Guardians (1-2), 2 p.m. ET, Saturday, ABC

Facing an 0-3 start and the plausible conclusion to any playoff hopes, the Wildcats knocked off the Defenders -- seen as one of the league's best. Now, searching for momentum, L.A. looks for its second win against one of the league's worst. The Guardians' offense is in shambles with a carousel of quarterbacks equally failing to captain the offense into the end zone.

Having been in the United Football League, Alliance of American Football and the NFL with seemingly every franchise under the sun, Josh "The Definition of a Journeyman" Johnson is now in the XFL spotlight, having found his way with the Wildcats. Johnson had a trio of touchdowns in L.A.'s upset of D.C., coolly captaining his squad to a 39-9 victory. For the season, Johnson's sparkling 113.9 quarterback rating and five touchdowns to no interceptions speak to his efficiency. He's found Nelson Spruce time and again, as the receiver leads the league with 20 catches despite just three in last week's win. After struggling through the first two weeks, L.A.'s offense has caught fire and its defense, keyed by safety Ahmad Dixon, racked up an overwhelming five takeaways and is seemingly savoring the prospects of playing a Guardians offense that's turned the ball over four times in the last two weeks -- a span in which it's scored just nine points and one touchdown.

Lost in the Guardians' struggles, defensive end Bunmi Rotimi (23 tackles) and linebacker Ben Heeney (18 tackles) are producing solid seasons. But the offense's trials and tribulations are the storyline. It's past time to move on from Matt McGloin as starter and Luis Perez (the third-stringer) is likely the best option. Sadly, quarterback isn't the only area of offensive struggles for New York.

This one might well be the hottest team in the XFL burning through one of the two coldest teams in league.

Seattle Dragons (1-2) at St. Louis BattleHawks (2-1), 5 p.m. ET, Saturday, FOX

Following a blowout win over the Guardians in Week 3 and the Defenders' subsequent defeat, the BattleHawks flew into a first-place tie in the XFL East. Now they'll look to hang on to their standing against coach Jim Zorn's firebreathers.

Though the Dragons have struggled for wins, linebacker Steven Johnson has been a flat-out stud and leads the XFL with 32 tackles. However, the defense largely collapsed as the offense fell into a second-half coma in the 24-12 Week 3 loss to the Renegades, in which Dallas scored 18 unanswered in the second half. On the bright side, former Bills draft pick Austin Proehl has shown promise and production with 12 catches for 168 yards and three touchdowns. In contrast, quarterback Brandon Silvers has been woefully inconsistent as he's thrown six touchdowns with four interceptions and is completing just 53 percent of his passes.

Silvers' counterpart Saturday will be Jordan Ta'amu, who leads the XFL with a 76 percent completion rate to go with 612 yards and four touchdowns through the air, while balancing that with 6.2 yards per carry and 123 yards rushing -- which is fifth in the pass-heavy XFL. Backfield mate Matt Jones is the league rushing leader (224 yards) as St. Louis continues to grind forward. Coming off their 29-9 dismantling of the Guardians, the BattleHawks' two wins have come in outings in which they have allowed less than 10 points. Hence, St. Louis' defense is just as much a part of the team's success as its ground-based offense.

Houston Roughnecks (3-0) at Dallas Renegades (2-1), 4 p.m. ET, Sunday, FS1

First place in the XFL West is in the balance as Week 4's marquee matchup features two of the league's most entertaining offenses.

Sure there have been some struggles and ugly play, but the bottom line is since Landry Jones took the starting reins after missing Week 1 due to an injury, the Renegades are 2-0. Jones has thrown for 579 yards in those games, which is fourth in the league despite having missed a game. He's also tossed four touchdowns, but has matched that with four picks. Running back Cameron Artis-Payne is second in the league with 185 yards rushing as he's averaging an impressive 6.4 yards per carry. Rivaling the BattleHawks as the league's most balance offense, the Renegades defense has also stood out, having allowed a league-low 45 points.

From start to finish, the Roughnecks have run past opposing offenses, as quarterback P.J. Walker and receiver Cam Phillips have shot to the forefront as early stars of the league. Houston's league-best 99 points are 25 more than anyone else. In every major category, Walker leads the XFL, having notched 748 yards passing and 10 touchdowns and is coming off a 300-yard, four-total-touchdown performance in the win over the Vipers. Phillips caught all three of Walker's touchdown throws as his 194 yards receiving was an XFL season-best -- which notched him XFL Player of the Week honors for the second time in a row. Running back James Butler also showed big-play ability with 72 yards rushing on just 10 carries. The Roughnecks have been the most exciting team in the league so far and might well be the best, too. That will be tested in a first-place battle Sunday in which the XFL's best offense faces the league's most formidable defense.

D.C. Defenders (2-1) at Tampa Bay Vipers (0-3), 7 p.m. ET, Sunday, ESPN2

Perhaps the storyline and quandary in the Week 4 capper is whether the Defenders will be undone for a second straight week by a winless squad or will respond with furious anger and rebuttal against the league's worst team thus far.

Of course, hearing of the Defenders' struggles likely seems laughable for the Vipers. Tampa Bay showed life in a 34-27 Week 3 loss to the Roughnecks, putting forth their best game so far against what is likely the best team in the XFL. The Vipers also saw a breakout performance from receiver Jalen Tolliver, who turned in eight catches for 104 yards after hauling in just five grabs for 53 yards over the first two games. Still, they have major issues at quarterback and Tampa's playoff hopes are slipping away if they haven't already.

Quarterback Cardale Jones had four interceptions against the Wildcats in his team's 39-9 humbling -- three more than he had in the season's first two games combined. But Jones was just like every Defenders player as they exhibited nothing close to the play they had previously. Look for receivers Eli Rogers and Rashad Ross, in particular, to have notable rebound efforts. Over the first two weeks of the season, they were viewed as perhaps the league's best WR tandem, but against the Wildcats combined for only four catches for 32 yards. A solid response will go a long way in showing evidence of the Defenders' character and will likewise showcase if the real D.C. team is the one seen over the first two weeks or the struggle bus that never got out of traffic in Southern California.

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