ENFORCERS, HITMEN LOOKING FOR FIRST WIN
STAMFORD, CONN. – XFL football debuts at legendary Soldier Field this Saturday night when the hometown Chicago Enforcers host the New York/New Jersey Hitmen (8:00 p.m. ET on NBC). The game is a crucial one as both teams are looking for their first wins of the season.
The first-ever meeting of these Eastern Division rivals should produce enough heat to make up for the expected Windy City chill coming off Lake Michigan. Those braving the natural elements, including XFL Director of Football Competition Dick Butkus, should be treated to a bare-knuckle brawl by squads who went at it fiercely during a pair of pre-season scrimmages.
“You have two teams hungry for their first win who clearly don’t like one another coming to Soldier Field to battle the elements and each other, that’s what football is all about,” said Butkus.
Chicago enters the game after three tough losses. Last Sunday at Birmingham, the Enforcers saw a potential game-winning drive go up in smoke in the dying minutes on an unlikely 98-yard interception return TD by XFL Defensive Player of the Week Duane Butler. The previous week saw a double overtime defeat in Los Angeles. In week 1, the Enforcers dropped a four-point decision in Orlando.
The Hitmen also are coming off a tough defeat, last Sunday letting a 12-3 lead slip away in the fourth quarter and losing 18-12 to the undefeated Orlando Rage. In the process, though, the Hitmen may have found some answers at the QB position (see below).
In summary, with teams who don’t care for each other playing with their backs against the wall, look for sparks, and bodies, to fly in Chi-town this Saturday.
XFL LEADING RUSHER JOHN AVERY
In a city that has witnessed so many great performances by running backs, John Avery, perhaps the XFL’s finest at the position, leads the Enforcers into their home opener. The explosive tailback leads the XFL in rushing yards (313, 104.3 average) and touchdowns (four) and is sixth in the league in receiving yards (184).
THE HITMEN QB SITUATION
Wally Richardson looks to get the starting nod for the first time this season, replacing Charles Puleri. Puleri, who started the Hitmen’s first three games, was replaced at halftime of last Sunday’s game by Richardson. The Penn State product came off the bench and hit on 10 of 19 passes for 126 yards as the Hitmen built up their 12-3 fourth-quarter lead.
THE XFL ON TELEVISION THIS WEEKEND
DAY TIME (ET) NETWORK MATCH-UP
Saturday 8:00 p.m. NBC NY/NJ at Chicago Enforcers*
Sunday 4:00 p.m. TNN Las Vegas Outlaws at San Francisco Demons
Sunday 7:00 p.m. UPN Memphis Maniax at Los Angeles Xtreme
* NBC will also feature cut-ins of the Birmingham Thunderbolts at Orlando Rage
XFL’S ONLY UNBEATEN TEAM? IT’S ALL THE RAGE
Three weeks into the XFL season and only one team remains unbeaten: the Orlando Rage. Heading into a home tilt Saturday night against the Birmingham Thunderbolts, Orlando has already knocked off Chicago, San Francisco and NY/NJ, outscoring opponents by a total of 77-55.
Besides having the XFL’s best record, the Rage also boasts the best balance in the XFL, with a solid offense led by QB Jeff Brohm and RB Derrick Clark complimenting a defense led by two players who have been named XFL Defensive Players of the Week (Shawn Banks and Omar Brown).
Birmingham comes into the game winners of two straight, and Brohm said he knows being the XFL’s top team puts a bulls-eye on the Rage’s backs.
“We certainly expect that Birmingham will come after us,” he said.
FASHIONABLY LATE IN LA – ALL THREE XTREME GAMES DECIDED ON LAST PLAY
They are from Los Angeles and living up to it, as the LA Xtreme have provided plenty of Hollywood drama this season, with all three of their games having been decided on the final play.
In week one, the Xtreme fell to the San Francisco Demons on a last-second field goal. In week two, the Xtreme won a wild, come-from-behind thriller over Chicago in double overtime. This past Saturday night, Los Angeles knocked off the previously unbeaten Las Vegas Outlaws on a 48-yard Jose Cortez field goal as time expired. It was Cortez’ fourth field goal of the game.
BEATEN BUT NOT BROKEN: VEGAS DEFENSE STILL YET TO GIVE UP A TOUCHDOWN
Despite losing their first game of the season last Saturday on Cortez’ last-second field goal, the Las Vegas Outlaws defense still has yet to give up a touchdown this season. Indeed, the Outlaws have given up a total of just 15 points on five field goals, while the defense has actually scored two touchdowns itself.
Despite the numbers, DE Kelvin Kinney, who leads the XFL in sacks with four, was not satisfied at all after the loss, as is evidenced in his words to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“We gave up three (points) last week, 12 this week. What the hell's going on? Are we going to give up 18 next week? We can't have that. We CAN'T have that. We're a better team than that. (The fans) are hollerin' `No. 1 defense!' out there, and we got to answer the bell. You got to block a kick. You got to come up with big plays. That's a good defense. That's when you know you're great.”
Rage sit atop Eastern Division
At 3-0, Orlando remains all alone in first place in the Eastern Division. For complete record information on each team in the league, check out the standings.
PROBABLE: WR Kevin Drake (Quad).
OUT: LB Casey Dailey (Knee). DOUBTFUL: DB Quincy Coleman (Back). QUESTIONABLE: RB John Avery (Quad), DE Jason Chorak (Ankle), S Kerry Cooks (Back), G Paul Janus (Quad), G Rob Murphy (Knee), L Chris Perez (Ankle and Knee). PROBABLE: G Bryan LaBelle (Shoulder), WR Roell Preston (Bicep), WR Ryan Yarborough (Hamstring).
LAS VEGAS OUTLAWS
DOUBTFUL: QB Ryan Clement (Shoulder). PROBABLE: WR Brett Bech (Back),
DT Adriano Belli (Arm), OL Jon Blackman (Back), C David Diaz-Infante (Knee), DE Antonio Edwards (Calf), WR Nakia Jenkins (Heel), G Pat Kesi (Foot), DE Michael Mason (Knee), LB Joseph Tuipala (Thigh).
LOS ANGELES XTREME
QUESTIONABLE: CB Clifton Abraham (Groin), CB Terry Billups (Quad), S Ricky Parker (Concussion), WR Larry Ryans (Quad), RB Rashaan Shehee (Concussion). PROBABLE: T Jerry Crafts (Knee), DE Jamal Duff (Bicep), WR Darnell McDonald (Rib), CB Dell McGee (Groin), S Jeff Russell (Knee), DE Brett Williams (Knee).
QUESTIONABLE: WR Keith Crawford (Hamstring), WR Alvin Harper (Groin), DB Anthony Marshall (Hand). PROBABLE: DE Shante Carver (Hand), QB Marcus Crandell (Foot), LB Cornell Menafee (Back), DB Kevin Peoples (Ankle), DT Leonta Rheams (Thigh).
QUESTIONABLE: LB Bernard Russ (Leg), TE Eric Stocz (Elbow). PROBABLE: WR Zola Davis (Concussion), TE Bob Rosenstiel (Concussion).
DOUBTFUL: LB Joe Cummings (Shoulder). QUESTIONABLE: DB Ricky Bell (Toe), QB Jeff Brohm (Elbow), S Hassan Shamsid-Deen (Shoulder), DE Sterling Palmer (Back and Ankle).
SAN FRANCISCO DEMONS
OUT: DE Jomo Cousins (Rib), S Pete Destaefano (Concussion). QUESTIONABLE: LB Jon Haskins (Shoulder), C Curtice MacFarlane (Knee). PROBABLE: RB Terry Battle (Rib), CB Wendall Davis (Hamstring).
The full match-ups on -
York/New Jersey Hitmen at Chicago
Saturday, February 24th 8pm ET; NBC
Bolts at Orlando Rage
Saturday, February 24th, 8pm ET; NBC
Vegas Outlaws at San Francisco Demons
Sunday, February 25th, 4pm ET; TN
Maniax at Los Angeles Xtreme
Sunday, February 25th, 7pm ET; UPN