With the Vipers at Raymond James this weekend, Tampa Bay will finally meet its XFL team

XFL Preview: Tampa Bay Vipers vs. Houston Roughnecks.

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click to enlarge With the Vipers at Raymond James this weekend, Tampa Bay will finally meet its XFL team
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It’s finally here. The Tampa Bay Vipers’ (0-2) home opener. The Vipers are taking on the Houston Roughnecks (2-0) this Saturday at 2 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium, with the game being aired on ABC (WFTS if you're local.)

The XFL games thus far have been… a little bit of a mixed bag.

Sure, the uniforms are cool, we get practically unlimited access (almost disturbingly so) to the players and coaches during the game, and the live look-ins into the review process are something the NFL should consider.

But is it worth the price of admission, especially since watching the game at home is actually pretty fun on its own? Well, maybe.

There’s nothing like live football, regardless of the level of the players on the field. Besides, it’s a step up from watching the USF football team at Ray Jay, and… wait no one shows up for those games either. Ouch. 

But still, it might be worth the price of admission considering tickets are going for $24 a pop on Ticketmaster (not including those pesky service charges, that’s how they get you) for lower-level seating (I don’t think the 300-level seats are even being used, based on demand). So hey, maybe take the kiddos to the game and watch another Tampa Bay quarterback throw a bunch of interceptions. Or stay home and be disappointed from the comfort of your own home while getting to listen to Marc Trestman’s uninspiring halftime speeches.

But in regards to the game itself, will the Vipers finally get their first win as a franchise? Can a Tampa Bay football team go a game without throwing at least two interceptions? Will another loss put head coach Marc Trestman on the hot seat? 

To answer the first question, probably not.

The Vipers’ offense has looked anything but explosive, and nothing from the game on Saturday would suggest anything is going to change this week. Aaron Murray’s status for Saturday’s game is still up in the air, as he is coming off of a foot injury that kept him off of the field for Saturday’s match-up against the Seattle Dragons. If Murray returns, great, we’ll get to see him throw another pair of interceptions. If he doesn’t, I guess the Vipers will continue their strange, noncommittal approach to the quarterback position, alternating every drive between backup Taylor Cornelius and USF product Quinton Flowers, not allowing either quarterback to actually settle in and get into a rhythm (my feelings about this strategy are pretty apparent.) 

Which brings us to the head coach who makes those decisions, Marc Trestman. Look, he has been given a tough hand. Murray getting hurt has prevented the Vipers from actually getting an offensive game plan solidified for more than a week in the regular season, not to mention the fact that this is a completely new team, so the offense had to start from scratch. But this is a new league. Other teams are in the same situation, and yet teams like the Roughnecks and the D.C. Defenders have looked excellent on offense. So maybe the Vipers look elsewhere for new leadership, a new voice in the locker room. 

Or maybe they don’t.

One of Trestman’s saving graces may be the performance of the Vipers’ defense. The team looked pretty good, having only allowed 10 points to the Dragons and recording the first touchdown in Vipers history with a pick-6. However, this Houston Roughneck offense is one of the best in the XFL through their first two games, especially through the air. In the team's first game against the Wildcats, Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker threw for 272 yards and four touchdowns. Compare that with the Vipers’ recent matchups of the New York Guardians’ Matt McGloin, who was benched at halftime of the Guardians' 27-0 loss to the D.C. Defenders after putting up a 10.1 passer rating, highlighted by two interceptions and a completion percentage of 42, and the Dragons’ Brandon Silvers, who has thrown for 318 yards so far this season with three interceptions. Needless to say the quarterbacks the Vipers have faced thus far have been… subpar. So the Vipers’ defense may not hold up, and maybe Trestman runs out of reasons to keep his job. 

In regards to the game itself, it all spells disaster for the Vipers. Poor guys don’t really stand a chance on paper. But, that’s why the games are played, I guess. So players and coaches can prove stupid bloggers like myself wrong. Fingers crossed. 

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