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Houston Roughnecks vs. Tampa Bay Vipers: Both teams heading in opposite directions

We are live at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, covering the game from the press box, but thinking about how it affects the lines

Tampa Bay Vipers quarterback Quinton Flowers throws a pass against the Seattle Dragons during the second half at CenturyLink Field. Seattle won 17-9.  Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

TAMPA - Behind the biggest performance from a wide receiver in XFL history by Cam Phillips, the Houston Roughnecks beat the Tampa Bay Vipers 34-27 on Saturday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

The Roughnecks (3-0) had 417 yards of offense, but came up a half-point short of covering the 7.5 points spread at kickoff. It was only the third game in XFL history to hit the over, and all three have involved Houston.

Cam Phillips of Houston had the biggest fantasy day ever in the XFL, with eight catches for 194 yards and 3 TD’s. “He’s gotten better since he got here,” said head coach June Jones. “To be a good team, you’ve got to win on the road. And we got it.”

Quarterback Taylor Cornelius was 16/31 for 193 yards, but a brutal interception on the last drive with 1:19 remaining sealed the victory for the visitors.

The flip-flop of quarterbacks between Taylor Cornelius and Quinton Flowers has already caused plenty of consternation amongst Tampa fans, who were vocal in their support of the hometown hero from South Florida in Flowers. “We decided to stick with the plan and keep Taylor in there,” said head coach Marc Trestman. “You have have to stand behind the plays that you call.”

The Vipers (0-3) showed flashes of competence, scoring their first three offensive touchdowns in team history, but came up short on a drive late in the fourth quarter with four chances inside the five-yard line to score. While Flowers has been a wizard inside the red zone in his career, they went with Cornelius for all four snaps. “We decided Taylor had gotten us down that far, and we decided we were going with him. He didn’t get it done,” said Vipers head coach Marc Trestman postgame.

“We love Q. We love what he brings to the table,” said Trestman. “But we’re going through a transformation right now.”

Houston heads to Dallas next week for the first all-Texas battle in XFL history, while it doesn’t get any easier for the Vipers, who face the DC Defenders who are 2-0 and the favorites to win the inaugural XFL championship.

4:47 p.m. A terrific drive by the Vipers goes for naught, as they fail with four chances inside the five-yard line to score. With some questionable play calling and the lack of red zone specialist Flowers, the boo-birds came out in Tampa. They aren’t happy with the home team, and many people headed for the exits after the last throw from Taylor Cornelius died in the center of the end zone.

We are at the two-minute warning, and it’s 34-27 Houston as Tampa takes over at midfield.

4:29 p.m. You’re really going to need Cam Phillips on your fantasy team this week. PJ Walker won’t hurt either.

Phillips catches a 17 yard stem-post for his third TD reception of the game. He’s got seven catches for 180 yards and three TD’s, and there’s still 10:24 left! That’s 46 fantasy points, and it’s 34-27 Roughnecks.

4:23 p.m. There’s a kicker in Tampa Bay that’s made two straight field goals today: and with the local NFL franchise’s struggle in that area the last decade, that’s gotta make Tampanians love the new green team a bit more.

Andrew Franks is good from 43 yards, and the Vipers take a one-point lead with 12:51 to play.

4:18 p.m. After three quarters, it’s Roughnecks 26, Vipers 24. And the bettors expect more scoring: the in-game betting total is now 62.5, with Houston as a 2.5 point favorite, down from 7.5 at kickoff.

Also we had a little bit of fun here with a hot mic in the press box:

4:08 p.m. A 20-yard TD pass from Cornelius to Dan Williams, and the over gets there for just the third time in XFL history with 2:06 left in the third quarter as Tampa Bay now trails 26-24. The missed two-point conversion after the TD keeps the Roughnecks in front.

The in-game line is down to -4.5 for Houston, with the money line at -335. You can get +230 if you think the Vipers can come back and win this game outright.

3:57 p.m. Over bettors will have to wait a smidge longer, as a Sergio Castillo 49-yard field goal goes wide, and we’ll hold at 44 total points with the Roughnecks leading 26-18 with 5:51 left in the third quarter.

Cam Phillips is up to 37.3 fantasy points on six catches for 163 yards and two TD’s. And there’s still over 20 minutes of football left. He’s going to be a must have for winning fantasy teams this weekend.

3:45 p.m. A five-play, 80-yard drive for Houston gives them the 26-18 lead. It’ll take just one more score with 12:01 left here in the third quarter for over bettors to start celebrating early. That breaks the trend in the XFL so far, where the under was 6-2 so far.

Cam Phillips 2nd TD gets him to 34.3 points fantasy points already.

3:33 p.m. The first half stats look good for over bettors, as both teams combined to run 64 plays and score 36 points. P.J. Walker has been the dominant player so far, going 12/16 for 176 yards with an eight-yard touchdown rush as well. That was good for 20.84 fantasy points at DraftKings in just the first half.

Also the big play from Cam Phillips was valuable as well, as he’s got 24.9 points already on the strength of his 84-yard touchdown grab, and four catches for 119 yards overall.

3:25 p.m. A biiiiig TD for the Vipers as time expires, as Taylor Cornelius sneaks in from one yard away to put the Vipers down only two, and the two-point conversion is good from Cornelius to Dan Williams to tie it at 18-18.

The Roughnecks are still favored by the bettors, and are 5.5 point favorites for the second half. They’ll also get the ball first coming out of the 10 minute intermission.

3:07 p.m. Live by the 3, die by the 3.

After a scramble by PJ Walker for the Roughnecks leads to a TD, but this time Houston misses the three-pointer despite an offsides penalty that got them down to the 5-yard line. In the long run, the math should work out, but now it gives the Vipers the chance to take the lead on any TD.

As of now, the Roughnecks are a 10.5 point favorite on in-game.

3:00 p.m. The bettors might not be as excited as the #FangGang about Flowers however. Despite taking a one-point lead, the game has reverted to the opening spread of 7.5 for the Roughnecks on in-game betting at DraftKings. The impressive P.J. Walker has a lot to do with that so far, he’s got 128 yards on 8/11 passing already.

2:56 p.m. Welp, looks like the fans were right: Quinton Flowers scores the first offensive touchdown in Vipers history in their 10th quarter of play. The hometown hero engineers a seven-play, 58-yard drive to history.

The big play was a 25-yard jump ball to De’Veon Smith, who got his block taken off and held onto the ball anyway. After the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was enforced Flowers scrambled in space, as he did so many times during his USF career, towards the south end zone for a 7-yard TD scramble.

The other two tenants in this stadium, the Bucs and the Bulls, have been pretty bad in 2019-2020. That might have been the most exciting moment in Ray Jay this season.

2:39 p.m. We are through one quarter of spring football in Tampa, and the Roughnecks lead the Vipers 9-3. The difference so far is P.J. Walker, who is 4-5 for 101 yards including his 84-yard TD strike to Cam Phillips, and the first three-point play to be converted from the 10-yard line without a penalty in XFL history by Sam Mobley.

Taylor Cornelius being 4-9 for 34 yards certainly underwhelmed the home fans, and the in-game spread is up to 10.5 points in favor of Houston, with the Vipers +450 for a comeback win at DraftKings Sportsbook.

2:34 p.m. That three-point conversion shows how valuable going big can be on conversions here in the NFL. Now if the Vipers come back and score, they’ll still need a conversion of some sort to take the lead despite having scored twice as opposed to once for Houston. How different teams use the conversion rules will have a big effect on the lines and how to wager on them.

2:32 p.m. Quinton Flowers is in, and there is a standing ovation here in Ray Jay.

2:30 p.m. Houston is the best offense in the XFL so far, and it shows when P.J. Walker hits Cam Phillips for an 84-yard touchdown completion. Then Houston goes for three (!!), and it’s good as Walker hits Sam Mobley who tip-toes for the catch just inside the back of the end zone.

It shows how good Houston can be, and there are groans everywhere here in Tampa after they conceded that drive.

2:23 p.m. As Cornelius continues to struggle, a video shot of backup Quinton Flowers brings up a chant of “We Want Flowers” here at Ray Jay. He was a star on this same field for South Florida. And the boo birds are out early here in Tampa.

2:09 p.m. The Vipers drive stalls after a couple of nice throw from Taylor Cornelius highlights a seven-play, 29-yard drive. The field goal from Andrew Franks is good for 48 yards, and the Vipers lead 3-0 on the field, and by 10.5 points to the spread early.

2:06 p.m. Tampa wins the coin toss, and elects to receive the kickoff. With a 35-yard return, they take over at their own 41.

1:55 p.m. As we get closer to kickoff, it seems the Roughnecks are getting a bit more action. They’re now favored by 7.5 as both teams walk to midfield for the coin toss.

The unofficial wager here in the press box was would there be better attendance here, or across the street for the New York Yankees Spring Training opener. It looks like it’s filling in nicely at Ray Jay, and we might see 18k-20k in the seats after everyone clears security.

1:08 p.m.

Both teams are on the field warming up, and it looks like both Quinton Flowers and Taylor Cornelius are throwing to both sets of receivers, which means we might be looking at two quarterbacks as we’ve seen a lot of from the Vipers and head coach Marc Trestman in the first two weeks.

Here’s a pic from our vantage point in the press box of the field at Raymond James Stadium about an hour before kickoff.

We’re going to try something a bit different here today, as we’re going to live blog Week 3 of the XFL live from the press box at Raymond James Stadium as P.J. Walker and the Houston Roughnecks take on Taylor Cornelius and the Tampa Bay Vipers.

It’s a perfect day here in Tampa, with the temperature at kickoff expected to be 68 degrees and warming slightly during the game. There’s already some tailgates in the south parking lot adjacent to stadium, and we’ll see how the attendance looks for the first professional spring football game in Tampa since the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits folded following the 1985 season. Will the Vipers starting 0-2 affect how many fans come today?

Right now the Roughnecks are a seven-point favorite, with the over/under set at 45 at DraftKings Sportsbook. Houston is -278 on the money line, while Tampa is +225. Houston is the second-favorite team to become XFL Champions at +225, while preseason-favorite Tampa Bay is down to +1100 odds in the eight-team league.

We’ll cover all of today’s proceedings with an eye on the pregame lines, as well any in-game wagering availability.

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