After three weeks of play in the XFL, some notable trends have emerged, but the question remains whether they will continue. The Defenders, aka “Downhill Consistently,” have demonstrated the strongest ground game in the league, which has otherwise favored passing. Surprisingly, there have been no runs over 20 yards or longer than 40 yards by any XFL player. Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Seattle’s quarterback, Ben DiNucci, has shown both skill and inconsistency, throwing for over 850 yards but also committing five fumbles and three interceptions. If DiNucci and the Sea Dragons can avoid turnovers, they could be a dominant team.
The importance of defensive plays has also become evident, as two teams, Arlington and D.C., have already scored multiple pick-sixes, and Houston’s Men of Steal have been leading the league in interceptions. Successful point-after conversions have also proven crucial in close games, with D.C. converting six out of seven attempts while Vegas has only converted two out of seven.
Finally, it has become clear that familiarity can breed hostility, with games between training site partners resulting in intense, sometimes violent confrontations. As the league heads into Week 4, each division has teams with three, two, one, and zero wins, setting up an exciting and unpredictable future.
March 11, Saturday: Houston Roughnecks (3-0) at Orlando Guardians (0-3), 7pm ET, FX
The Roughnecks have been dominant in every aspect of the game, boasting a 3-0 record with the league’s best points differential (+39), top-ranked offense, and most sacks (13) and interceptions (5). Their success can be attributed to their expert use of the 3-4 defense under the guidance of seasoned coach Wade Phillips, who has only deviated from this strategy once in his 45-year career. While the Roughnecks have capitalized on home-field advantage thus far, their upcoming match against Orlando presents a new challenge.
Orlando, seeking to improve their performance, may turn to local hero Quinton Flowers, one of the best quarterbacks ever produced by the University of South Florida. Flowers, who played in the XFL for Tampa Bay, was previously overshadowed by Taylor Cornelius but has the potential to make a difference for Orlando. With a history of delivering impressive performances, including a game where he accumulated 605 yards of total offense, Flowers has the ability to ignite Orlando’s offense and please their fans.
Although the Guardians already possess a talented tight end in Cody Latimer, their offensive line needs improvement as quarterback Paxton Lynch has been sacked ten times in just nine quarters. In contrast, Houston’s offense has been flourishing under the guidance of future NFL offensive coordinator A.J. Smith, with Jontre Kirklin ranking third in the league for yards gained and Max Borghi coming in third for rushing while also being the only running back with multiple touchdowns.
Borghi, who played for the actual Mike Leach at Washington State and is a perfect fit for Houston’s “Mike Leach” offense, desires more carries and a pro-style offense, but excels in his current role. With the Houston run game focusing on quality over quantity, Borghi has the opportunity to gain yards per carry as long as quarterback Brandon Silvers maintains a balanced offensive approach.
Despite the Guardians’ commitment to improving, their coach acknowledges that simply competing is not enough and that winning is the ultimate goal. However, they face a difficult challenge in Houston’s impressive lineup, and will need a penalty-free and turnover-free performance to stand a chance.
March 11, Saturday: San Antonio Brahmas (1-2) at Seattle Sea Dragons (1-2), 10 pm ET, FX
The San Antonio Brahmas have a positive points differential, but their 1-2 record and third consecutive road game have left them questioning their identity. Quarterback Jack Coan needs to take more risks, as his conservative approach has not produced much offense. However, he may have more time to throw against the Seattle Dragons, whose pass rush has only recorded four sacks in three games. Although, Seattle’s secondary features Emmanuel Smith, the league’s second-leading tackler, and notable names such as Bryce Thompson and Alijah Holder.
San Antonio’s secondary will need to be prepared for Seattle’s passing attack, which has amassed a league-best 852 net yards. Seattle quarterback Ben DiNucci has emerged as the top passer in the league, leading in both yardage and completion percentage. With downfield weapons like Jahcour Pearson and Blake Jackson, and former NFL receiving yardage leader Josh Gordon, who is threatening to double down in the XFL, the Brahmas will have their hands full.
Seattle has only punted nine times this season and has the league’s leading rusher in Morgan Ellison, who may be limited by a knee injury. If Ellison cannot play, recently signed Darius Bradwell will have to step up. Both teams are desperate for a win, as the loser will fall to 1-3 in a division where the leading team could be 4-0. With only a ten-game season, there is little room for error.
March 12, Sunday: Arlington Renegades (2-1) at St. Louis Battlehawks (2-1), 4 pm ET, ESPN2
On Sunday afternoon, all eyes will be on the Dome to see how enthusiastic and loud the fans will be as the St. Louis Battlehawks finally get to play a home game after playing in other cities. The fans are known for being fervent and are expected to bring energy to the game. The article predicts that the crowd will be large, possibly exceeding the XFL 2020 record of 29,554 fans. The Battlehawks have excited fans with their strong receivers, Hakeem Butler and Austin Proehl, who have shown impressive skills in their positions.
The article then focuses on the opposing team, the Dallas Renegades. While they have a winning record, their two victories have been against teams that have yet to win a game. They also lack speed in all positions, and their offense has not been very impressive. They have a good tight end in Sal Canella, but their wide receivers have not been able to make plays, with an average of less than eight yards per reception, which is the lowest in the league. The Renegades have connections to St. Louis, with several coaches and players having been part of the Battlehawks team in 2020.
The article notes that turnovers may be a significant factor in the game, as both teams have done well at forcing fumbles. Arlington has had two pick sixes so far, which could be a problem for St. Louis. The Battlehawks have a strong defense, led by linebacker Willie Harvey, who is the league’s leading tackler. The team is known for playing a tough, fundamentally sound style of football.
Special teams have been a mixed bag for the Battlehawks, with a 3-for-7 record on field goal attempts. However, their kick return game has been the best in the league, thanks to Darrius Shepherd. The Renegades will be without their star cornerback, Josh Hawkins, who tore his ACL in their last game.
In conclusion, the article predicts a lively game between two teams that are not flashy but have strong fundamentals. The Battlehawks have an advantage in their home field and their strong special teams, but the Renegades may be able to take advantage of the absence of Hawkins.
Vegas Vipers (0-3) at D.C. Defenders (3-0), 7 pm ET, ESPN2
This Sunday’s XFL game features the winless Tampa Bay Vipers against the undefeated DC Defenders. Despite their poor record, the Vipers have potential with quarterback Brett Hundley getting more comfortable with the playbook and talented receivers. However, the team has yet to put all the pieces together for a win. The Vegas QBs, Luis Perez and Hundley, have the highest yards-per-carry in the league so far, while the Vipers defense also has talent, particularly with Cris Dishman coaching.
The Defenders, on the other hand, have a strong defense and an inconsistent offense. While their passing game has been lacking, the team’s run game has compensated with Abram Smith and Ryquell Armstead performing well. The Defenders have carried the ball far more than any other team in the league and are the only team without a missed field goal.
Although the Defenders will be without a few players due to suspensions from their last game, they still have a strong edge on defense and are well-coached. The two teams even made a trade earlier in the week, with OL Antonio Garcia and DB Joshua Allen swapping teams. Despite all the changes, the Defenders stand as a model XFL team with a winning message spread by Coach Reggie Barlow and his players executing the playbook well.