Seventy percent of the XFL 2023 regular season is in the books.
The D.C. Defenders finally lost, and Orlando finally won. And the result of that exhilarating game, coupled with other happenings in Week 7, has tightened the XFL playoff race with three weeks left to play.
7 XFL teams are still mathematically alive for the postseason. In a week’s time, that could change. But for now, let’s see how all XFL teams stack up heading into Week 8.
Week 8 XFL Power Rankings
#1: D.C. Defenders (6-1)
Last week, it was revealed that the song head coach Reggie Barlow plays to his team before every meeting is Tim McGraw’s ‘Humble and Kind”. Well, in week 7, the no longer undefeated Defenders were humbled, losing their first game of the season in an unkind fashion to previously winless Orlando.
The 37-36 loss at the final gun, on a missed 63-yard field goal by D.C., was arguably the most exciting game of the XFL season. The never-ending truism of Any Given Sunday, or in this case, Saturday lives on.
You have to reach deep and far in pro football history to find instances where an undefeated team has lost to a winless squad this late in a season.
According to pro football reference, In the NFL, there have been only seven instances since 1920 where this anomaly has occurred after Week 4. The last instance occurred in 2002 when the 0-5 Rams defeated the 4-0 Raiders 28-13.
At some point, the Defenders were going to lose, it’s not the end of the world, but it doesn’t mean that their loss doesn’t complicate matters for them.
D.C. has not clinched a playoff spot yet. Despite their dominant 5-0 divisional record and a favorable tie-breaker situation. The door is still open for both St. Louis and Seattle to overtake them in the playoff race.
Perhaps, it’s a knee-jerk reaction after one loss to suggest a potential late-season collapse. It’s not a probable outcome. But one thing is certain; there’s no coasting to a playoff spot or a division title for D.C. after Saturday’s defeat.
Ultimately in Week 7, a late fumble by league-leading rusher Abram Smith proved costly. But it was Gregg Williams’s defense that cost D.C. a victory against Orlando. The Defenders did a poor job of defending against the Guardians. That’s the ultimate reason they fell in Orlando.
The Defenders will head to Seattle next Sunday night in a rematch from Week 1, where the Sea Dragons fumbled near the goal line with a chance to beat D.C. at Audi Field. A Defenders loss to Seattle will leave them tied atop the North. However, they could have additional company in that spot.
#2: St. Louis Battlehawks (5-2)
The St. Louis Battlehawks held serve on Sunday after an impressive 24-15 victory in Houston against the Roughnecks. Anthony Becht’s bunch is playing great complementary football, and their defense and special teams have been just as responsible for their last two victories as their well balanced offense.
STL has a unique win-win scenario next weekend when the Defenders play the Dragons. The Battlehawks can benefit from either team losing, provided that STL keeps winning.
Overtaking the Defenders will be challenging because the Battlehawks have lost both head-to-head meetings with D.C. However, potentially hosting a North final in the Battledome is very enticing. St. Louis can enter week nine in a three-way tie in the North if they win and the Dragons beat D.C.
Conversely, A Seattle loss to D.C. could create the path of least resistance toward making the playoffs, especially if the Battlehawks win at home this weekend. It would mean the Dragons would fall to 1-3 within the division. Thereby making it harder for them to have any tiebreaker advantage. St. Louis would be 3-2 in the North in this dual scenario.
St. Louis will finish the regular season with three straight games at home. They welcome the 2-5 Vegas Vipers on Saturday, followed by a pivotal game against Seattle in Week 9, and then finish up with the Guardians.
#3: Seattle Sea Dragons (5-2)
Seattle is the league’s hottest team, winners of five straight after besting the Renegades 24-15 in Arlington last Friday.
The Dragons took care of business in Week 7. Now they can exact revenge on the two teams they lost to start their 2023 campaign—the Defenders and Battlehawks in back-to-back weeks.
As illustrated last week, Seattle couldn’t afford to lose any games before this stretch. Because if they did, they wouldn’t have been able to control their destiny, and they do now if they can beat DC and STL head-to-head and finish the job in Week ten against Vegas.
That wasn’t the case beforehand. The Guardians did the Dragons a favor because it gives Seattle a chance to surpass D.C. in the overall standings. Something they can’t do if both teams finish tied because of the Defenders’ five divisional victories.
The Dragons can continue to blaze their path to the playoffs by beating the Defenders at Lumen Field on Sunday.
The scary thought is that Seattle could also be getting better down the stretch. As news broke a day after their fifth-straight victory that the team will be signing former Pro Bowl NFL RB Phillip Lindsay.
#4: Houston Roughnecks (4-3)
Weeks ago, I dropped Houston down to the fourth spot in the rankings after their first loss. With the caveat they would remain here until they beat one of the top three teams in the North. Two more Northern losses against D.C. and St. Louis on Sunday validated this drop.
The Roughnecks’ three-game losing streak likely won’t knock them out of their tenuous spot atop the South. After all, Wade Phillips’s team still has the easiest path to an XFL Championship game on May 13th. But until they get to that game and win. They are going to be viewed as a pretender to the throne.
Houston will try to break their three-game losing streak next Sunday in San Antonio against the Brahmas. The Roughnecks haven’t clinched a playoff berth yet, but based on what’s happening beneath them in the standings. It won’t take much to accomplish that. Winning the South at this point is not exactly something you can hang your hard hat on.
#5: Arlington Renegades (3-4)
The Renegades avoided sliding down these rankings by default. Because the team directly below them, San Antonio lost on Saturday.
The truth is Arlington played yet another competitive game against the league’s hottest team in Seattle. That’s been a weekly occurrence for Bob Stoop’s group. But again, the Renegades’ offense, which showed minimal improvement in Week 7, is not good enough to win them games.
Strangely enough, the Renegades are still in the driver’s seat to make the playoffs despite their struggles. And as ridiculous as it appears, they are only a game out of first place.
Perhaps the eventual switch-up to veteran Luis Perez will help put Arlington back on track. However, their schedule is not an easy one.
First things first, the Renegades Week 8 matchup with Orlando is no give me. It wasn’t earlier this season when Arlington barely nudged Orlando 10-9. And it won’t be, this time, facing a red-hot Quinten Dormady and the feisty Guardians.
The Renegades will rightfully be underdogs this coming weekend.
I’d state that Arlington’s season has reached its lowest point. But they could fall even further.
#6: Vegas Vipers (2-5)
Rod Woodson’s team hasn’t had much to be happy about this season. But they ended their regular season run at home on an excellent note this past Saturday. Thanks to an outstanding performance at quarterback by Jalan McClendon, who has patiently waited for years to get playing time in the pros.
Three years ago, Jalan McClendon sat on the back end of the LA Wildcats roster in the XFL.
Former LA and now Vegas Director of Player Personnel Joey Clinckscales didn’t forget him, bringing McClendon back for XFL 2023. But he was behind experienced quarterbacks. Luis Perez and Brett Hundley, to be specific. But after calmly going 24/31 for 264 yards with two touchdowns to zero interceptions. NC State’s Jalan McClendon showed that he belongs.
Leaping into the playoff picture can’t happen for Vegas because they don’t play in the South. They have been eliminated from contention in the North.
The Vipers could finish 5-5, but it wouldn’t be enough for them to surpass six-win D.C., Seattle, or St. Louis, who are guaranteed to win at least a sixth game because they play each other in Week 9.
However, if Vegas gets the type of quarterback play down the stretch they got on Saturday. They could play spoiler against their division rivals, the Battlehawks, this coming weekend or even in Week 10 against the Dragons.
#7: San Antonio Brahmas (2-5)
It can be argued that no team in the XFL had a more disappointing loss than San Antonio in Week 7. Hines Ward’s Brahmas failed to seize their moment, and an opening in the South, by being thoroughly outplayed by the one-win Vegas Vipers.
Besides not being a divisional loss, the saving grace is that Arlington lost. Keeping the Brahmas playoff hopes within a workable distance.
San Antonio has three straight home games at the Alamodome to close the regular season. The Brahmas play the slumping Roughnecks this coming weekend. And then meet the Guardians in Week 9. Two pivotal games in the South. Even though their division is wide open, due to ineptitude, San Antonio has very little margin for error.
#8: Orlando Guardians (1-6)
After several weeks of being the XFL’s punching bag, the Guardians finally broke through for their first victory of the season. And they did it in thrilling fashion. Knocking out the previously unbeaten Defenders 37-36.
The truth is that Orlando had shown a lot of fight in the weeks prior, losing three of their previous four games by one score or less. Terrell Buckley’s troops deserve a lot of credit for not falling apart and sticking together after all the adversity and ridicule that came their way.
Quarterback Quinten Dormady is one of the best stories of the XFL 2023 season. The Guardians are redeeming themselves, thanks, in large part, to the player who should’ve never been put in a position of redemption.
Because of Dormady’s play and a very talented pass-catching corps, that has gotten even better with the recent acquisitions of TE Jordan Thomas and WR K.D. Cannon. Orlando is a threat to win more than just one game.
And how crazy is this? The Guardians are in the playoff hunt at 1-6. They have a crucial game against Arlington in their home finale this coming week. And then will take on the Brahmas in San Antonio a week later. Orlando can go into the season’s final week with a shot at finishing 4-6 and stealing a playoff spot.
What a difference one win makes.
Unleash the Action: Sign up for XFL Insider and Fuel Your Passion for Football!