Eighty percent of the XFL 2023 regular season is in the books. Two XFL teams have punched their tickets to the postseason. The D.C. Defenders and Houston Roughnecks. Four other teams are battling for the two remaining playoff spots with two weeks to play.
After eight weeks, let’s see how the entire league stacks up from top to bottom.
Week 9 XFL Power Rankings
#1: D.C. Defenders (7-1)
Thanks to the continued high level of play by quarterback Jordan Ta’amu and the XFL’s hottest young receiving duo of Lucky Jackson and Chris Blair. The D.C. Defenders edged out an excellent Sea Dragons team 34-33 in Seattle.
D.C.’s thrilling narrow victory over Seattle ensured them a spot in the Northern Divisional Championship game. The next step will be ensuring a home playoff game at Audi Field. A place where the Defenders have never lost in their brief history. They are 7-0 all-time in the District.
Reggie Barlow’s squad will face off with another team fighting for playoff positioning—the Arlington Renegades on Sunday afternoon in the regular season finale at Audi Field. If the Defenders take care of business, they can enter week ten with the luxury of resting any banged-up players before the postseason.
#2: St. Louis Battlehawks (6-2)
No team in the XFL has been more blessed than St. Louis. They have had so many dramatic last-second victories, overcoming nearly impossible odds. The fantastic city of STL and the football gods have shined brightly on the 2023 Battlehawks.
On Saturday, without arguably the league’s best QB, A.J. McCarron. And even though backup Nick Tiano battled valiantly for the Hawks. St. Louis appeared to be down and out. Trailing by nine points late in the fourth quarter.
But a beautifully timed and gutsy fake punt executed for a touchdown gave St. Louis new life. The bold decision eventually led to the Battlehawks playing in the modern XFL’s first-ever OT shootout format. It took XFL game #29 of the 2023 season to transpire.
In a season where no team has benefitted more from the XFL’s rules. It’s fitting that the Battlehawks would be the team to break in the original concept and do it in a winning style.
The Battlehawks will be looking for more home magic in Week 9. As they square off with one of the league’s best teams, Seattle, this coming Sunday. Anthony Becht’s bunch will have to be better than they were against Vegas to bury the Dragons’ playoff hopes. And, in turn, punch their own ticket to the postseason.
St. Louis also has an outside shot at winning the North and hosting a playoff game. But they will need help from the Renegades to accomplish that improbable task.
#3: Seattle Sea Dragons (5-3)
It almost seems sinful to drop Seattle down to the third spot after their first loss in six weeks. Especially after barely losing 34-33 to the 7-1 D.C. Defenders. In what was arguably the most exciting game of the XFL 2023 season. Both teams combined to score 30 points in the final quarter.
It’s also a sin that either Seattle or St. Louis won’t be in the playoffs. But those are the breaks right now.
The Seattle Sea Dragons have their backs against the wall. They must beat the Battlehawks head-to-head in St. Louis next Sunday to stay alive for the postseason. No game in the XFL regular season has more sizzle or importance, and it’s do-or-die time for the Dragons.
#4: Houston Roughnecks (5-3)
The Roughnecks snapped their three-game losing streak in Week 8. But they did nothing to shake their standing as pretenders to the XFL championship throne. Houston nearly blew a two-score lead against struggling San Antonio in the fourth quarter and managed to survive overtime to win 17-15.
The Roughnecks need to get their mojo back before the playoffs commence. Houston has lost some key players that helped them break out to their initial 4-0 start. WR Jontre Kirkin’s absence has stuck out like a sore thumb, and Houston has not been as explosive offensively. Wade Phillips and his coaching staff need to right the ship before the playoffs arrive.
#5: Arlington Renegades (4-4)
It was far from pretty; however, the Arlington Renegades took care of business in Week 8, sweeping their season series with the Guardians Saturday in Orlando. As a result, Bob Stoops’s bunch is one step closer to punching their ticket to the postseason.
Arlington’s defense and special teams have been stout all season long. Quite frankly, it’s why they have won four games. Veteran QB Luis Perez, making his first start for the Renegades, was solid, not spectacular, but it was good enough to finally get Arlington back in the win column.
The Renegades’ fourth win is an important one. Because it might be enough to get them into the playoffs by default. Arlington plays in D.C. next Sunday afternoon. And then follow that up with a home game against Houston. All Arlington needs is one win or one San Antonio loss to get into the playoffs.
Instead of failing upwards, the Renegades can push for the South division crown. They trail Houston by one game but need to handle their business and get some help from Vegas to move toward that possibility in week ten.
#6: Vegas Vipers (2-6)
The Vegas Vipers, despite their record, have been involved in some of the most exciting games of the 2023 XFL season. And that was certainly the case in their 21-17 overtime loss Saturday afternoon in St. Louis. Rod Woodson’s team nearly played the role of spoiler perfectly in Week 8.
Vegas gave the Battlehawks their best shot. They raced out to an 11-0 lead early, but coaching decisions and special teams blunders proved costly in a game they should’ve won. An ill-advised fake field goal attempt before the half and a game-changing touchdown allowed on a fake punt proved venomous for the Vipers.
If Vegas continues to get impressive play from QB Jalan McClendon. The Vipers will be a tough out in the final two weeks. They play at Houston against the Roughnecks Saturday afternoon. And then finish up the regular season in Seattle against the Sea Dragons.
#7: San Antonio Brahmas (2-6)
Thanks to their defense and special teams. The Brahmas, who have arguably the most uninspiring offense in the league, found a way to make a game of things against Houston. San Antonio rallied to tie the game late after a big interception and another clutch kick by John Parker-Romo to force the league’s second overtime shootout in Week 8. However, predictably, the Brahmas couldn’t score in the extra session and fell 17-15 to Houston.
By the grace of god, the San Antonio Brahmas are still alive in the playoff race, despite another tough loss on Easter Sunday at home.
However, Hines Ward’s team needs divine intervention to make the playoffs. The Brahmas must beat the Guardians next Saturday night at home and upset the Defenders in Week 10. And then hope that Arlington loses their final two games. (D.C. & Houston).
#8: Orlando Guardians (1-7)
The Orlando Guardians were officially eliminated from playoff contention after an 18-16 loss to Arlington on Saturday. Orlando looked poised to win their second straight game in the final seconds. But found a way to falter on the doorsteps of victory—a common theme late this season for the Guardians.
On a positive note, It was the fourth time in the last five games that Orlando was involved in a game decided by one score. However, the same issues the team had in going winless the first six weeks came back into play against the Renegades. The Guardians allowed four sacks, accumulated eight penalties, and turned the ball over five times. All three of those aspects are the hallmarks of losing teams.
Terrell Buckley’s troop will finish their season with two games on the road, starting with a Saturday night matchup with another struggling squad in San Antonio. The Guardians then close out their 2023 campaign by facing off with the Battlehawks in St. Louis.
From a motivational standpoint, the season’s final two weeks should be interesting for non-playoff-contending teams in the XFL. Win bonuses for the players are always in play. On top of that, many of the league’s players are looking to put out some great final tape before the XFL to NFL signing period begins.
Beyond all that, Coach Terrell Buckley and his players could be making their case for season two in the league. There are no guarantees that changes won’t occur for the 2024 XFL season, and the Guardians could look a lot different next year. At least, for the moment, they have looked better than how they did earlier this season.
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