The 2023 XFL regular season is over. Four of the league’s teams finished their 2023 campaign this past weekend. At the same time, four others move on to the playoffs with a shot at winning an XFL championship.
|SOUTH DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIP|
|Arlington Renegades||@||Houston Roughnecks||Sunday, April 30|
3:00 PM ET
|ESPN2 / ESPN+ / ESPN Deportes|
ESPN Xtra on Sirius/XM
|NORTH DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIP|
|Seattle Sea Dragons||@||D.C. Defenders||Sunday, April 30|
|ESPN / ESPN+ / ESPN Deportes|
ESPN Xtra on Sirius/XM
Let’s take one last snapshot of where all XFL teams stacked up when the 2023 regular season concluded.
XFL 2023 Regular Season Power Rankings
#1: D.C. Defenders (9-1)
With a home playoff game sewn up at Audi Field. The D.C. Defenders had nothing to play for heading into Week 10. However, that didn’t stop Reggie Barlow’s squad from putting their best foot forward in the final game of their regular season. D.C. was involved in yet another thrilling game decided in the closing seconds, defeating San Antonio 29-28, which knocked the Brahmas out of the XFL playoffs.
Beyond the incentive of adding another $1,000 win bonus for each player. Something that has happened nine times for the Defenders’ during the year. D.C. was looking to keep its momentum heading into the postseason.
Fred Kaiss’s offense has gotten better each week in 2023. In large part to the stellar play of quarterback Jordan Ta’amu, who finished the season with 2,192 total yards, 17 scores, and only three interceptions while completing 62 percent of his passes.
There is one area of concern heading into next Sunday’s Northern Championship. And that’s the Defenders’ defense, which has given up a lot of points and passing yards at the tail end of the season. Their last two opponents, Arlington and San Antonio, have both struggled all year, passing the football. But they each had great success in that department against D.C. The Defenders’ opponent in the playoffs, Seattle, is a considerable step up in class and took D.C. to the limit three weeks ago.
#2: Seattle Sea Dragons (7-3)
The Seattle Sea Dragons are headed to the North Championship game after besting the Vegas Vipers 28-9 on Sunday night.
Seattle earned their spot into the postseason the hard way. They won seven of their last eight games to accomplish that feat. Their lone loss during that stretch was a one-point defeat to D.C. The team they will be clashing with yet again this coming Sunday for a chance to go win an XFL championship.
It was a tumultuous week for Seattle heading into Week 10. The unfortunate and untimely passing of veteran defensive end Chris Smith placed a dark cloud over Jim Haslett’s team as they entered the most critical moment of their season. Then, the Dragons had to navigate through a unique set of scoring tie-breakers, which put them in a precarious position, having to not only win on Sunday night but also win in a certain fashion to guarantee them a playoff spot. Winning almost wasn’t enough.
Seattle has had a flair for the spectacular throughout the year. Can they do it again in the final two weeks of the XFL 2023 season? The Dragons return to where their journey started, with a loss in February at Audi Field, where the Defenders have never lost a game in their history. Seattle will need to exact some sweet revenge on Sunday to get to the mountaintop.
#3: St. Louis Battlehawks (7-3)
The XFL’s 2023 season story can’t be told without the St. Louis Battlehawks. Unfortunately, the ending won’t include them. Despite a tremendous season and a spirited effort in Week 10, which saw STL score 53 points, the most ever by any team in XFL history. St. Louis went down swinging with their swords, and they didn’t go gentle into that good night.
Under the outstanding leadership of first-time head coach Anthony Becht, St. Louis was resilient all season long even up until their dying hour. Quarterback A.J. McCarron went out like a champion and is the league’s defacto MVP. When his team needed him most, he threw for 420 yards and six touchdowns—setting an all-time mark in XFL history with 24 passing touchdowns on the season.
It’s a shame that the Battlehawks are not going to the playoffs. At worst, they were the third-best team in the XFL this season. They had the misfortune of being in the wrong division. And the league missed the boat by not having the top two teams who didn’t win their respective divisions gain entry into the postseason.
#4: Houston Roughnecks (7-3)
The Roughnecks entered week ten with very little consequence at stake. Nevertheless, they outplayed Arlington 25-9, who was also in a similar regular season-ending position. Wade Phillips and his team have now won three straight games heading into the postseason after losing three consecutive in the middle of their campaign.
It’s been clear since midseason that Houston has had the easiest path to an XFL championship game simply because they won’t have to go through the best Northern teams to get there.
They will meet Arlington at TDECU Stadium this coming Saturday for a shot at the title game. It will be a massive upset if the Roughnecks don’t win the South Championship.
#5: Arlington Renegades (4-6)
While two teams in the North had to scratch, claw, and move heaven and earth, including point totals, to get into the postseason. Arlington entered the dance by default, even after losing their home finale 25-9 to Houston.
Thanks to the late-season pickup of quarterback Luis Perez, the Renegades were building momentum heading into Week Ten. But it’s challenging to know if it would’ve propelled them to an earned playoff berth on Sunday after the D.C. Defenders did Bob Stoops’s team a solid by knocking off San Antonio on Saturday.
Although it’s scarce, there have been instances in pro football history where teams with losing records have made the playoffs. It happened twice in one year when the NFL played a nine-game-shortened season. The most recent teams to make the postseason with losing records were the 2014 Carolina Panthers 7-8-1, the 2020 Washington Football Team, 7-9, and the 2010 Seattle Seahawks, 7-9. Two of those teams wound up winning a playoff game. (Go figure). Something tells me that Arlington won’t repeat that trend. But once you get into the playoffs, all bets are off.
#6: San Antonio Brahmas (3-7)
The San Antonio Brahmas came within a field goal of making the playoffs. They showed a lot grit against D.C., rallying from two scores down only to fall in the closing seconds to the league’s best team D.C. 29-28.
Despite having only three wins. San Antonio has an asterisk to their 2023 season. No team in the XFL faced more adversity dealing with injuries than the Brahmas did during the season. The team played over a dozen different combinations on their offensive line alone.
The Brahmas were the champions of tough losses all year long. They succumbed to an improbable comeback to St. Louis back in week one in front of over 24,000 fans in the Alamodome, and their last two defeats came to Houston in an OT shootout and a heartbreaking finish to close out their campaign.
It should be an interesting offseason for San Antonio, who, despite their less-than-stellar record, could see many of their players, particuarly on defense, end up on NFL rosters. The 2024 version of the Brahmas could be vastly different. 2023 was a year of what might’ve been.
#7: Vegas Vipers (2-8)
It seems like each week: the Vegas Vipers have a moment or two that perfectly encapsulates their losing season.
Week 10’s 28-9 loss to Seattle produced a Matthew Sexton fumble just as he was about to cross the goal line on a long scoring play . The Vipers would end up scoring anyway due to the XFL’s rule, where a defense can’t take possession if a fumble into the endzone is not recovered. Nevertheless, that type of error committed by Vegas, while on the verge of success, epitomized their season-long issues.
#8: Orlando Guardians (1-9)
The Guardians’ several week run of playing competitive games came to an abrupt end in Week 10 when the Battlehawks blew the doors off Orlando 53-28.
Terrell Buckley’s team for as bad as their record ended up being, was an entertaining bunch to watch down the stretch. They threw caution to the wind and pushed good teams to the brink, even beating the D.C. Defenders for their only loss of the season. Go figure.
The 2024 Guardians will likely be very different from the Orlando team we saw in 2023. Changes are inevitable. The new XFL year won’t start for a little while. But reaching this point,, and pondering the possibilities makes it all the more special.
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