Forty percent of the XFL 2023 regular season is the books. As the midway point arrives in Week 5, a select few XFL teams are looking to cement their positions of strength, while others are looking to survive.
XFL Week 5
In Week 5, two XFL teams that remain unbeaten atop their respective divisions, Houston and D.C., face their stiffest challenges of the season. The South playoff picture will become more apparent, and the league’s two winless teams will fight for their first victory.
The undefeated Roughnecks are in Seattle tonight, facing off with the 2-2 Sea Dragons, who are trying to stay within breathing distance of the Northern playoff race. Based on how things have transpired in the South Division, another Houston triumph will all but seal their spot in the playoffs at the midway point.
The Defenders are headed to STL to face the Battlehawks on Saturday night. It’s the second meeting between these two teams in three weeks. D.C. beat St. Louis at home in Week three 34-28.
Another head-to-head victory by the Defenders over the Battlehawks would give them a 5-0 division record and a three-game lead in the North with five weeks left to play. It’s a must-win situation for St. Louis if they want to have a chance to win the North and fill the Dome in a playoff game.
The other two games on the XFL week five docket have intrigue as well. But for contrasting reasons. In San Antonio, the 1-3 Brahmas are trying to bull their way back into the Southern playoff picture, and they can do so by besting the 2-2 Arlington Renegades at home. The two Texas teams will meet again next week. So for all intents and purposes, the back-to-back affairs are essentially playoff games.
Winless Orlando or Vegas will finally taste victory in the XFL season because they play each other. The Guardians and Vipers are extreme long shots to contend for a playoff spot. But a victory for one of them will help humor that absurd and unlikely scenario for at least another week.
XFL Week 5 Predictions
After 16 games, I am 12-4 in picking winners for the season. That’s the good news, and the bad news is I’m 9-7 against the spread and 8-8 in determining the over/under. These are not exactly brag-worthy figures, and let’s see if I can do better in week five.
Houston Roughnecks (4-0) at Seattle Sea Dragons (2-2), Thursday, March 16, Lumen Field, 10:30 pm ET/7:30 pm PT, ESPN/ESPN+
- Point Spread: Roughnecks –3
- Over/Under: 42
- Weather: Partly cloudy skies. Low 34F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph.
The 4-0 Houston Roughnecks still have never lost a game in the XFL, and they are now 9-0 in their brief history. The Roughnecks can extend that winning streak to ten tonight against the Seattle Sea Dragons.
On paper, tonight’s game has a chance to be the XFL’s best quarterback matchup of the season. And possibly the best offensive matchup as well.
The league’s top two most productive quarterbacks are the Roughnecks’ Brandon Silvers (962 yards passing, ten touchdowns, 65.2% completion percentage) and the Dragons’ Ben Dinucci (1,119 yards passing, eight touchdowns, 68.9% completion percentage).
Houston and Seattle also boast arguably the league’s two best-receiving stables. Seattle’s pass-catching group, led by Josh Gordon, Blake Jackson, and Jahcour Pearson, versus Houston’s Jontre Kirklin, Deontay Burnett, and Cedric Byrd. All six wideouts are among the league leaders in every receiving category.
But the main storyline attached to this game is the two offensive coordinators. It’s old-school run-and-shoot versus new-school Air Raid—the Dragons’ June Jones versus his pupil Roughnecks OC A.J. Smith. As a WR coach, Smith was on June Jones’s undefeated Roughnecks staff three years ago. Now Jones will be the one looking to give Houston its first-ever loss.
Despite being ultra-pass-heavy teams, Seattle and Houston have had success running the ball. Even if it’s not their first, second, or even third preference, simply because defenses are gearing up against their pass games, having to play 4-wide sets, and countering with multiple defensive backs.
So in a toss-up match-up offensively, the best course of action is to take the best defense. And that belongs to Wade Phillips’s group with Houston. The Roughnecks lead the XFL in sacks (17) and are tied for first in interceptions (5).
The oddsmakers are showing Seattle some respect by only listing them as three-point underdogs. But I think Seattle’s propensity to beat themselves will keep them from pulling the upset.
Prediction: Houston Roughnecks 26 Seattle Sea Dragons 20
D.C. Defenders (4-0) at St. Louis Battlehawks (3-1), Saturday, March 18, The Dome, 7 pm ET/6 pm CT, FX/ESPN+
- Point Spread: Defenders –1.5
- Over/Under: 41.5
There’s a realistic chance that the Defenders and Battlehawks will meet again this season in the playoffs. Saturday’s game could determine where the North final, with a shot to get to the XFL championship game, is played.
The last time D.C. and St. Louis squared off. The game ended in an on-field brawl, leading players and coaches to be fined and suspended. The Battlehawks took issue with not only Defenders players but also the referees in that game. Things were very heated at the end of that Week 3 contest and in the St. Louis press conference that followed.
Things are only going to get hotter this weekend. There is so much at stake for both Northern teams. And the electrifying environment of the Dome should be at an all-time fever pitch. That’s saying something coming off of last week’s record-breaking raucous crowd.
The Defenders found their passing game when they faced St. Louis in week 3. Former Battlehawk Jordan Ta’amu, who returns to STL to meet his former team on Saturday, has completed 25 of 39 passes for 373 yards with a touchdown while adding 111 rushing yards and another score in the next pair of games. The growth of D.C.’s passing and their diverse league-leading ground game poses a formidable challenge for St. Louis’s defense.
The most pivotal matchup in this game is the Defenders’ pass rush (12 sacks) versus the Battlehawks’ offensive line (12 sacks allowed). Gregg Williams’s defensive unit got four sacks the last time they faced St. Louis. Can St. Louis show enough balance offensively to keep D.C.’s aggressive defense honest?
The Battlehawks, led by potential league MVP QB A.J. McCarron, are coming off their most complete game of the season. For once, they didn’t have to battle back down two scores. St. Louis fed off the energy of their crowd to overwhelm Arlington. Can they do the same to D.C.?
Teams usually make adjustments in their second meeting. And the site of the rematch usually dictates who will win. But something tells me that Reggie Barlow’s squad will feed off the energy and revel in their role as the conquering enemy.
Prediction: D.C. Defenders 25 St. Louis Battlehawks 22
Orlando Guardians (0-4) at Vegas Vipers (0-4), Saturday, March 18, Cashman Field, 10 pm ET/7 pm PT, FX/ESPN+
- Point Spread: Vipers –7
- Over/Under: 42
- Weather: Partly cloudy skies in the evening. Low near 50F.
The fact that luckless Vegas is a seven-point favorite over Orlando tells you all you need to know about the current state of the Guardians. The Vipers, on paper, are better than their 0-4 record indicates. But as the legendary Bill Parcells once famously said, you are what your record says you are.
Vegas has found creative ways to lose their first four games. Could the Vipers find a way to roll snake eyes again, even against the Guardians?
In their favor, at the moment, is that the weather forecast isn’t calling for rain or tornado-like wind—something the Vipers have had to deal with the last three weeks.
Both teams in this matchup have formidable pass-catching talent despite their winless state. As a result, The oddsmakers have set a pretty healthy point total projection at 42. However, Vegas has some uncertainty at quarterback. Brett Hundley has been practicing in full. But Luis Perez, who played well off the bench last week, could get the starting nod.
These two teams will be playing in a desperate state on Saturday night, and neither Vegas nor Orlando wants to fall further into the abyss. The players are itching for their first win bonus of the season and a sense of pride.
The Guardians’ mental errors and inability to pass protect (17 sacks allowed) point to them falling to 0-5. Notwithstanding the overwhelming evidence against them, I think Orlando will put up a fight in this game. But ultimately, Vegas will come on top for the first time.
Prediction: Vegas Vipers 23 Orlando Guardians 15
Arlington Renegades (2-2) at San Antonio Brahmas (1-3), Sunday, March 19, Alamodome, 9 pm ET/8 pm CT, ESPN2/ESPN+
- Point Spread: Brahmas –2.5
- Over/Under: 35.5
Week 5 in the XFL starts with the two best passing offenses in the league. And it ends with the two worst. The Texas twosome of the Renegades and the Brahmas have struggled mightily to score in the season’s first four weeks.
Hines Ward has made a change at offensive coordinator to counter the struggles. Long-time pro assistant Jimmie Johnson will take over playcalling duties for the Brahmas, and Jamie Elizondo will coach receivers as he relinquishes control of San Antonio’s offense. Ward has hinted at a QB change with starter Jack Coan. The team could be going to Reid Sinnett sooner rather than later.
The Renegades have attempted to boost their offense by inserting Kyle Sloter into their lineup. But the early returns have not been promising. Sloter has the same amount of turnovers (4) as scoring drives in his first two starts.
On paper, this has a chance to match or beat the lowest-scoring game of the XFL season—Renegades-Guardians in Week 3, who scored a combined 19 points. The Brahmas are coming off a game with Seattle where only 21 points were scored.
The first Texas team to 12 points might win Sunday’s game.
Neither team has found their groove, running or throwing the football. But both teams’ defenses and special teams have been formidable and kept them in every contest.
There’s a lot at stake for Arlington and San Antonio, who are essentially playing a two-game playoff in Weeks 5 and 6. The Brahmas, in particular, can’t afford to fall to 1-4. Because if they do, next week’s game with Arlington will have less meaning for them. Bob Stoops’s bunch can bury the Brahmas’ playoff chances.
There’s a chance that by the time the weekend is over in the XFL. That nearly half the league’s teams could already be theoretically eliminated from postseason contention.
Prediction: Arlington Renegades 16 San Antonio Brahmas 15
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