Fifty percent of the XFL 2023 regular season has been completed. The top of the league’s power structure has changed from last week. Only one team remains unbeaten, while one remains winless.
Let’s see how all eight XFL teams stack up after five weeks of play.
XFL 2023: Week Six Power Rankings
#1: D.C. Defenders (5-0)
The best overall team in the XFL resides in the District. The Defenders have gotten better every single week this season. On Saturday in front of 35,000 fans, D.C. sent a statement as the conquering enemy besting St. Louis 28-20.
The Defenders came out the bell ready to answer the call in hostile territory. The team started strong with a lengthy opening drive. But then lost round one when they were stopped by the Battlehawks and their raucous crowd in a goal line stand.
For most teams, that sequence could’ve have signaled an early round knockout. However, D.C. overcame adversity to deliver several body blows along the way. Thanks, mostly, to tremendous play by their talented offensive line, and a breakout performance by Baylor standout running back Abram Smith.
The pro rookie produced the best individual effort of any XFL player this season, rushing for 218 yards and three touchdowns. D.C.’s first overall pick in the XFL Draft averaged nearly ten yards per rush, and now leads the league by a wide margin. Smith was the nation’s fifth-leading rusher at Baylor in 2021. So he’s picking up right where he left off in college. After playing multiple games on wet surfaces, the turf at the Battledome definitely gave Smith’s running a boost.
Director of player personnel Von Hutchins, head coach Reggie Barlow, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and the entire staff deserve a ton of credit for the position the team is in at the mid-way point. It’s a talented roster with solidified schemes where everyone is on the same page.
D.C. is not only 5-0 on the season, but that’s also their record within their division. They have a three-game lead with five weeks left to play in the regular season over St. Louis and Seattle. Because of their combined head to head victories over the two rivals. The North is there for D.C. to claim.
In Week 6, the undefeated Defenders are coming back home to Audi Field next Monday night. In a place they have never lost(6-0). D.C. will face their first non-divisional opponent of the season, 4-1 Houston, in what could be an XFL Championship game preview.
#2: St. Louis Battlehawks (3-2)
Placing the St. Louis Battlehawks second in these rankings could stir up some controversy, and potentially age poorly. However, when you consider that St. Louis’s only two losses have come to the league’s top team. And the overwhelming strength of the North over the South. It’s not as crazy as one would think.
The Battlehawks, as they have done all season, battled back down multiple scores, and nearly rallied to push D.C. into overtime. But they couldn’t overcome all the damage they encountered during Saturday night’s game. St. Louis failed to exact sweet revenge on D.C., a team that looks two steps ahead of them and everyone else right now.
All of a sudden, the Battlehawks are in a precarious position at the halfway point. Anthony Becht’s bunch went from potentially taking over the North to now fighting for their playoff lives. St. Louis is tied with Seattle for the second and final playoff spot in the division. The saving grace is that they own a victory over the Dragons earlier this season.
The Battlehawks have two straight road games on the horizon. In Week 6, they head to Vegas to face the Vipers. Before battling with Houston in Week 7. Then St. Louis comes home and plays the Vipers again. The two upcoming divisional games are pivotal for the Battlehawks playoff chances because of potential tie-breakers at the end of the season.
#3: Seattle Sea Dragons (3-2)
The league’s most enigmatic team lands in the third spot. The Seattle Sea Dragons could either be 5-0 or 0-5 at this point. But as frustrating as their near loss at home to Houston was last Thursday night. The fact of the matter is that after beating the previously unbeaten Roughnecks. Seattle showed that they are a legit threat to win it all. If they can just figure out a way to stop beating themselves.
The Dragons offense is fully capable of contending in games, when their quarterback Ben DiNucci is not making ridiculous playground decisions with the football. Ron Zook’s defense has stepped up mightily. And Ty Knott’s special teams, coming off a game where they blocked two punts, lead a well rounded operation. Seattle has the makings of being a complete team. Even though their weekly efforts continue to have an incomplete feel to them.
The Dragons’ only two losses this season have come at the hands of the undefeated Defenders and the Battlehawks. Two heartbreaking last second losses, where you could argue that Seattle should’ve won both games.
The final score of 21-14 is misleading. The Sea Dragons dominated the Roughnecks in Week 5. That game had no business coming down to one score. Houston nearly came back and won. Thanks to Seattle repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot. A recurring theme for the Dragons this season.
The Dragons, winners of three straight, are playing so well that the league should reconsider their playoff format. And instead of having the top two teams in each division qualify, perhaps it can be the top four teams overall.
The true test for Seattle as a team comes this weekend in what is a classic letdown/trap game. They will head to Orlando on Saturday afternoon to face the 0-5 Guardians. Jim Haslett’s Sea Dragons squad can’t afford any slip ups. They have proven they can hang with the league’s best teams, now they have to avoid losing to the worst.
#4: Houston Roughnecks (4-1)
On the surface, it seems foolhardy to drop a team with only one loss down to the fourth spot. After all, a week from now, Houston could be back at the top of the rankings if they beat D.C. at Audi Field.
However, quality of opponent now comes into question with the Roughnecks after their lackluster performance against Seattle in Week 5. Houston has two victories over the winless Guardians and one score wins over two struggling South teams in Arlington and San Antonio.
The Roughnecks will likely win a questionable South division by default. In fact, they could be the first XFL team to clinch a playoff spot in Week 6. Another Brahmas loss in Week 6 and a Houston win on Monday night would accomplish that. But how good is Houston really?
The Roughnecks finally lost the first game in their brief history. 21-14 to Seattle. They had to lose at some point. And despite being outplayed immensely in Week 5, they still had a chance to win the game. It wasn’t an easy task playing a game on a short week on the road. But these next two weeks will prove if they deserve to be considered a top team in the league. Houston will play the undefeated Defenders next Monday night on ESPN2. And then finally return home to square off with St. Louis.
#5: Arlington Renegades (3-2)
Arlington’s top tier defense and special teams has kept them in every game this season. It’s the reason why they are 3-2 instead of 0-5. Because their offense is among the worst in the league. If not, the worst. Fortunately for them on Sunday night in San Antonio, they faced a team with similar DNA. Netting a 12-10 victory.
The Renegades will see the Brahmas again next week. Sunday afternoon on ABC. Hit the under and enjoy your easy money. Bob Stoops’s team has chance to practically seal a playoff spot in the South at home. They can take a four game lead with four weeks left. If Arlington sweeps their season series with San Antonio. In that scenario, The Renegades at 4-2, and the Brahmas at 1-5, would put San Antonio in a position where they’d need to run the table and hope Arlington lost the rest of their games.
Unless, the XFL changes their playoff format. The Renegades are going to be a playoff team because Orlando and San Antonio are in their division.
#6: San Antonio Brahmas (1-4)
It’s tempting to slide San Antonio to seven this week. Once again, their defense and special teams played fantastic. The Brahmas had a chance to win because of those two units. However, despite head coach Hines Ward making a change at offensive coordinator, it didn’t help much. What made matters worse is that the Brahmas lost new starting QB Reid Sinnett to what looks like a season ending injury.
San Antonio is on life support. A loss in week 6 to Arlington again, will for all intents and purposes seal their fate in 2023. It’s gotten late really early for the Brahmas.
#7: Vegas Vipers (1-4)
Rod Woodson’s team finally get their first W of the season. His players get their first win bonus of the season. ($1,000 per player). You take the dub, however, you can get it, but I don’t know if you can classify the Vipers victory in week 5 as well-earned.
While the game had plenty of excitement and big plays, with both teams combining for 67 points. The winless bowl lived up to the reputations of both Vegas and Orlando. Both teams went through a comedy of errors on late Saturday night. It’s fitting that the game ended at the one-yard line with two false starts as the finish.
The Vipers are not devoid of talent. They don’t have a 1-4 quarterback room or receiving corps. Because of those two elements, Vegas can play spoiler against any XFL team down the stretch. They welcome the Battlehawks for their second to last home game of the season at Cashman Field this Saturday night.
Luis Perez played a heck of a game in Week 5. He’s grown and matured as a pro quarterback. Progressively getting better in every spring league he’s played. Brett Hundley who also played well, but is banged up, might have to wait his turn.
Although, they are not mathematically eliminated yet. The odds are heavily against Vegas making a run to the playoffs, especially in the North. But if they can clean up their operation. No small task, considering the issues rookie head coach Rod Woodson has had. The Vipers have a chance to be a formidable and entertaining out in every game they play.
#8: Orlando Guardians (0-5)
My preseason projection of Orlando going winless for the season stays intact.
To their credit, the Guardians put up a decent fight on Saturday night. In their 35-32 loss to previously winless Vegas.
Orlando had a legitimate shot to finally win in Week 5. Thanks to a surprising performance off the bench by quarterback Quinten Dormady. The controversial and much-maligned signal-caller, who didn’t do anything to get maligned, redeemed himself in Week 5, after coming off the league’s suspended list. Dormady went 22/25 for 256 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Very quietly, the Guardians have one of the league’s best receiving corps. Much better than San Antonio of Arlington, for example. But what they continue to have is poor coaching and discipline. It wouldn’t be an Orlando game, without them making questionable game decisions, and committing ten or more penalties.
The way Saturday’s game ended embodied the life of a winless team. Orlando has 99 problems, so fittingly, what stood in front of them and their first victory was 99 yards. The Guardians got the ball back late down three, but gave up a sack at the one, and then ended the contest with two-straight false starts at the goal line. The sequence was so laughable and sad at the same time.
The Guardians have a legit shot to be the worst team in the history of any alternative or spring pro football league. It’s unfortunate that the XFL’s return to network television on ABC after four straight weeks of being on cable TV exclusively, comes with Orlando hosting Seattle this coming Saturday afternoon. Not exactly the team you want to showcase to the mainstream sports crowd. Unless you are into comedy and tragedy.
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