Let’s see how all eight XFL teams stack up after six weeks of play.
XFL 2023: Week 7 Power Rankings
#1: D.C. Defenders (6-0)
A week after beating the Battlehawks in St. Louis. The Defenders delivered another resounding statement in Week 6, defeating the Houston Roughnecks 37-26.
D.C. improves to 6-0 on the season and 7-0 all-time at Audi Field.
Reggie Barlow’s team continues to get better week in and week out. The Defenders’ offense has found its stride and an added dimension in their passing attack to compliment their smashmouth run game and big-play defense. No team has better synergy right now in the XFL than D.C. That’s a credit to the players, Barlow, his staff, and rock star DPP Von Hutchins.
Despite being 6-0, the Defenders have not clinched a playoff berth yet. They can in Week 7 if they beat the winless Guardians in Orlando this coming weekend. Because D.C. has a 5-0 divisional record with head-to-head victories over the Battlehawks and Dragons.
#2: St.Louis Battlehawks (4-2)
After a huge emotional letdown losing their “revenge game” against D.C. at home in Week 5, the Battlehawks desperately needed to bounce back away from St. Louis in Week 6. Especially with 4-2 Seattle winning earlier in the day and closing in on them. That’s precisely what Anthony Becht’s team did in Vegas. And they did it in a convincing fashion. Vaporizing the Vipers 29-6 on Saturday night.
Week 6 was St. Louis’s most complete effort of their entire 2023 campaign. After a sluggish start early on offensively, league standout A.J. McCarron had an amazingly efficient game, completing 23 of 29 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns to zero interceptions. Even more impressive was the fact that three of McCarron’s incompletions were dropped passes.
The Battlehawks’ defense redeemed itself a week after being humbled by the Defenders. Donnie Abraham’s group smothered Vegas all Saturday. Getting that unit to match the offense’s play is crucial down the stretch.
St. Louis has the profile of a championship contender. However, there are no guarantees they will make the postseason.
With four weeks left, the Battlehawks do control their destiny. They benefit from two games on their remaining schedule against the 1-11 combined Vipers and Guardians. Both will be home games in the ‘Battledome.’ However, their two other games will be determining factors—home versus Seattle in Week 9 and this Sunday’s game in Houston against the Roughnecks.
#3: Seattle Sea Dragons (4-2)
By hook or crook, Seattle has won four straight games to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The Dragons had to win on Saturday against the winless Guardians, which was a can’t-lose scenario. And despite nearly burning themselves in the Orlando heat, Seattle found a way to avoid disaster in Week 6.
Thanks primarily to coach Ty Knott’s special teams.
Kelvin McKnight had 204 return yards on the day. Kicker Dominik Eberle connected on all four of his field goal attempts. Including a 54-yard kick. And the Dragons blocked their third punt in their last two games. The turning point play by Alijah Holder resulted in a goal-to-go situation for Seattle’s offense which helped them take control late. It was the second week in a row that Holder blocked a punt. And the Dragons nearly got another one on Saturday.
Seattle has a short week upcoming and little margin for error with only four regular-season games left. The positive is that the Sea Dragons won’t have to travel by air in Week 7, as they stay in Arlington to square off with the Renegades on Friday night. The game will have significant playoff importance for both teams.
Any losses by the Dragons could be their death knell. They don’t control their own destiny. Even with two upcoming games against D.C. and St. Louis in weeks eight and nine.
#4: Houston Roughnecks (4-2)
A week ago, I knocked Houston down from one to four in these rankings after they suffered their first defeat to Seattle. The thought process was that Houston’s quality of opponent was in question. And after their second straight loss to a top team in the North. The doubt about how good Houston is still remains.
The Defenders outcoached and outplayed Houston and dealt them a 37-26 defeat on Monday night.
The league’s best team outclassed the Roughnecks for the better part of Monday night. Although, thanks to some exciting play off the bench by Cole McDonald. Houston made things a bit more interesting late in the game.
Injuries haven’t helped Houston. They lost their best playmaker in Jontre Kirklin for the season and were without their standout tackle, Sage Doxtater, and DE Tim Ward. However, they need to overcome their first rough patch of the season. The Roughnecks head back home this Sunday against another top team from the North, the 4-2 St. Louis Battlehawks.
Because of the division they are in, Houston is still the favorite to come out of the South and play in the league’s championship game. However, they are starting to look like a paper tiger.
#5: Arlington Renegades (3-3 )
It’s tempting to slot Arlington lower than fifth in the rankings after another pitiful performance offensively in their 15-9 loss to San Antonio. The Renegades have been competitive in every game they’ve played. But based on how things are going, they won’t be at five for long.
Arlington had an opportunity to slam the door shut on San Antonio’s playoff chances in Week 6. And by doing so, would’ve practically ensured their own postseason spot. Instead, the Renegades have opened the door for their own exit from the playoffs.
Arlington has a top-tier defense, but they are being held back by their offense. Jon Hayes’s unit produced a lousy nine points Sunday at home. The fact is that the Renegades were fortunate to score nine points. They wouldn’t have if not for two turnovers forced by their defense, one of them set up an absurd touchdown grab by wide receiver LuJuan Winningham.
The Renegades have no answers right now on the offensive side of the ball. Coach Bob Stoops, in his post-game press conference, stressed how his defense and special teams need to play perfectly due to a lack of efficiency from the offense.
The elephant in the room, and the underlying issue for Arlington, is Bob Stoops’s loyalty to longtime confidante Jon Hayes. The well-respected longtime NFL player and assistant has faltered in his first-time role as a play-caller.
‘Big Game Bob’ is hesitant to pull the plug on his former Iowa and Oklahoma compadre. But if he doesn’t, it’s hard to envision Arlington winning very many games down the stretch. The pivot should be to another Stoops ally in QB coach Chuck Long. It’s still an awkward situation. But an easier one to make with a fellow friend in the room.
When asked about a potential change at offensive coordinator or quarterback by XFLNewshub’s Anthony Miller, Stoops responded by saying he wasn’t considering a change at this time. One day later, the Renegades released quarterback Kyle Sloter. But the problem of who is constructing the offense remains.
Perhaps the timing of any change at offensive coordinator isn’t ideal with a short workweek coming up. After all, Arlington hosts the Seattle Sea Dragons on Friday night. Notwithstanding that, the state of the Renegades’ offense is so poor right now that if June Jones’s offense can get to 12 points or more, Seattle should win. Provided that Quarterback Ben DiNucci doesn’t continually turn the ball over.
#6: San Antonio Brahmas ( 2-4)
The San Antonio Brahmas salvaged their season on Sunday, besting the Arlington Renegades in another low-scoring slugfest. It was a must-win game for Hines Ward’s squad, who’ve had to endure a lot of adversity this entire season. But especially in the last week.
The Brahmas lost QB Reid Sinnett for the season in Week 5 and then lost QB Jack Coan and starting RB Kalen Ballage to injury during practice on Thursday. The team then traded for QB Kurt Benkert late in the week and paired him up two days later with third-string QB Jawon Pass on Sunday. A less than ideal situation for any team days before their most important game of the season.
As absurd as it seems, the 2-4 Brahmas have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs. San Antonio still trails Arlington by one game in the standings. However, after splitting their regular-season series with the Renegades. Both teams are now 2-2 in the Southern division.
San Antonio has the more favorable schedule over Arlington down the stretch. They have an upcoming road game this Saturday against the 1-5 Vegas Vipers. The Brahmas then close out the regular season with three straight home games against Houston, Orlando, and D.C.
On the flip side, the Renegades will play Seattle and then at Orlando and D.C. Before closing their season against the Roughnecks.
The third-place team in the North may cry bloody murder. But it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a 4-6 team in the South nets a playoff berth over the Dragons or Battlehawks. The Brahmas could go 2-2, while the rudderless Renegades finish at 1-3 in the final four weeks to create that hold-your-nose scenario.
#7: Vegas Vipers (1-5)
In Week 6, the Vipers lived up to the legendary Bill Parcells’s belief system that says, “you are what your record says you are.” Las Vegas has become Loss Vegas in a season that has become a lost one.
After weeks of losing close games and finally breaking through with an exciting 35-32 victory in Week Five, the Vegas Vipers fell hard in Week 6, getting thoroughly outclassed at home by the St. Louis Battlehawks 29-6.
Like many aspects of Vegas this season. Saturday night wasn’t pretty. The Vipers dug themselves into a hole and were unable to crawl out.
At 1-5 after six games. The Vipers are effectively, if not mathematically, eliminated from the playoff mix.
In a season that has already been spoiled for them, the best Rod Woodson’s squad can do at this point is play spoiler mode in their final four games.
With games against two Northern teams fighting for one playoff spot. St. Louis and Seattle. The Vipers can affect the postseason picture. Provided that they can deliver a better showing than they did in Week 6.
Vegas returns to Cashman Field this Saturday afternoon to play the San Antonio Brahmas in the final home game of their 2023 campaign. Will it be their last one there ever?
#8: Orlando Guardians (0-6)
To their credit, Orlando has been competitive the last two weeks. In fact, three of their previous four losses have been by only one score. So maybe before the season ends. The sun will finally shine on the Guardians, at least once.
However, 0-6 teams do 0-6 things. Even though they fought hard against Seattle this past Saturday in a 26-19 loss at home. Orlando committed 13 penalties, had a game-deciding punt blocked in their red zone, when they were trailing by only one point in the 4th quarter, and allowed over 200 return yards.
Terrell Buckley’s troops are playing hard. And quarterback Quinten Dormady has provided a spark. But even with the marginal improvements, Orlando still looks like a strong candidate to go winless in 2023.
The Guardians are hosting the D.C. Defenders at Camping World Stadium this Saturday. It would be fitting if Orlando won their first game on April Fool’s Day. But another loss to fall to 0-7 would also match the day’s namesake.
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