The XFL is now in uncharted waters in terms of its last two iterations, as we’ve reached the Week 6 point of the 2023 season, one more than the ill-fated, COVID-shortened 2020 campaign achieved. We have some intriguing battles on tap, none arguably more compelling than the Roughnecks-Defenders Monday night showdown in the nation’s capital.
As customary, we’ll try to hone in on what could be considered some of the tougher Start/Sit decisions for the coming slate, although with the XFL’s abbreviated player pool, we’ll inevitably focus on what might be considered an obvious play from time to time, particularly at quarterback.
Ahead of what should be an exciting four games, here are XFL News Hub’s Start/Sit recommendations for your Week 5 season-long fantasy contests!
Ben DiNucci, SEA at ORL
DiNucci had an uneven Week 5 that saw him throw three interceptions, but he still did enough to lead the Sea Dragons to a third straight win and hand the Roughnecks their first loss in franchise history in the process. The former Cowboys signal-caller even unearthed yet another gem in his pass-catching corps in the form of Damion Willis, who he hit on five occasions for 61 yards and a score.
Looking ahead to Week 6, DiNucci gets a crack at a Guardians defense that’s been victimized by big plays through the air all season. Orlando is now allowing 213.8 passing yards per game, third most in the league. Given Seattle also enjoys a two-day rest advantage, DiNucci shapes up as a must-start this week.
A.J. McCarron, STL at VGS
The Battlehawks disappointingly came up short in Week 5 in front of another big home crowd, but the matchup against the Defenders aggressive defense was anything but palatable. McCarron still continued to demonstrate impressive chemistry with Hakeem Butler, and he finished with 236 yards and two scores despite taking four sacks.
The Vipers now tee up as a much better matchup for the veteran. Vegas has been vulnerable through both the ground and air, so keeping their unit honest with the surging Brian Hill on the ground shouldn’t be an issue. Additionally, the Vipers are allowing the second-most passing yards per game (223.4), furthering McCarron’s case.
Jordan Ta’amu, DC vs. HOU
Ta’amu is clearly being deployed in a game manager role the majority of weeks, as he’s been under 100 passing yards on three occasions already. He certainly carries plenty of upside a runner and has done a very effective job of cutting down his turnovers recently, but the Roughnecks’ aggressive defense, which has allowed a league-low 169.4 passing yards per game and recorded XFL-high figures in sacks (19) and interceptions (8) could undoubtedly make his night miserable.
Rod Smith, VGS vs. STL
Smith’s stock had previously been dubious, considering he wasn’t logging much of a workload over the first four games. However, the veteran had been efficient most weeks with his carries, showing a nice glimpse of upside. Then came Week 5, when veteran playcaller Ray Sherman leaned heavily on his lead back to the tune of 18 carries.
The result was 62 rushing yards and a pair of short touchdowns for Smith, who was going against a Guardians defense that had actually been fairly stout against the run. The matchup is now much easier in Week 6, as the Battlehawks were just exposed by the Defenders’ Abram Smith for 218 yards and three touchdowns and are now allowing 133.8 rushing yards per contest, an XFL-high figure.
Brian Hill, STL at VGS
As alluded to in McCarron’s entry, Hill has been an integral part of the Battlehawks offensive success and one of the best all-around running backs in the league overall. That much was evident in the Week 5 loss to the Defenders, when the NFL veteran rushed for 79 yards on 14 carries and added another 30 on three catches.
Hill now gets a shot at the aforementioned struggling Vipers defense, which has allowed an XFL-high 142.8 rushing yards per contest. What’s more, given Hill’s pass-catching ability, he’ll also be in line to take advantage of the aforementioned weaknesses on Vegas’ part with respect to stopping production through the air.
ALSO CONSIDER: Abram Smith, DC vs. HOU
Mataeo Durant, STL at VGS
Hill’s success has come at the expense of Durant, whose only instance with double-digit carries this season came when his backfield mate was sidelined by a hamstring injury in Week 2. Otherwise, Durant’s rushing touches have been 3/3/5/2 in his other four contests. Despite his talent and strong receiving skills, there’s no evidence Durant will have enough opportunity in Week 6 to warrant a spot in your lineup.
Hakeem Butler, STL at VGS
Butler’s case almost writes itself, considering the big-bodied receiver is consistently dominating XFL secondaries and he appears to be building more rapport with McCarron by the week. The latest example just unfolded Week 5, when he racked up nine receptions for 86 yards on 12 targets. It was the second double-digit target tally on the season for the one-time NFL third-round pick, who’s making quite the case for a second chance at the highest level.
Butler will get a chance to face the aforementioned porous defense of the Vipers in Week 6, leaving him positioned for what could be his best game yet. It’s also worth mentioning he’s shown quite a nose for the end zone with touchdowns in each of his first four games, particularly relevant considering how vulnerable Vegas proved to be against Cody Latimer and Charleston Rambo in that regard in Week 5.
Deontay Burnett, HOU at DC
Burnett would be a good start virtually every week, but Week 6 especially stands out. The former Philadelphia Eagle should be even more involved than usual in what is typically a very pass-heavy Roughnecks attack, considering position mate Jontre Kirklin is now gone for the season due to a shoulder injury.
Burnett hasn’t yet come close to duplicating his stellar 8-90-1 line on 12 targets from the opener against the Guardians, but he does have an additional pair of scoring grabs since then. And, in addition to the extra attention he should receiver from quarterback Brandon Silvers in Week 6, it’s also worth noting the opposing Defenders have allowed an XFL-high 228.2 passing yards per game.
ALSO CONSIDER: Jeff Badet, VGS vs. STL
Martavis Bryant, VGS vs. STL
Bryant missed the Week 5 win over the Guardians due to a knee injury, and he could well be ruled out for Saturday night’s contest as well. The veteran wideout hasn’t made much of an impact even when healthy anyhow, and with Jeff Badet playing like the clear alpha receiver at the moment plus the Battlehawks allowing just 174.8 passing yards per contest, he’s best left on the bench.
Logan Carter, ORL vs. SEA
Carter has quietly begun to make his mark in the Guardians offense, raising his participation each of the last three games and topping out with a 3-30 line against the Vipers in Week 5. While those numbers are far from spectacular, tight end has mostly been a wasteland for fantasy production thus far in the first five weeks and the OSU alum could be on the rise.
The Sea Dragons are a tough defense all the way around, and they’ve been very good at pressuring the passer with 11 sacks through five contests. That means Orlando quarterback Quentin Dormady, who showed impressive command of the offense after subbing in for Paxton Lynch in Week 5, could often turn to his tight end as a safety valve and keep Carter trending upward in the process.
Cam Sutton, VGS vs. STL
Tight end has been an interesting position for the Vipers thus far, as Brandon Dillon has also shown a couple of flashes. However, Sutton, who boasts excellent size at 6-foot-6, has been quietly making his mark with some chunk plays.
The Fresno State product has produced 1-15, 1-19 and 2-28 lines in three of his first five games, recording one first-down grab in each contest along the way. Sutton saw a season-high three targets from Luis Perez in Week 5, and even though the Battlehawks boast a tough pass defense, he could certainly be utilized as a mismatch option down the seam by Perez.
Deon Yelder, SAN at ARL
Yelder has disappeared from the Brahmas offense after a serviceable first two games, going without a catch on three total targets in the last three contests. The one-time KC Chief is a long way away from his days catching passes from Patrick Mahomes, as San Antonio arguably has the league’s most dire quarterback situation in Week 6 with Jack Coan (ankle) out this week and Reid Sinnett (foot) gone for the season. Juwan Pass and Kurt Benkert — the latter having just been traded to the Brahmas on Thursday — will have to man the position versus a very tough Renegades defense Sunday night, downgrading the outlook for the team’s full array of skill-position players.
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