As if they haven’t been dominant enough, the Roughnecks are coming off their most impressive performance of the season so far, slaughtering the Orlando Guardians 44-16. For the first time in 2023, the Roughnecks will be facing a non-divisional opponent, as they travel to Seattle to take on the Sea Dragons during a short week. Let’s take a look at how the Roughnecks can move up to 5-0.
Houston Roughnecks (4-0) at Seattle Sea Dragons (2-2)
Time: Thursday, March 16th, 9:30PM CST
Location: Lumen Field – Seattle, Washington
Television Broadcast: ESPN
Weather Forecast: 45°F with partly cloudy skies expected, winds up to 7 mph
Betting Odds (per DraftKings Sportsbook):
Moneyline: HOU -165/SEA +140
Spread: HOU -3/SEA +3
Over/Under (points): 41.5
News & Notes
As the Roughnecks just played in Orlando four days ago, there are no new signings to report at the time this article is being written. Whether or not the new additions from last week (LB Caliph Brice & DB David Tolentino) will be active is still unclear, but there is certainly a higher probability that the answer is yes.
As of Tuesday, March 14th, the Roughnecks had no injured players listed on their report. They were missing RB Max Borghi for the Guardians game, but given that his status was initially probable, it seemed to be related to rest. Barring any setbacks, he should be good to go for week five.
The official depth chart for Thursday’s game has yet to be released, although it is becoming more consistent on a weekly basis anyways. With Borghi returning, he will be the starting running back over Brycen Alleyne and Dejoun Lee. Follow me on Twitter (@evan_willsmore) for updates related to the depth chart, as it will likely be posted shortly after this article goes up.
Keys to Victory
Trick Plays: Against Orlando, AJ Smith and company utilized the XFL’s unique double forward pass option, which resulted in a 49-yard touchdown from Jontre Kirklin to Deontay Burnett. At this point, Houston not only has the privilege to execute plays like these, but they also have the personnel to successfully complete them. For a team that has never lost, it’s perfectly fine to have a little fun and try new things, so it wouldn’t hurt to attempt something similar against Seattle (even if they’re a more difficult opponent).
Running Back Trio: Dejoun Lee had a breakout performance on Saturday night, scoring two touchdowns and averaging over 7 yards per carry. The week before, Brycen Alleyne was also in the spotlight, catching 4 passes for 40 yards against the Brahmas. Max Borghi is the default RB1, but it’s clear he shouldn’t be the only one in the backfield getting touches. If a successful three-back rotation can be established in this game, it gives the Roughnecks an added level of versatility that they don’t necessarily need, but one that could come in handy for a game that isn’t a blowout. Each running back has the ability to catch, and some can even return kicks/punts on special teams. Now that each has proven their worth after four weeks, it’s time for them to come together as the last piece of the puzzle.
All Four Quarters: The Roughnecks finally got out of their second half slump against Orlando, and even if they let the Guardians catch up a bit in the third quarter, the late scoring made up for that (and was a sigh of relief to some extent). Even if it wasn’t needed during that game, it could definitely come in handy against an up-and-coming team like the Sea Dragons, and again takes pressure off the defense. Essentially, this is a “keep it up!” pitch directed towards the team.
This is a game that has been on my radar for a long time. For a handful of reasons, primarily the weather, there is certainly upset potential here. However, the more interesting narrative is the connections between this current season and 2020.
In many ways, this will be a revenge game, as June Jones (offensive coordinator for Seattle) used to be Houston’s head coach during XFL 2.0. AJ Smith, the Roughnecks offensive coordinator, was the wide receivers coach under Jones at the time. It will come down to who will outsmart the other: a proven vet that has coached for several decades, or the young up-and-comer who is trying to show his mentor what he’s capable of.
Additionally, Roughnecks quarterback Brandon Silvers will be making his return to where he originally played in the XFL. Silvers went 1-3 as a starter during his time in Seattle, eventually being replaced by BJ Daniels before the season’s abrupt end. Since then, Silvers has vastly improved his game, first in The Spring League and now on a larger stage again. Ironically, the only player with more passing yards in the XFL than him this season is Ben DiNucci of the Sea Dragons.
Given that these two teams have the heaviest passing offenses in the league, this could easily be one of the highest scoring games across the XFL in 2023. It explains why DraftKings has the O/U set at 41.5 (42.5 on some other sites), the first time a Roughnecks game has been projected to go over 40 total points. However, considering the team single-handedly scored 44 the last time they took the field, it would be smart to take the over here.
Even though they are playing on the road in much colder temperatures than they are used to, Houston is still a favorite to win, which might not seem surprising with the Sea Dragons sitting at 2-2. However, Seattle’s two wins have come in the past two weeks, which includes an absolute clinic put on against the Vegas Vipers. The team who ultimately wins will do so by scoring on the most drives, so for anyone who likes fast-paced or shootout-style football games, it would be one to mark on the calendar. There are clearly high expectations for this one, as it was moved from FX to ESPN, and it should be a quite different task compared to week four.
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