On Saturday night, the Arlington Renegades will take on the Houston Roughnecks for the third time this season, with the winner advancing to the XFL title game in San Antonio. After reaching seven wins in 2023, six of which were within the division, the Roughnecks are just a couple steps away from their ultimate goal of becoming XFL champions. Let’s take a look at how Houston can eliminate one of their biggest rivals.
Arlington Renegades (4-6) at Houston Roughnecks (7-3)
Time: Saturday, April 29th, 6:00PM CST
Location: TDECU Stadium – Houston, Texas (University of Houston campus)
Television Broadcast: ESPN2
Weather Forecast: 65°F with partly cloudy skies expected, winds up to 20 mph
Betting Odds (per FanDuel Sportsbook)
Moneyline: ARL +210/HOU -250
Spread: ARL +6.5/HOU -6.5
Over/Under (points): 41.5
As of Wednesday, April 26th, the Roughnecks had four players on the injury report. Wide receiver Michael Bandy (hip) and offensive lineman Sage Doxtater (shoulder) were both limited in practice, while safety Jordan Mosley (concussion) and edge rusher Tim Ward (shoulder) did not participate. Ward played against the Renegades last week after being out for a month, recording 3 tackles and 1 tackle for loss. His progress is still worth monitoring, since it appears he has not been shut down for the season as was originally thought.
Keys to Victory
Look Out For Luis: While Renegades quarterback Luis Perez didn’t have his best day against Houston last week, their offense was still able to move the ball with a simplified playbook. I’ve already discussed what Perez brings to the table with his experience, so the bottom line here is that the secondary can’t let their guard down whenever #12 drops back.
Goal Line Stands: One of Houston’s greatest strengths on defense throughout the entire season has been their ability to prevent touchdowns in short-yardage situations. There has been enough praise given to the defensive line, and I still believe edge rusher is the most talent-heavy position in the XFL. That group knows exactly what they need to do, and if they can maintain the same level of production from the past 10 weeks, the Roughnecks will be on their way to San Antonio.
Going Deep: Last week, Cole McDonald had two plays through the air that went for 30 yards or more, one to Justin Smith and the other to Tavonn Salter. Two plays are only a small percentage of what makes up an entire game, but it was those two plays that highlighted a factor of the Roughnecks’ offense that had been missing for far too long. It was refreshing to see the passing game open up for a brief period again, and now that the playoffs have arrived, that same momentum should be carried back to Houston.
This matchup for the South division championship isn’t a surprising one. The Renegades, despite finishing the season below .500, have one of the most talented rosters across the entire XFL. Seeing a team in the playoffs at 4-6 isn’t the best look, but it extends a rivalry dating back to 2020, and can still be viewed (in some ways) as a positive for the league. From the Roughnecks perspective, it seemed as if the playoffs were a lock after they won four straight divisional games to start the year, and that prediction has held true over a month later.
As I mentioned in my preview article last week, the Renegades can’t be counted out even if they have struggled to solve their problems. Their defense, similar to Houston’s, has the ability to completely change the flow of the game and perhaps win it outright. This one shouldn’t be high scoring, given that the previous two matchups between the teams netted 37 and 34 combined points. On paper, the Roughnecks have nearly every advantage, which is a normal occurrence for them against opponents in the South. It will be interesting to see what adjustments both teams make on the offensive side of the ball, since the play-calling was very bland and simple last week (done on purpose, of course).
For the first time ever, the Roughnecks find themselves in a “win or go home” situation. Fans have waited a long time for this scenario to unfold, and there’s a good chance Houston would already have a trophy in their case if the 2020 campaign didn’t get cut short. While they managed to become South division champions in the regular season, winning this single game would make the title a bit more official, and a lot more meaningful with what’s on the line. There was never much doubt when it came to how high the ceiling was for the Roughnecks in 2023, but now, it needs to be proven.
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