Twenty percent of the XFL 2023 regular season has been completed. As a result, In a ten-game season, it can get late very early for teams. And after two weeks of league play, there’s already some separation between the top and bottom of the XFL’s totem pole.
Let’s see how all eight XFL teams stack up as we head toward Week 3.
XFL 2023: Post Week Two Power Rankings
#1: Houston Roughnecks (2-0)
The Houston Roughnecks are now 7-0 in XFL play after topping the Arlington Renegades 23-14 on Sunday Night. The unbeaten streak that started in 2020 continues.
Wade Phillips’s team, unsurprisingly, is a step ahead defensively. And the Roughnecks’ offense under A.J. Smith continues to show glimpses of league-winning potential.
After outlasting the Renegades in the first chapter of 2023’s version of the Texas Throwdown, Houston welcomes another Texas rival in the San Antonio Brahmas next Sunday night at TDECU Stadium. The Roughnecks have a chance to complete half their divisional games by going 3-0. And, in turn, keep their undefeated XFL streak alive.
#2: St. Louis Battlehawks (2-0)
The Battlehawks are off to a flying start in their 2023 campaign. St. Louis has kicked off their return to the XFL with two thrilling come-from-behind road victories.
Anthony Becht’s bunch has shown a ton of resiliency. The Battlehawks have overcome back-to-back double-digit deficits, and their latest triumph was a last-second 20-18 victory in Seattle last Thursday night.
You couldn’t ask for a better start for STL. The Battlehawks are a must-watch team.
A.J. McCarron looks like the face of the XFL after two weeks. The veteran signal-caller has an inspirational story and has shown the value of his championship pedigree with clutch play in deciding moments. He’s an early favorite for league MVP.
In what is the biggest game of the early XFL 2023 season. St. Louis is headed to Audi Field this Sunday to face the dually 2-0 Defenders for sole possession of the North Division.
The top of the Dome in STL is already being opened because of high ticket demand. A victory in D.C. might blow the roof off the Battlehawks stadium when they finally get home in Week 4.
#3: D.C. Defenders (2-0)
In terms of style points, Houston and St. Louis may be ahead of D.C. on the scorecard. However, the Defenders, by hook or crook, still stand atop the XFL mountain with the elite after two weeks.
Reggie Barlow’s Defenders squad found a way to win another game. This time, in the unique confines of Cashman Field, outmuscling the Vegas Vipers 18-6.
It usually takes a while for brand-new teams to shape their identity. But very early on, D.C. has shown their grit and a smashmouth style on both sides of the football. It hasn’t been pretty, but the Defenders are built for what transpired on Saturday night.
The unique elements and setting in Las Vegas played right into D.C.’s hands. Emerging star rookie D’Eriq King is shaping up as one of the XFL’s most dynamic playmakers. His playmaking ability as a runner opened up lanes for every one of D.C.’s talented runners, including Baylor standout Abram Smith.
At some point, the Defenders must find a semblance of a passing game. But they have already proven that they can win ugly and get opposing teams to play their brand of football.
As a result of their first two divisional conquests, D.C. is in a great position to capitalize in the nation’s capital this Sunday. The Defenders can claim sole possession of the North by taking down the XFL’s darling team St. Louis at Audi Field.
#4. Arlington Renegades (1-1)
Initially, I entertained the possibility of slotting Arlington down to fifth or even sixth. Behind San Antonio and even winless Seattle. Especially after Bob Stoops’s squad squeaked by with a fluky week one win and looked outmatched early on in Week 2 against Houston, falling behind 11-0.
But Arlington battled back and made a game of things in a rough spot on the road. Thanks, mainly to two forced fumbles on special teams by wide receiver Lajuan Winningham. And brilliant adjustments by Jay Hayes and Tim Lewis defensively to slow down Houston’s attack.
The Renegades ran out of steam late but were within striking distance against Houston. They stood toe to toe with arguably the league’s best overall team.
Arlington needs to find more consistency on offense. Rookie quarterback Drew Plitt has had some good moments. But you have to wonder if veteran Kyle Sloter could elevate this team a step further.
The positive for the Renegades coming out of their week two loss is that they return home to face the XFL’s get-right team, the Orlando Guardians, on Sunday afternoon.
#5: San Antonio Brahmas (1-1)
Hines Ward got his first professional victory as a head coach on Sunday. The Brahmas bounced back after a soul-crushing week-one loss in front of 24,000 fans in San Antonio. Week two was a much-needed rebound for Ward’s squad.
The Brahmas jumped out in front and got an outstanding balance from their offense, defense, and special teams. And outclassed a woeful Orlando team 30-12 in every respect.
San Antonio will move up in class this week when they travel to Houston to face the Roughnecks at TDECU stadium next Sunday.
#6: Seattle Sea Dragons (0-2)
Based on their coaching, front office experience, and talent level. Seattle is the league’s biggest underachiever after two weeks. The Dragons have burned themselves with multiple boneheaded mistakes in their first two games.
In their defense, Seattle has lost two crushing games in the final seconds to D.C. and St. Louis, who are a combined 4-0.
However, the Sea Dragons better start breathing some fire and blazing through some victories soon. Or their 2023 campaign could flame out quickly.
The positive is that if Seattle can win against Vegas in Week 3, they will only be a game out in the Northern playoff chase. Because D.C. or St. Louis will finally lose this coming weekend.
#7: Vegas Vipers (0-2)
I will save the field fiasco for later in this article.
Rod Woodson’s Vegas team doesn’t have a lot of lady luck on their shoulders. They lost in week one without giving up an offensive touchdown. And in week two, they drew the wrong opponent in the Defenders, who were better equipped to play small ball and grind out yards on the ground.
Brett Hundley showed a spark at quarterback. But his wide receivers, whether it was because of the elements or not, came up short, dropping multiple key passes during Saturday’s game.
The Vegas defense led by Cris Dishman has come to play. Even though they wore down in the downpour conditions at home. But the Vipers’ offense, led by Duane Taylor, must start turning things around quickly. Or they will be headed toward a venomous death with no antidote in sight.
Vegas’s week three tussle with equally winless Seattle is a must-win game. The loser is in big trouble.
#8: Orlando Guardians (0-2)
The Guardians have lived up to their preseason projections. The projection was based on Orlando’s poor roster construction by DPP Larry Lee and the inexperience and quality of the team’s offensive staff.
Tony Carter has held up reasonably well as Orlando’s defensive coordinator. But the rest of the staff and the decision-making/scheming has been awful in their first two games.
The poor quality of the Guardians’ leadership was on full display Sunday against San Antonio. From the way, the team conservatively settled for a 56-yard field goal before the half with two timeouts in their pocket. To the laughable decision-making after Orlando had cut the Brahmas lead to 27-12. Even ESPN analyst Greg McElroy openly criticized Terrell Buckely for not going for three. And then, ultimately, not opting for a 4th and 15 convert, down by two scores in the fourth. Orlando never had a scoring opportunity again.
Thanks to the all-access presentation in the XFL. The Guardians’ ineptitude showed itself on the field, the sidelines, and in the huddle. As head coach, Terrell Buckley debated openly about subbing his whole team, and players cursed at each other when trying to get on the same page. It’s going to be a long season for the Guardians. They are heading to Arlington next Sunday.
#9: Cashman’s Field
The playing surface at Cashman was anything but a field of dreams.
No aspect of the XFL has been panned more this early season, and rightfully so, than what spectators saw Saturday night at Cashman Field.
There’s no dancing around it. The Vipers-Defenders game in Las Vegas was a bad look for the XFL.
XFL 2023 looked like a bush league operation. And it had nothing to do with the players or the makeshift venue’s size.
The weather certainly contributed to sloppy play, But the game, for all its warts, was fun.
Considering the lack of time to set up and even sell tickets. Since Las Vegas and the XFL were very late to the party on those aspects. For what it was, the Cashman venue, a former minor league baseball park, and present-day soccer field looked somewhat presentable. They tried as best as they could to make it look right.
However, because of the unique setup, even the world-class production of ESPN had issues due to the weather, with foggy, blurry, and wet cameras shooting the action. The Cashman venue was less than ideal for production and broadcast capabilities.
All that being stated, the biggest sin in Sin City was the track-covered imprints on the field and the haphazard way it was put together. Whether that falls on the facility, the city, the XFL, or all of the above. The whole setup was a disaster and was a black mark on a league touting player safety. It’s inexcusable.
The Vipers have four more home games left. Including a game versus Seattle this coming Saturday. RedBird and whoever else is in charge need to use some of its capital to rectify an alarming issue.
From day one, the choice of Vegas as a market for XFL 2023 has been criticized and questioned.
The brand, name, uniforms, and overall football team are well put together. However, because of the new ownerships’ visions of business viability in Vegas, they rolled the dice and crapped out in glorious fashion in Week 2.
It was so bad that XFL supporters are hoping no one noticed the game. And the people who revel in these leagues dying were giddy with the modest attendance figures (6,023) and the ugliness of Saturday’s presentation.
Even if the XFL had sold out the venue with 10,000 spectators. The size of the crowd would’ve still been criticized. But that wasn’t the primary issue Saturday night.
Unfortunately, what happened in Vegas, won’t stay in Vegas. And quite frankly, XFL 2023 should’ve never happened in Vegas at all. The XFL made its bed. Now it has to lay in it at least until the end of this season.
It’s a shame because so many aspects of the XFL thus far in 2023 have been terrific. But one aspect clearly isn’t.
XFL WEEK 3 SCHEDULE
|Seattle Sea Dragons||@||Vegas Vipers||Saturday, March 4|
7:00 PM ET
ESPN Xtra on Sirius/XM
XFL Game Center
|St. Louis Battlehawks||@||D.C. Defenders||Sunday, March 5|
1:00 PM ET
ESPN Xtra on Sirius/XM
XFL Game Center
|Orlando Guardians||@||Arlington Renegades||Sunday, March 5|
4:00 PM ET
ESPN Xtra on Sirius/XM
XFL Game Center
|San Antonio Brahmas||@||Houston Roughnecks||Sunday, March 5|
8:00 PM ET
|ESPN2 / ESPN Deportes|
ESPN Xtra on Sirius/XM
XFL Game Center
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