The XFL’s last remaining undefeated team, the 4-0 D.C. Defenders, face their stiffest challenge of the XFL 2023 season as they head into hostile territory in St. Louis on Saturday night to meet the 3-2 Battlehawks.
XFL 2023 Week 5 Preview: D.C. Defenders (4-0) at St. Louis Battlehawks (3-1), Saturday, March 18, The Dome, 7 pm ET/6 pm CT, FX/ESPN+
- Point Spread: Defenders –1.5
- Over/Under: 41.5
- Broadcast team: John Schriffen, Tom Luginbill, Stormy Buonantony, Harry Douglas (Field Analyst)
It’s the second meeting between these two teams in the last three weeks. D.C. beat St. Louis at home in Week three 34-28.
The last time D.C. and St. Louis squared off. The game ended in an on-field brawl, resulting in players and coaches being fined and suspended. The Battlehawks took issue with Defenders players and the referees in that game. Things were very heated at the end of that Week 3 contest and in the following St. Louis press conference.
There is so much at stake for both Northern rivals. And the electrifying environment of the Dome should be at an all-time fever pitch. That’s saying something coming off of last week’s record-breaking raucous crowd.
Another head-to-head victory by the Defenders over the Battlehawks would give them a 5-0 division record and a three-game lead in the North over St. Louis. D.C. will only have one more divisional match left on their docket in the regular season after Week 5—a week eight game in Seattle.
It’s a must-win situation for St. Louis if they want to have a chance to win the North and fill the Dome in a playoff game. A Battlehawks loss will put them in a tie with Surging Seattle in second place. The Sea Dragons have won three straight after knocking off previously unbeaten Houston on Thursday night.
XFL Week 5: D.C. Defenders vs. St. Louis Battlehawks Depth Charts/Injury Update
The Defenders are getting back DT Gabe Wright after he was suspended for his part in the STL brawl at Audi Field. They will still be without MLB Francis Bernard. D.C. and St. Louis are relatively healthy coming into this game.
Keys To The Game
The Defenders found their passing game when they faced St. Louis in week 3. Former Battlehawk Jordan Ta’amu, who returns to STL to meet his former team on Saturday, has completed 25 of 39 passes for 373 yards with a touchdown while adding 111 rushing yards and another score in his last two outings. The growth of D.C.’s passing and their diverse league-leading ground game poses a formidable challenge for St. Louis’s defense.
Wide Receivers Lucky Jackson and Chris Blair have also stepped up for D.C. in the last two weeks. The last time Fred Kaiss’s offense faced off with St. Louis. The Battlehawks challenged the Defenders to throw the ball, and D.C. made them pay with big strikes down the field to Blair and Jackson.
D.C.’s offense has only played one game on the road in 2023. The crowd noise in the Dome will be a challenge for them, and they will have to show discipline in what will be a heated game.
The most pivotal matchup in this game is the Defenders’ pass rush (12 sacks) versus the Battlehawks’ offensive line (12 sacks allowed). Gregg Williams’s defensive unit got four sacks the last time they faced St. Louis. Can St. Louis show enough balance offensively to keep D.C.’s aggressive defense honest?
The Battlehawks, led by potential league MVP QB A.J. McCarron, are coming off their most complete game of the season. For once, they didn’t have to battle back down two scores. The team showed outstanding balance on the ground last week with Brian Hill. He will be an essential factor in this game, not only in running and catching the ball but also in pass protection.
Last week, the Vipers, who haven’t had much success running the football this season, were able to pop off some runs against D.C., who are missing their best linebacker, Francis Bernard. Will St. Louis exploit that void in the middle of the Defenders’ defense?
Gregg Williams’s defense tries to confuse you with multiple looks. The Defenders have been very good at forcing turnovers this season. They set the bait for opposing offenses. The Battlehawks need to avoid taking it.
XFL: D.C. Defenders @ St. Louis Battlehawks Prediction
For what it’s worth, the Battlehawks have never lost at home. Admittingly, it’s a very small sample at 3-0. But going into the Dome, in that electrifying environment, definitely puts opposing teams at a disadvantage.
All signs point to St. Louis exacting revenge on D.C. in the rematch. Teams usually make adjustments in their second meeting. And the site of the rematch usually dictates who will win.
However, something tells me Reggie Barlow’s squad will feed off the energy and revel in their role as the conquering enemy.
D.C. Defenders 25 St. Louis Battlehawks 22
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