The Houston Roughnecks will play their final regular season game this Sunday, taking on the Arlington Renegades in the second edition of the Texas Throwdown for 2023. Let’s take a look at how Houston can finish off their campaign strong, while also preparing for the playoffs a week later.
Houston Roughnecks (6-3) at Arlington Renegades (4-5)
Time: Sunday, April 23rd, 2:00PM CST
Location: Choctaw Stadium – Arlington, Texas
Television Broadcast: ESPN
Weather Forecast: 53°F with 80% chance of rain expected, winds up to 14 mph
Betting Odds (per FanDuel Sportsbook)
Moneyline: HOU -105/ARL -115
Spread: HOU +1/ARL -1
Over/Under (points): 40.5
News & Notes
The Roughnecks made a single roster transaction this week, releasing kicker Hunter Duplessis from the reserve list. Austin Jones has been the replacement since week 8.
Offensive lineman Sage Doxtater, offensive lineman Jack Snyder, running back Dejoun Lee, and edge rusher Tim Ward were all listed as limited participants in practice as of Thursday, April 20th. Wide receiver Michael Bandy and linebacker Emmanuel Ellerbee were listed as non-participants. Bandy missed last week’s game against Vegas, while Ellerbee was out the week prior in San Antonio. Additionally, while Doxtater and Ward are limited, it can be assumed their seasons are over as they have not played in several weeks. Perhaps there is still a chance they can return for the playoffs, but as it stands now, it shouldn’t be counted on. Stay updated on Twitter (@evan_willsmore) for possible changes leading up to kickoff.
There are no changes of note on the Roughnecks depth chart, other than Jeremy Cox being RB4 behind Dejoun Lee (if Lee is active). Of course, this list may also matter less this week with no playoff seeding or division titles on the line for the team.
Keys to Victory
No Bumps or Bruises: Head coach Wade Phillips mentioned in the post-game press conference last week that he planned on playing starters, but would take them out of the game at a certain point to prevent injuries. How long the starters will be kept in likely depends on the score and flow of the game, but being truly cautious would mean pulling them by halftime, perhaps even the first quarter. The Roughnecks have unfortunately had some trouble staying healthy since the halfway mark of the season, and they certainly can’t afford to lose anyone else going into the playoffs (as is the case with most pro football teams).
Rotation: This goes hand-in-hand with the first point, as the Roughnecks may look to diversify their rotation of players given that some have barely seen the field all year. Kaleb Eleby in particular was part of the initial quarterback allocation process in November 2022, but has only been active once this season as a backup. He’s earned his chance to lead a few drives in a game like this.
Simplicity: When I say the word simplicity here, I’m talking about the game plan. Obviously, there needs to be enough done to make things competitive for whoever is on the field, but there’s no need to be fancy during the final week of the season.
There’s little pressure for the Roughnecks to win this time around, as they’ve already clinched the division and will be hosting a playoff game. In other words, there’s a bit of a different dynamic this week than what’s been seen in weeks 1-9. This should be viewed as a great opportunity for players who are lower on the depth chart to get more reps and produce more film.
With that being said, the Renegades are a bit of a different team this time around compared to when Houston first played them back in week two. I’ll dive into this topic in more detail assuming the Renegades play the Roughnecks again the week afterwards, but the bottom line is that Arlington is trending in an upward direction. Their defense is one of the top units in the XFL, and after they acquired quarterback Luis Perez in a trade with the Vegas Vipers, it was a signal to the rest of the league that no one should count them out.
The offensive performances are still nothing spectacular, but Perez is a veteran who knows how to manage games like no other in spring football, which has proven to be critical in his short time there. The Renegades took the 8-1 Defenders to overtime last week in DC, something that wouldn’t have been obtainable earlier in the season given the way the team was playing. The Roughnecks have been more comfortable riding things out (for the most part) since their four straight division wins, so a team like the Renegades could certainly present some surprises with their late resurgence.
Regardless of how long the starters play for, this is a game that Houston should win on paper, and it would officially give them an undefeated regular season record (6-0) within the division for 2023. It would also give the players their $1,000 win bonus, so even if a victory isn’t necessary, the incentives are still notable. Arlington will be fighting much harder with San Antonio on their heels for the second playoff spot in the South.
All in all, this might not be an exact preview of the division championship depending on what Houston does with their key players, but it could offer insight as to how the Renegades have adjusted over the course of the season. Do they have enough to come back to TDECU and play spoiler? Or will they lose control when it matters most and let the Roughnecks continue their reign over the South?
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