After a dominate performance in week 6, the Battlehawks travel to Houston to take on the slumping Roughnecks who have dropped two games in a row. The Battlehawks still in a contentious race with the Seattle Sea Dragons for 2nd place in the North Division, are fresh off their victory in Vegas against the struggling Vipers.
Date/Location: Sunday April 2nd, 2023 2PM ET TDECU Stadium – Houston, Texas
Kickoff Time: 2:00 PM EST
Weather Forecast: 78°F with scattered thunderstorms (60% chance of rain at kickoff), winds up to 16 mph
TV/Streaming: ESPN, ESPN+
Betting Odds per Draft Kings:
Spread: Battlehawks +3
Moneyline: -155 Roughnecks, +135 Battlehawks
The Battlehawks are primed to get back Marcell Ateman a big bodied WR, with NFL experience. Ateman was the Battlehawks first Skill Position selected in the November XFL Draft, and has spent the last several weeks on the inactive/reserve list due to a Hamstring injury. The Battlehawks also have Vadal Alexander, Elorm Lumor, and Tani Tupou on the week 7 injury report, with Tupou and Lumor being designated as “out”.
A late addition to Friday’s injury report was Quarterback Brandon Silvers. Silvers who was “benched” for Cole McDonald due ineffectiveness may not even dress for week 7. Silvers who at one point looked like the 2023 XFL MVP, has regressed over the past two weeks, dropping to #3 from #1 in our XFL Quarterback Rankings.
Week Seven Depth Chart
Keys to the Game:
Finish Out Strong
The Battlehawks have their road finale, before three straight games back home in St. Louis. St. Louis leads all XFL teams with three road victories on the season, going 3-1 away from “The Dome”. With the motivation of the fans back in Missouri to carry them through the final three weeks of the 2023 XFL season, Coach Anthony Becht’s squad will need to first power through a slumping Roughnecks team, that though is in 1st place in the South, has been one of the less dominate teams of the past two weeks.
Rotation, Rotation, Rotation
Donnie Abraham’s defense leads the league in take aways and part of that is because of his legion of Defensive Players, that Dave Boller has assembled. The Battlehawks are constantly rotating players in and out of all three levels of their defense. This week it appears the defense will have Mike Hampton back in the Defensive Backfield, however, will be down Elorm Lumor and Tani Tupou. Expect recent signee Erik Hansen to be asked to fill the void, and spell, the team’s “big boys” like Kevin Atkins, and Gelen Robinson in an effort to make Roughnecks RB Max Borghi a non-factor in week 7.
King of the Hill
Running Back Brian Hill, a native of the St. Louis area has been an absolute unit of a player this. While many fans and members of the media, continue to give praise to QB AJ McCarron and his Wide Receiver’s Hakeem Butler and Darrius Shepherd, Hill has been a stabilizing factor for the Battlehawks the whole season. Despite missing one game this season, Hill currently sits at 488 All-Purpose Yards, and has went over 100 in back-to-back games. With Houston sporting a deadly Defensive Back Field, and dominate Edge Rushers like Trent Harris and Tim Ward, look for Hill to continue to be used to get tough yards in between the tackles, and spell McCarron on checkdowns when under pressure.
Closing Thoughts and Prediction:
Despite my personal belief that Houston sports one of the more dynamic Defensive Backfields and Edge Rushers in the league, I don’t foresee that as being enough to stop AJ McCarron and company. The Battlehawks seem at their best running an up-tempo 4-minute Offense, as seen on full display last week vs Vegas. After a slow start, Battlehawks Offensive Tackles Jaryd Jones-Smith, and Juwann Bushell-Beatty, continue to get better, and allow McCarron more time to find Darrius Shepherd and Hakeem Butler downfield.
With questions at Quarterback for Houston, and a full week to prepare for “14”, look for Donnie Abraham’s Defense to be fully capable of stifling the Roughnecks offense no mater who is behind center. As mentioned, St. Louis is the XFL’s top team in Defensive takeaways and also boasts two of the XFL’s top-10 tacklers with the Iowa State tandem of Mike Rose and Willie Harvey. With Abraham’s defense well-conditioned and fresh due to the plethora of players rotating in and out even if the mobile Cole McDonald is starting, it doesn’t appear even “King Cole” will rush his way to a Roughnecks victory.
Houston has the luxury of a weak division, and an easy final three weeks of the schedule. With the urgency of Battlehawks “needing” a win and as Coach Becht has stated, in “playoff mode”, look for St. Louis to go full speed ahead in taking care of the Roughnecks. With injuries, and the lack of urgency for Houston, I believe St. Louis keeps their playoff hopes alive with a 32-24 Victory, over Wade Phillips’ crew to close out their road stretch, preparing for the final three weeks at home in the dome.
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