Well folks, we have finally made it to the final game of the 2023 XFL season, as the XFL Championship features the DC Defenders (9-1) taking on the Arlington Renegades (4-6) at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. The Bob Stoops led Arlington Renegades shocked the world last week when they dominated the Houston Roughnecks for the majority of the game, winning the South Division Championship 26-11. While the Defenders faced off with their cross-country rivals, the Seattle Sea Dragons, and were able to run away with the game in the second half, winning the XFL North Championship 37-21.
The Renegades and DC Defenders faced off only once this season in week nine, but the game was nothing short of amazing. As the Defenders’ faithful headed for the exits with a win already solidified in their minds, Renegades QB Luis Perez led a masterful comeback to force the game into overtime. DC was able to hold off Arlington to pick up the win, but that game certainly showed HC Reggie Barlow and the Defenders team that the Renegades are not to be taken lightly.
XFL Offensive Player of the Year, QB Jordan Ta’amu, has been the hottest player in spring football over the past six weeks. In the first five games of the season, Ta’amu threw for a total of 658 yards in the first five games, and nearly doubled that in the last five games of the regular season with 1,236 yards passing. He crushed his passing touchdowns number of 1 from the first half of the season, with 13 in the second half.
One facet of Ta’amu’s game that has stayed consistent throughout is his ability to protect the football. Ta’amu finished the season with the least amount of turnovers out of all of the starting quarterbacks in the XFL, with 9 total turnovers (interceptions/fumbles).
While not too many are surprised that DC is here, Arlington has stunned many in making it to the XFL Championship game. The Renegades are loaded with talent and should expect a flurry of players to head to the NFL, but throughout the season it seemed they were struggling to put any consistent momentum together, especially on offense. That is, until Arlington acquired QB Luis Perez via trade from the Vegas Vipers. Our very own James Larsen recently broke down Perez’s sizable impact on Arlington since his arrival.
DC Wide Receivers vs. ARL Secondary
Even though DC picked up the victory against Arlington in week nine, it did not come without some struggles from QB’s Jordan Ta’amu and D’Eriq King. Ta’amu and King both threw an interception that week, both coming at inopportune times in the red zone. Arlington’s secondary ranks near the top of the league, consisting of ballhawk players like De’Vante Bausby, Joe Powell (who intercepted Ta’amu), and Will Hill to name a few. Bausby should expect to have his hands full outside with DC WR’s Lucky Jackson and Chris Blair.
Arlington did a tremendous job of limiting Jackson and Blair in week nine (combined for 52 yards), as Josh Hammond was the top receiver for DC with 74 yards and a touchdown.
Donald Payne’s Impact
Despite only playing seven full games during the regular season, Renegades linebacker Donald Payne was a force to be reckoned with and could have made a case for All-XFL. Arlington’s captain on defense has been a sore in any opposing offensive coordinator’s eyes this season, and showed plenty of that in the South Championship against the Roughnecks where he played his most snaps in a game all season with 61 total.
While many outsiders have argued that there should be a change in playoff formatting due to the North’s dominance, it seems that we truly have the best team from each division in the XFL Championship, which is something everyone should be excited for. With the way both teams have been playing recently, along with their recent result, this game feels like a toss-up in “neutral” territory. That may shock some since DC has had so much success this season, but Perez has ignited a fire under this Arlington team and has his sights set on the XFL Championship trophy.
Follow along on Twitter @CPaolantonio_ for live updates from San Antonio during the big game! It all starts on ABC this Saturday, at 8pm ET.
What are your thoughts on the XFL Championship game between the DC Defenders and Arlington Renegades? Which XFL players will make the biggest impact? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!