Previewing XFL Week Eight - Keys To Victory

Previewing XFL Week Eight: Keys To Victory

Week eight of the XFL is already upon us, believe it or not. As the playoff push comes into focus, each matchup matters even more than the last.

Let’s take a look at each XFL game this weekend, and what teams have to do to secure a victory.

St. Louis Battlehawks (5-2) vs. Vegas Vipers (2-5)

By Gavin Semler

The Battlehawks have come home, and save for a potential playoff push, they’re here to stay. Three home games, three games left to secure a playoff spot – and it all starts in XFL week eight.

The first hurdle will come in an old foe, the Las Vegas Vipers.

The Vipers are coming off their second win of the season after a strong performance against San Antonio, but faced elimination from postseason contention regardless. Vegas is the only team that’s been eliminated heading into Week 8, but that doesn’t guarantee St. Louis a win—not by a longshot.

As Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has stated time and time again, the XFL is the “league of opportunity.” Just because their team has been eliminated isn’t going to stop any of the players from giving 110%.

Vindictive Vipers

San Antonio’s defense was downright dominant through Week 6. The most points they had given up were the 22 they surrendered against Houston in Week 3. Things changed in Week 7. Starting his first game of the season, Jalen McClendon dazzled in his XFL debut, throwing for two touchdowns and 264 yards.

Heading into Week 8, St. Louis could find a very different Vegas team coming out of the tunnel. With former quarterback Luis Perez having been traded to the Arlington Renegades, the change at the helm might have been the spark needed to help the Vipers finish strong in a tough division.

At the same time, the Vipers’ defense still leaves much to be desired. They dropped 29 points to St. Louis’ explosive offense in Week 6, and if they want any chance of winning, they’re going to need to figure it out.

Can the Battlehawks Keep Going?

For weeks now, the story has been the same—The Battlehawks have to keep winning to stay in the race. The Sea Dragons seem incapable of losing right now, and the Defenders still stand ahead in spite of their loss to the Guardians. Thankfully, both divisional rivals are tussling it out in Seattle this week, which provides an excellent opportunity for St. Louis should they manage to win. Gain ground on DC, or maintain serious distance with Seattle.

The biggest factor for Week 8 is more than likely Brian Hill, who made some costly mistakes in the win against Houston, including a fumble which resulted in a Roughnecks touchdown. Though he would turn it around late in the fourth quarter to help the Battlehawks seal the win, it made the game a lot closer than it needed to be. Overall, Hill has been one of the premier running backs in the league, and if he can maintain good form, the St. Louis offense will be in fantastic shape.

Battlehawks fans are also looking to break their own attendance record of 38,310. With an entire day left for ticket sales and with plenty of sections left to be opened, it’s certainly a possibility.

The real question, however, remains hotly contested:

Orlando Guardians (1-6) vs. Arlington Renegades (3-4)

Could the unthinkable come true? The Orlando Guardians have been the XFL’s worst team, yet they somehow have a chance at the postseason. Their season is on the line, however, with an important game against Arlington on Saturday.

Quinten Dormady has been playing lights out football as of late. Terrell Buckley has to love what his offense is doing, as they posted 37 points against a solid DC defense en route to their first win of the season.

Right now, Orlando has found their identity as an offense. It took them seven weeks, but the team now has chemistry with Dormady – and – has seen some excellent production from their running backs as well. Cody Latimer is a force to be reckoned with, while Charleston Rambo and the wide receivers have found their stride with Quinten as the signal caller.

Quite simply, Orlando needs to keep building upon what they did against DC. If their offense plays at close to the same level, they’ll be in great shape. Arlington’s offense is very stagnant, so if the Guardians can score a few times, that puts them in an excellent position.

Can The Defense Step Up?

Now, what’s going to hold Orlando back is their defense. The Guardians have struggled to guard much of anything all season long, and were basically bailed out against DC with two missed field goals. The good news: Arlington’s struggled to move the ball all season long.

All the Guardians need to do is keep Arlington somewhat contained. The Renegades haven’t been able to post more than 10-15 points in weeks. If Orlando holds them to that amount this week, that would give their offense a shot at winning.

Arlington: QB Carousel

It’s hard to know what exactly to expect from the Renegades offense this week. Drew Plitt is now in the injured reserve list. Luis Perez, who was acquired via trade last week, is in line to start. However, the team also added Kelly Bryant to the lineup, in a desperation move to get some more depth at the QB position.

Bob Stoops is going to have to hope that Perez is ready to go in the system, despite being with the team for only a week and a half. Luis is one of the XFL’s most talented QBs, playing impressively well in limited minutes for Vegas.

His consistency as a game manager could be exactly what the Renegades need to succeed. If Jonathan Hayes can simply tweak his offensive game plan just a bit, that would greatly increase their chances of winning.

Defensively, Arlington has to tighten up. What was one of the league’s strongest units has been a bit lackluster over the past couple of weeks. They cannot sleep on Orlando: this Guardians offense is somehow one of the hottest in the XFL.

San Antonio Brahmas (2-5) vs. Houston Roughnecks (4-3)

San Antonio is living on a prayer at this point. They’ve been through it all this season, but can’t seem to stay healthy when it matters most. Kurt Benkert, the newest addition, suffered multiple fractured ribs in a loss to Vegas in week seven.

Benkert is a warrior, but he is now done for the season. Jack Coan will once again be back in the captain’s chair for San Antonio, so we’ll see how he’s feeling after missing two weeks with a foot injury.

At this point, the Brahmas’ offense might be too far gone for fixing. It’s been seven weeks, yet they still can’t find a way to post more than two touchdowns a game. Even after switching offensive coordinators, this team hasn’t found their groove whatsoever. The talent is there, but the execution continues to be nonexistent – which has to change…somehow.

Defense: The Only Hope?

Hines Ward is going to have to rely on his defense down the stretch. They’ve been a resilient group all year long, and will need to post some sensational stops to keep San Antonio alive in the playoff race.

Luq Barcoo, Jordan Williams, Jack Koerner, and plenty of others have been fantastic for the Brahmas. They’re fast, physical, and jump on any opportunities they can.

Against Houston, this unit will have to play even faster than before. AJ Smith likes to run a quick and up-tempo offense, which means San Antonio might be on their heels at times. If they can maintain a rhythm on the defensive end, it might just give the Brahmas enough life to pull off an upset.

Houston: Brandon Silvers Status?

Cole McDonald has been a decent quarterback for Houston in Silvers’ absence, but AJ Smith is going to have to hope that Silvers is back in game shape for this matchup against San Antonio.

Houston needs to get back to their roots. Early on in the season, their offense was in sync, utilizing up-tempo strategies and feeding the slot receivers. Smith has to get his unit back into this type of rhythm, with Silvers getting the ball out of his hands quickly.

At the same time, Max Borghi should get more touches. He only ran the ball nine times against St. Louis, but put up 46 yards, averaging over 5YPC. His role in Houston has to be larger if this team wants to win, no matter if McDonald or Silvers is the starter.

This offense is still reeling from the loss of Jontre Kirklin, who was arguably the XFL’s most explosive player through four weeks. Hopefully, the wide receivers can find a way to step up in his absence, as no one has fully filled his role quite yet.

Defensively, Houston should have no issues shutting down San Antonio if we’re being honest. The Brahmas haven’t been able to do much of anything as an offense for weeks. If the Roughnecks keep the foot on the gas pedal, SA is in for a long afternoon.

Seattle Sea Dragons (5-2) vs. DC Defenders (6-1)

By Christian Paolantonio

The red-hot Seattle Sea Dragons are hosting the DC Defenders this week in a vital matchup in the XFL North divisional race. These two teams faced off in week one at Audi Field in DC, where DC picked up the 22-18 win in a game that came down to the wire.

Now the stakes have grown, as Seattle has won five straight and DC is coming off of their first loss of the season at Orlando. If Seattle wins this week, they will be tied with DC for the division lead (and potentially St. Louis). If DC wins, they will maintain the division lead, no matter what happens in the Battlehawks game.

Will DC Bounce Back?

The Defenders are coming off a game against the Guardians where they suffered their first loss of the season in shocking fashion. This week’s game at Seattle will be a true test to Barlow’s team, and their ability to bounce back after tough losses, which they have not dealt with yet.

Last week’s performance by DC was a tale of two sides of the ball, as the offense was extremely successful in all four quarters, putting up 36 total points. While the defense was exposed on all levels of the field (short, intermediate, and deep). Gregg Williams seemed to have no answers for Guardians QB Quinten Dormady, who finished the game with 328 passing yards, and six total touchdowns. Penalties was another issue for the Defenders defense, who committed multiple costly flags late in the game at Orlando.

In order for DC to be successful this week, they will have to minimize the self-inflicted mistakes on defense and continue to control the trenches on both sides of the ball.

Seattle Eyeing Division Crown

HC Jim Haslett’s Seattle Sea Dragons are the hottest team in the XFL and this matchup against DC could not be coming at a better time for them.

The Seattle defense has been a stonewall the past five weeks. After giving up at least 20 points in the first three weeks of the season, the Sea Dragons have not given up over 20 points in a game since week three at Vegas. It is incredible to see what Haslett and DC Ron Zook have done in a short amount of time.

On offense, Seattle QB Ben DiNucci currently leads the league in passing yards, but also leads the league in pass attempts and interceptions. While it’s been an up and down season for DiNucci, he has been stellar in late game situations and has been an impressive leader for Seattle.

The Sea Dragons signed former NFL RB Phillip Lindsay last weekend after Morgan Ellison’s injury. Lindsay ran for over 2500 career rushing yards in the NFL and is popular for never fumbling once while playing. Lindsay should see decent playing time after having an entire week of preparation.

Fight for the North

This is certainly the most anticipated game of the week in the XFL, as many view DC and Seattle as potentially the two best teams in the league. It’ll be hard to top last week’s thrilling game between DC and Orlando, but this week’s XFL North showdown is sure to be one to remember.

Final Thoughts

Week eight in the XFL is shaping up to be one of the best yet. With only one team eliminated so far, each matchup means so much to every organization participating.

It all kicks off on Saturday at 1pm ET, with the St. Louis Battlehawks hosting the Vegas Vipers.

Which XFL week eight matchup are you most excited for? Which teams deserve to make the postseason? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!