Previewing XFL Week Seven: Keys To Victory | San Antonio Brahmas

Previewing XFL Week Seven: Keys To Victory

Just like that, XFL week seven is upon us. Four more matchups will take place this weekend, as the playoff push takes front and center stage.

It’s going to be an entertaining slate of games, with a lot on the line. Several XFL teams will be fighting for their postseason aspirations, while the rest sink to the bottom of their divisions.

Let’s take a look at each XFL matchup, and the keys to victory for every respective team.

Arlington Renegades (3-3) vs. Seattle Sea Dragons (4-2)

Boy, is it a different scene in Arlington. The organization saw two major moves made this week. First, they cut QB Kyle Sloter, as he wasn’t fitting into the overall scheme the coaches were implementing. Then, the team traded for Luis Perez, who jumped ship from the 1-5 Vegas Vipers.

Perez will not start on Friday night, as he needs time to settle into the offense. Drew Plitt will get the nod, so we’ll have to see if he can somehow get this offense into a rhythm. To be honest, if Arlington wants to see success, they have to completely revamp the game plan.

As of right now, the team runs the ball often. Too often. On first and second down, the ball is being run upwards of 70% of the time, which is not ideal. It’s tough for quarterbacks to convert on third and long, which is a situation they are constantly put in.

Arlington should come out passing the ball, letting Plitt get loose. If he can find his groove early, it opens up so much for the offense as a whole.

Defense: Pressure, Pressure, Pressure!

The way Arlington will maintain a playoff berth in the South Division is through their defense. This unit has played outstanding football through six weeks, despite losing multiple players to injury.

Ben DiNucci typically does not play very well under pressure. Jay Hayes will want to dial up pressure, throwing multiple blitzes and looks his way. If the Renegades can efficiently find ways to keep Ben contained in the pocket, they’ll be in good shape.

Seattle: No Excuses

This is a huge game for Seattle. They’re tied for second place in the North, but do not have the tiebreaker over St. Louis. They have to win this game, to keep up with the Battlehawks.

Quite simply, Seattle has to play complete football for sixty minutes. It starts with Ben DiNucci, who has really struggled to stay consistent. He’ll throw some of the worst passes for no reason, generating momentum for the opposing squad.

This isn’t to say he’s a bad quarterback. He’s got one of the most electrifying arms in the XFL. If Ben can just stay true to the game, not getting too high or too low, they’ll be in solid shape. At the same time, hopefully Morgan Ellison is back and ready to go, as he missed last game with an injury.

Defensively, this team should shut down Arlington. You know what this team is going to do: relatively nothing. The Renegades have been helpless as an offense for the past several weeks. Not to mention, Seattle just shut down Houston last week, dominating from start to finish.

As long as the Sea Dragons stack the box to stuff those first and second down runs, they’ll be looking at a fifth straight win in Arlington.

Vegas Vipers (1-5) vs. San Antonio Brahmas (2-4)

The Vipers season is, well, likely over. With how strong the North Division is, it’s going to be nearly impossible to sneak into the postseason at this point.

However, the team is seeing some changes that may possibly lead to a win. Luis Perez was traded, and Jalan McClendon will surprisingly get the start over Brett Hundley. This is a unique move, but it makes sense. McClendon has not had playing time yet this season, so the Vipers are giving him a chance to prove himself in the XFL – alongside seeing what his value might be heading into the 2024 season.

If Jalan can utilize his dual threat capabilities, Vegas definitely has a shot at winning this one. As long as he gets proper support from the cast of players around him, Jalan is certainly capable of doing great things on the football field.

The Vipers looked like a complete mess defensively. They couldn’t buy a stop against St. Louis. Now, San Antonio’s offense is a lot less powerful than the Battlehawks. This is good news for Vegas. If the pass rush can get at Benkert effectively, it gives themselves a chance to pull this one out.

Kurt Benkert’s Growth

Clearly, San Antonio is going to be banking on the development of Kurt Benkert in Hines Wards’ system. Jawon Pass is a solid QB, and showed some talent on Sunday – but, San Antonio didn’t bring in Benkert last second for him not to contribute. With another week under his belt, we’ll see if the chemistry can build with the team.

Benkert only completed one pass in the XFL, and that was in a win against Arlington. Ward needs to plan for Benkert to pass the ball early, without rushing things. Take what the defense gives him – don’t force it. Knowing how Vegas has played so far, odds are Kurt will be able to take a lot of ground.

Interestingly enough, Jack Coan is back, and in line to start. If things don’t go smoothly to start the game, expect Benkert to get some reps.

Defense: Keep Playing Aggressive

The Brahmas boast one of the best defenses in the XFL, playing high quality football week in and week out. Jordan Williams has been a star for this unit, dominating up front for San Antonio.

So far, both wins of the season have been purely because of the defense. Vegas is likely going to be in all sorts of hot water this week, with the changes at quarterback and a lack of a clear vision from the coaching staff. The Brahmas should be able to take full advantage of this.

Orlando Guardians (0-6) vs. DC Defenders (6-0)

By Christian Paolantonio

This week we have an intra divisional matchup between the DC Defenders and the Orlando Guardians, two teams on completely opposite ends of the standings in the XFL North. For DC, they are coming off a demanding 37-26 win against Houston last week, moving them to a league-best 6-0 record. Orlando on the other hand are 0-6 after another loss last week to Seattle at home. The Guardians are back at Camping World Stadium this week with a tremendously tall task ahead of them, facing a freight train Defenders team that looks nearly unstoppable with an opportunity to clinch the playoffs this week with a win.

Ta’amu Finds Groove

DC had their most efficient game through the air last week vs. Houston, with Ta’amu going 19/31 with 245 yards, and two touchdowns. If you had to point to one facet of this DC team that needed improvement through the first five weeks, most would’ve sided with the pass offense. With the same starting offensive line playing consecutive weeks together, WR Lucky Jackson also had his breakout game, ending with 5 catches for 136 yards, and a touchdown.

If OC Fred Kaiss can unleash that type of offensive balance each week, that is a huge weapon moving forward, especially in the playoffs where teams will gameplan to shut down DC’s electric ground game.

Orlando’s Bright Spot

Former NFL second round pick Cody Latimer has been one of the few bright spots for the Orlando Guardians through the first six weeks of the season. Latimer transitioned from WR to TE in the XFL and has found immense success since the move. In six games, Latimer has 33 receptions for 395 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Latimer’s size is a big reason for his success since the position change, often using his 6’3 frame to box out smaller DBs in coverage.

If Orlando is to have a chance in this matchup, Latimer has to be one of the key focal points of this offense.

One thing QB Quinten Dormady has done a good job at is targeting his best players. Last week Charleston Rambo led with 11 targets, followed by Daniel Williams with 8, and Latimer with 7. These numbers are extremely ideal for Guardians OC Robert Ford, and should continue if the offense is to have success moving forward.

DC Staying Focused

DC will be without WR/KR/PR Jequez Ezzard (hamstring), expect DB KJ Sails to handle return duties for this week.

With DC coming to Orlando with a playoff berth on the line, expect Defenders HC Reggie Barlow to have his team fully focused and prepared for this game. While many are calling this a potential trap game for DC, Barlow mentioned after the Houston game that he expects his guys to be ready to go this week against Orlando.

Houston Roughnecks (4-2) vs. St. Louis Battlehawks (4-2)

By Gavin Semler

For the first time in their franchise’s history, the Houston Roughnecks are facing a dicey situation heading into Week 7. Going 4-0 to start the season, the XFL South division was certainly Houston’s to lose, but given the last two weeks, it’s looking like they might just lose it. Handed not just their first loss ever in Week 5, the Roughnecks went on to be pummeled in Week 6 by the XFL’s top dog, the DC Defenders.

The Roughnecks now stand just one game ahead of the Renegades and two in front of the Brahmas. It’s a shaky situation for Houston in Week 7, and a win is critical to stay ahead in what’s become a tight race.

If things are shaky for Houston, however, they’re downright turbulent for St. Louis. Despite a convincing win against Vegas in Week 6, the situation for the Battlehawks has drastically worsened.
Another win for DC has all but sealed themselves the North division title. Because the Battlehawks are 0-2 in their matchup against the Defenders, they’ll need to somehow finish the season with a better record—a tall order with four games left to play.

The XFL Playoff Push

Though it’s certainly not impossible, the Battlehawks are realistically playing for second place. The problem is that just like last week, the Sea Dragons possess the exact same record and are hot on St. Louis’ tail.

This matchup carries dire consequences for the unfortunate loser which will be difficult to compensate for in the last three weeks of the season.

To find victory this week, Houston is going to need to find some answers on both sides of the ball. Brandon Silvers did not impress in Week 5, throwing a costly Pick 6 at the end of the second quarter to kill any momentum the team might have had. He was ultimately replaced by Cole McDonald, who was able to put on a significantly better performance, notably throwing an 85-yard touchdown pass to Deontay Burnett.

The Roughnecks will probably stick with Silvers given that he’s brought them this far, but he’ll need to step it up to beat a team like St. Louis.

The Houston defense also struggled heavily against DC’s passing and rushing game, giving up 31 points to the dynamic Defenders offense. Unfortunately for them, they’ll be facing A.J. McCarron and Brian Hill, two major standouts of the 2023 season. McCarron now leads the league in passing touchdowns and completion percentage among the prominent QBs, while also putting up the second most passing yards in the league.

Brian Hill boasts the second most rushing yards in the league behind Abram Smith while also matching him with yards per carry with 5.1.

Expect High-Powered Offense

The Battlehawks offense is the real deal, but Houston still isn’t a team to be trifled with. Despite coming off what was arguably their weakest game, Houston has put up some incredible performances throughout the year. The Roughnecks have scored over 20 points in all but one of their games, and have even put up over 40 points against the unfortunate Guardians.
The Roughnecks have the talent and skill to bounce back, but it’ll be a tough battle against a Battlehawks team desperately trying to keep pace with their divisional rivals.

Final Thoughts

Generally speaking, XFL week seven is shaping up to be one of the most entertaining yet. We’ve got a few excellent matchups coming our way, and with what’s on the line – it’s bound to be good football.

It all kicks off tonight, as the Arlington Renegades host the Seattle Sea Dragons at 7pm ET on FX.

Which XFL week seven game are you looking forward to the most? Is there a team that has something in particular to prove? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!