AJ McCarron Returns to Lead a Stacked Battlehawks Offense

Previewing XFL Week Three: Keys To Victory

The XFL season is moving along quickly. Week two is now fully in the rearview mirror, and week three lies ahead. After two weeks of action, fans are beginning to get clarity on which teams are the real deal – and which ones are not.

Four more matchups are coming our way this weekend. Let’s take a look at what each team needs to do to come away with a win.

Vegas Vipers (0-2) vs. Seattle Sea Dragons (0-2)

First up, we have two teams looking to get their first wins of the year. This could prove to have major playoff implications. One of these organizations will be 0-3, sitting at the bottom of the North division. Whoever wins, though, puts themselves in a position to catch up to DC and St. Louis.

Vegas: Offensive Revamp

Rod Woodson has to get this offense on track. For the last six quarters, this team has only scored 12 points, struggling to find any sort of rhythm.

Of course, last weekend was a mess given the ugly conditions. However, DC figured things out, and Vegas never did. Luis Perez and Brett Hundley have both been pretty underwhelming. With that in mind, the biggest disappointment so far has been the ground game.

The Vipers have not run the football well at all. This has to change if the Vipers want to see some level of success this weekend. This team is too talented to be playing such awful football.

Defensively, Vegas is playing quite well. If they can keep the foot on the gas pedal on that end, they should be in a position to win.

Seattle: Inconsistencies Have To Go

The Seattle Sea Dragons have had a tough season so far. In both affairs, they were in a position to win in the final seconds – and didn’t.

So far, this team has been too inconsistent on both sides of the football. Firstly, on offense, they have failed to put together a complete game across the board. While Seattle shows signs of elite talent, Jim Haslett and June Jones have not developed enough chemistry with their players quite yet.

Ben DiNucci has to be better. He’s clearly one of best quarterbacks in the XFL – but makes devastating mistakes that are unacceptable. Between Josh Gordon, Jahcour Pearson, Blake Jackson, and others; this WR core is excellent. Seattle’s offense shouldn’t be stalling out as much as it does in the second half.

Now, something Seattle can lean into is their running backs. Both Morgan Ellison and Brenden Knox have played impressively well so far this season. Ellison, in particular, has a very high ceiling. His downhill running style is exactly what this offense needs. June Jones should call his number more often moving forward.

Secondly – this defense needs to tighten up down the stretch. They allowed St. Louis to march right down the field, after DiNucci had put the team back on top.

DC Defenders (2-0) vs. St. Louis Battlehawks (2-0)

In the premier matchup of week three in the XFL, two of the hottest teams face off as the St. Louis Battlehawks travel east to the nation’s capital to take on the DC Defenders. Both teams are fresh off of late comeback wins in week two, with St. Louis defeating the Sea Dragons last Thursday night, and DC knocking off Vegas with the help of D’Eriq King late. The winner of this game will take sole possession of first place in the North division through the first three weeks.

QB AJ McCarron has been able to lead this Battlehawks team late the last two weeks, but has struggled to find a consistent rhythm throughout the games so far. Look for HC Anthony Becht to try and get McCarron and the offense in a groove early with the quick passing game.

The status of Battlehawks RB Brian Hill is still up in the air after clocking in a few limited practices this week as he continues to deal with a hamstring injury. The former Falcons RB is clearly one of the top backs in the league when healthy, so he will be one to monitor.

DC: Throw The Ball

For DC, the air-attack has been dull and flat through the first two weeks. With Jordan Ta’amu handling the majority of passing plays, a lot of DC fans have been clamoring for D’Eriq King to start this week in a pivotal game. King only has two pass attempts on the year so far, so it is unclear how much faith HC Reggie Barlow and staff have in his arm ability. King makes up for that on the ground with his exceptional vision and flat out speed when he gets space.

Ta’amu is still listed as QB1 on the depth chart, so he should get the start this week. Like King, Ta’amu has had great success on the ground too, he currently is fifth in the league in rushing with 77 yards.

Gregg Williams’ defense continued their torment on opposing offenses in last week’s game against Vegas and will look to do the same against St. Louis. While Williams did dial back the aggressiveness a tad last week, I do not believe that will be a trend moving forward, especially this week against an offense that is not afraid to throw the ball down the field. There will be opportunities for the Defenders defense to make plays this week, just a question of if they can operate accordingly.

Deciding Factors

On paper, this should be a game of turnovers and could come down to who has the ball last. Both teams tend to lean on the run game as we get deeper into it, but this could also be a chance to experiment with the passing game as we are expecting perfect conditions at Audi Field on Sunday afternoon.

Hard to tell who wins this one, but one would lean towards the Battlehawks this week. A close game usually means that a team is passing the ball down the stretch. As of right now, it is difficult to trust the DC passing game.

Arlington Renegades (1-1) vs. Orlando Guardians (0-2)

Arlington is finally making some adjustments to their offense. Drew Plitt has not provided stability to Bob Stoops over the course of the first two weeks.

Inserting Kyle Sloter into the starting lineup isn’t as crazy as some might think. Sloter is a proven professional, coming off a playoff campaign in the USFL with the New Orleans Breakers. Considering how Plitt is currently struggling pushing the ball down the field, Kyle could fix that. As long as he can clean up the turnovers, Kyle Sloter is easily a top XFL quarterback.

Arlington is stacked offensively. The amount of talent they have at every position is ridiculous, and should be an excellent fit with Kyle Sloter. TE Sal Cannella has been fantastic this season, and has a USFL connection to Sloter (over 500 yards). Expect those two to get things rolling immediately.

This game is more important than one would think. If Arlington loses to Orlando, they will be in fourth place in the South. Defensively, this team should have a field day. The Guardians have been an absolute mess, and the Renegades have multiple ballhawks. If they generate some turnovers early, Arlington will be in good shape.

Orlando: Run The Football

The Guardians are a complete mess, for so many reasons. Paxton Lynch and Deondre Francois have not been able to pass the ball well at all. This is partially due to how poorly the offensive line has played so far this season.

This can all change on Sunday. It’s a new week, which means that we will hopefully see a new game plan. Terrell Buckley certainly seems fed up with how things have been going, so we can expect some changes against Arlington.

Orlando has a talented offense, without a doubt. They just haven’t been executing. A key to success is the ground game. Jah-Maine Martin is an excellent back, showcasing some brilliant skill sets. If Orlando can establish his presence early, that could help out this offense tremendously. Once they start running the football, then the passing lanes will open.

With Kyle Sloter getting the nod, Orlando has to put pressure on him early. Blitzing often, and putting him in uncomfortable situations will be the key to giving themselves a chance. Sloter has not always performed well under duress. This is something Orlando can potentially exploit.

At the same time, it would help the team to sort out the Quinten Dormady drama sooner than later.

Houston Roughnecks (2-0) vs. San Antonio Brahmas (1-1)

Interestingly enough, the keys to victories for both of these teams are relatively similar. It starts with quarterback play. Jack Coan and Brandon Silvers have been above average this season in the XFL, performing respectively well for their respective franchises.

This game might just come down to which quarterback performs better. Coan and Silvers are finding their footing within their coordinator’s game plans, pushing the ball down the field with ease.

However, both San Antonio and Houston have sound defenses. Houston’s is probably the best in the XFL as of right now, but the Brahmas are to be feared as well. This game could very well be decided based upon which team gets after the quarterback with a higher rate of success.

Running Backs & Their XFL Impact

At the same time, the ground game is vital to both teams. On one hand, San Antonio has two of the best backs in the league, as Kalen Ballage and Jacques Patrick are aggressive, downhill runners that wear down opposing defenses.

Then, on the other hand, Max Borghi has proven to be a spark plug for the Roughnecks offense at times. His savviness has been a welcome asset to Houston during the first couple of weeks. Wade Phillips would do his team a favor by calling Borghi’s number often and early.

Without a doubt, Houston vs. San Antonio is going to be one of the best games of this XFL weekend.

Final Thoughts

Week three of the XFL is shaping up to be one of the most exciting yet. Every matchup has key implications. We’re looking forward to watching it all play out.

XFL week three begins on Saturday night, as the Vegas Vipers host the Seattle Sea Dragons at 7pm ET on FX.

Which XFL matchup are you looking forward to watching this weekend? Which XFL teams have the most to prove? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!