It’s bound to be another entertaining slate of football. There is no doubt about it: the product continues to get better week in and week out. Let’s take a look at each game in XFL week four, and which teams have the most to prove.
Can the Orlando Guardians flip the script? Terrell Buckley’s group has their work cut out for them. Orlando is still searching for their first win of this young season, and now will have to face the XFL’s best team.
While I'm not sure that Quinton Flowers will turn around the Orlando Guardians franchise, I'm very happy to see him back in the #XFL.
Flowers was fun to watch in 2020, giving Tampa Bay a much needed spark. We'll see if he can do the same in Orlando.pic.twitter.com/8ZQxi5st9o
An interesting piece to the puzzle is QB Quinton Flowers, who was signed this week. While he is likely QB3 heading into Saturday’s game, the quicker Flowers can get involved – the better. Both Paxton Lynch and Deondre Francois have not provided much stability to Buckley.
This isn’t entirely the quarterback’s fault. The Guardians’ offensive line haven’t been able to guard much of anything, making life difficult for their signal callers. At the same time, the ground game has been very inconsistent.
If the Guardians want to pull off the upset, it is imperative that the offense gets into an early groove. Buckley needs to design plays that allow Lynch (or whoever QB it is) to throw the ball quickly. This team is stacked with speedy receivers – that have to be properly utilized.
The odds are certainly stacked against Orlando, but anything is possible in spring football. We’ll see if they can get the job done. If their defense can get at Silvers often and early, they could give themselves a chance.
If It Ain’t Broke…
The Houston Roughnecks arguably have the best team in the XFL, and it’s because the coaching is top tier. Wade Phillips, AJ Smith, and Brian Stewart have done a remarkable job in H-Town, turning the Roughnecks into a well-oiled machine.
A major key to their success is the weapons around Brandon Silvers. Silvers has been playing excellent football, because Smith & Co. surrounded him with quality playmakers. Max Borghi is a star, and the receiving core is ridiculous.
Jontre Kirklin is taking over the @XFL2023. Already with two touchdowns on the day, and a highlight reel catch for the ages.
Jontre Kirklin, for example, has been one of the XFL’s best stories. He’s tearing up defenses on a daily basis, and should be a big part of the game plan again this week.
To be honest, Houston just has to continue doing what they’ve been doing. Both offensively and defensively, this squad is playing complete football across the board. They do that again on Saturday night, and they are waltzing to a 4-0 record.
Ben DiNucci is HIM. Josh Gordon is back to his 2013 form. Morgan Ellison will barrel over anyone in his way. Jahcour Pearson is one of the speediest wide receivers we’ve ever seen.
What am I trying to say? Well, this Seattle offense is potentially the best in the XFL. Not to mention, they have June Jones at OC. Last week, we discussed how strange it is that the Sea Dragons would stall out so much in the second half. That had to change – and it did.
WHAT IS GOING ON IN VEGAS. Josh Gordon just mossed the ENTIRE Vipers defense to give the @XFLSeaDragons the lead. Absolute madness.
This time around, Seattle brought the heat. They put on a show, dominating the final quarters in a wild comeback in Vegas. What changed? This offense finally realized that they are unstoppable. When the pieces come together, and DiNucci is firing on all cylinders, the Sea Dragons are extremely tough to slow down.
San Antonio’s secondary has been relatively average this season. If DiNucci can get into an early rhythm, Seattle will be in excellent shape. For the defense, it’s the same mantra as last week: be just good enough that the offense has an opportunity to win it.
Jack Coan Has To Sling It
For the Brahmas, the key to victory is simple: let Jack Coan throw the football. Hines Ward was out coached in Houston, as Coan was unable to figure things out whatsoever. He finished the game just 8/20, with only 64 yards. That’s pretty absurd, especially considering how good of a passer he can be.
San Antonio has an offense that is more than capable of doing damage. Kalen Ballage and Jacques Patrick are two of the best downhill runners in the XFL. Jalen Tolliver and Alize Mack have been outstanding so far this season, and must be involved in the game plan heading into Saturday night.
Defense: Attack Early
Slowing down Seattle’s offense is no easy task. However, both DC and St. Louis successfully did so. How did they do it? They threw pressure, and different looks, at DiNucci. Ben is clearly one of the XFL’s most talented quarterbacks.
However, if the Brahmas can knock him off his rocker from the get go, it makes it that much more difficult for DiNucci to find a rhythm. At the same time, someone has to contain Morgan Ellison, who ran for over 100 yards last week.
The St. Louis faithful are about to get a show. For the first time this season, the Battlehawks play at home. This team has proven to be one of the most consistent in the XFL, led by AJ McCarron.
Week in and week out, McCarron is getting better. His decision making has been improving, throwing for four touchdowns against DC despite the loss. The Battlehawks are slowly but surely doing a more efficient job of scoring quickly, which is important.
Good grief, Hakeem Butler is one of one. He put the @XFLBattlehawks on his back, making play after play on this final drive of the half. St. Louis is in business!
If they can jump ahead against Arlington – a team who struggles to score on offense – the Battlehawks will be in good shape. Defensively, they have to attack the Renegades weak spots, which is their inability to run the football.
Now, Arlington hasn’t been great in the passing game as well. But, it stems from their lack of a ground game. All St. Louis needs to accomplish is: 1) put Sloter in uncomfortable positions early on; and 2) keep Farrow and Smith bottled up in the backfield. If they consistently do those two things, the Battlehawks should pick up a win at home.
Arlington’s Offense Is Flat
Bob Stoops has a lot of work to do. Arlington is 2-1, but they have been one of the worst offenses in the XFL. Neither quarterback has provided the team with much stability so far, leading to poor performance across the board.
There are no excuses: Kyle Sloter has to be better. We know what he is capable of as a passer. He had some spectacular showings in the USFL last year. Sloter did get into a rhythm in the fourth quarter, though, and showed just how good he can be. It’s strange how inept this offense looks at times, because when they’re rolling, they can beat anybody. The talent is clearly there, it’s simply a matter of execution.
Both De’Veon Smith and Kenneth Farrow have to make an impact, to take some of the load off of Sloter. Also, Stoops would do himself a favor by calling more plays for Sal Cannella, who has incredible chemistry already built with Sloter.
Defensively, the Renegades don’t need to change a thing. Arlington is 2-1 solely because their defense has won them those games. This unit will have to put up some big-time numbers in St. Louis if the Renegades want to improve to 3-1.
In our final matchup of week four, we have a rematch from two weeks ago between the undefeated DC Defenders, and the winless Vegas Vipers. In week two, the Defenders visited Vegas and defeated the Vipers 18-6. With this one back at Audi Field in DC, the atmosphere is sure to be rocking in this North division showdown between two teams trending in opposite directions.
Vegas turned in their best performance last week against the Sea Dragons, which was a thrilling game that saw QB Brett Hundley start for the Vipers and take 100% of the snaps as well. Hundley undoubtedly won the job over in that game, finishing with 224 yards in the air with 2 touchdowns, along with 66 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. Unfortunately it wouldn’t be enough as Vegas fell late to Seattle.
Right off the bat, the @XFLVipers offense looks a whole lot smoother than last week, despite the wind.
Even though Vegas matched their total combined points from week one and two with 26 points against Seattle, it was announced on Friday morning, just two days before this week’s game, that Vipers OC Duane Taylor would be parting ways with the team (first reported by Matty Fresh from Springball Boulevard). A surprising move, especially this early in the season.
The @XFLVipers are expected to part ways with OC Duane Taylor, per source. Pending an official annoucement at some point today.
As for DC, they are riding a scorching hot streak to start the season and coming off a massive win at home against St. Louis last week. Unfortunately that game ended in a fairly lengthy brawl that resulted in suspensions for LB Francis Bernard (2 games) and DT Gabe Wright (1 game). Expect to see more of LB Anthony Hines and DL Caraun Reid as he returns from a hamstring injury.
The Defenders offense was once again lethal on the ground last week, as RBs Abram Smith and Ryquell Armstead both went for over 50 yards. QB Jordan Ta’amu also contributed with 22 yards and a rushing touchdown. Ta’amu currently leads the league in carries inside the ten-yard line.
Last week’s game against St. Louis was the least amount of action that QB D’Eriq King has seen thus far this season. Through three games, it is safe to say that King is a situational player for Coach Barlow’s team and will continue to be used as such moving forward. That being said, King was vital to DC’s win at Vegas two weeks ago, so it will be interesting to see his usage this week.
As mentioned before, these two teams are trending in completely opposite directions right now. The news of Vipers OC Duane Taylor parting ways only adds to the negativeness surrounding Vegas, and will play a major factor in this game. Along with DC having one of the best home-field advantages in the league, they have been playing stellar on both sides of the ball and should expect to win this week.
Without a doubt, week four is shaping up to be excellent. There are a couple of uneven matchups – but, every team is quite talented regardless of their record. Anything can happen, so grab your popcorn.