We have finally made it to the XFL Playoffs and the stage is set. After wrapping up a stellar regular season, the DC Defenders will host the Seattle Sea Dragons at Audi Field in their third and final meeting of the season.
DC swept the Sea Dragons during the regular season, most recently in week eight when DC narrowly won 34-33. Since then, DC has played in two more games that they won in thrilling fashion, in week nine against the Renegades in OT 28-26, then last week against the Brahmas 29-28. Even though DC has been finding ways to win, their late collapses are very concerning entering the playoffs. Meanwhile, Seattle has been rolling recently after picking up a vital win at St. Louis in week nine, and last week against Vegas 28-9.
With these two teams trending in different directions, is Seattle catching DC at the perfect time?
The story for Defenders QB Jordan Ta’amu is a tale of two halves, as the spring league standout has made an incredible turnaround from his lackluster first five games of the season.
In Ta’amu’s case the numbers truly do not lie. 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).
Sea Dragons QB Ben DiNucci has struggled in that area more than any other QB in the XFL this season. The former Dallas Cowboys QB has been trusted to throw the ball more than any other QB by far, with almost 100 more pass attempts than the next QB, AJ McCarron. With the opportunity, DiNucci has also found great success in certain areas of his game. For example, DiNucci has been spectacular on the ground this season, specifically in situations where he has to improvise and leave the pocket. DiNucci also has the benefit of having, in his opinion, “the best receiver room” he’s ever been in. Seattle’s loaded WR corps includes Josh Gordon, Jahcour Pearson, Blake Jackson, Juwan Green, Jordan Veasy, and Damion Willis. All which could be big producers in Sunday’s game.
Finding the Right Blend
With DC’s pass-game improving over the last half of the season, the run-game led by the XFL rushing title holder Abram Smith has taken a minor step back. Even though he was far and away the rushing leader this season, Smith only had 137 yards total in the final three games of the regular season, making up only 17% of his season total of 791 yards. For DC, the key to success on offense will be finding the right blend of run and pass, similar to how they did in week six vs. Houston when Ta’amu threw for 245 yards and Smith rushed for 95 yards as the Defenders cruised to victory.
In Seattle’s case, they brought in former NFL RB Phillip Lindsay a few weeks ago to heal the loss of Morgan Ellison being out with an injury. Lindsay has been a solid piece for the Sea Dragons, but Seattle has not been able to replicate the same ground attack without Ellison. Since the loss, Seattle has been forced to lean even more on Ben DiNucci and the passing game, but may have to find a different way to attack the DC defense on Sunday.
Expect this game to be eerily similar to these two teams week nine shootout in Seattle, where DC barely escaped with a win. Both teams have been scoring an outlandish amount of points recently and each defense is susceptible to giving up points, especially as of late for DC.
No predictions this week, but this game should be tight throughout and the experience at Audi Field on Sunday is sure to be surreal.
The DC Defenders will host the Seattle Sea Dragons this Sunday, at 3pm ET on ESPN. The victor of this game will move on to the XFL Championship.
What are your thoughts on this upcoming matchup between the DC Defenders and Seattle Sea Dragons? Which XFL players will make the biggest impact? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!