Houston Roughnecks vs. Arlington Renegades | XFL Playoff Preview

Houston Roughnecks vs. Arlington Renegades | XFL Playoff Preview

Folks, we’ve made it. The XFL regular season is done, and the playoffs are upon us. The Houston Roughnecks will host the Arlington Renegades to kick off the postseason, to see who claims the throne in the XFL South division.

It’s been a tale of two seasons for both teams. Neither have proven themselves on the big stage quite yet. At the same time, it’s been Wade Phillips’ Houston Roughnecks who have run the South. They beat every team in the South division twice, including the Arlington Renegades.

In week ten, these two teams faced off with absolutely nothing on the line, as both clinched. Even though Arlington played more of their starters, Bob Stoops’ team got beat badly, 25-9.

Let’s take a look at some of the key factors ahead of Saturday night’s playoff showdown.

Recapping Prior Matchups

To start with, Houston has dominated Arlington twice in a row. In week two, the Renegades had Drew Plitt as the starting QB. Outside of a couple spectacular plays by LuJuan Winningham, Arlington couldn’t get anything going on the offensive side of the football. The Roughnecks defense stood strong, and Brandon Silvers did enough for their squad to get by with a win.

Fast forward to last weekend, and it was a similar story. Houston put the clamps on defensively, shutting down Luis Perez and the Renegades to just nine points. Despite Wade Phillips resting plenty of his starters (including Silvers), Houston outgained Arlington by almost 100 yards on offense. They averaged 6.8 yards per play, while Stoops’ team averaged only 4.2.

Something to note is that Arlington has only converted on 32% of their third down opportunities against Houston in two games. If this trend continues on Saturday, they are in serious trouble.

Quarterback Play

Brandon Silvers and Luis Perez have both shown inconsistencies this XFL season. Silvers has had the stronger campaign by a small margin, but Perez has a long tenure of excellent spring football performances.

What is worrisome – for both quarterbacks – is the aggressive defensive schemes they will have to face against their respective opponents. While the South Division is not known for their offense, both Houston and Arlington’s defenses have been the core reason why they’re in the position that they are right now.

Luis Perez has elevated Arlington’s air attack. Since coming over to Bob Stoops’ team, they’re averaging almost 100 more yards per game through the air. If he can avoid turning the football over on Saturday, it gives Arlington their best chance at making the Championship game.

What version of Brandon Silvers are we going to see? He was spot on during the first few weeks of play, but never quite found that same rhythm since then. He’s been solid, don’t get me wrong, but he hasn’t lived up to the early-season hype.

AJ Smith will have to get Silvers into a groove early. Spread the ball around, find receivers on quick and short routes – do what Houston does best. If they stick to their game plan, Houston’s well on their way to the finals.

Standout Playmakers

Both of these teams are lacking in different areas when it comes to offensive talent. Houston’s backfield has been solid this season – but, they haven’t always been healthy. Will Max Borghi and Brycen Alleyne provide proper support to Silvers? We’ll have to wait and see.

Jontre Kirklin being ruled out with injury several weeks ago was a devastating blow to the Roughnecks. The wide receiver core simply isn’t the same without him in the lineup. Deontay Burnett and Travell Harris will need to step up in his absence.

On the other side, who can Luis Perez count on? De’Veon Smith has been a beast in the red zone, but he’s not a #1 option at the running back position, averaging just over three yards per carry. Lujuan Winningham has been spectacular this season, but Perez needs more than just one steady target.

Expect TE Sal Cannella and WR Tyler Vaughns to be important pieces to the puzzle this weekend. Both have contributed consistently this season, and will have to play their best games yet if Arlington has a chance to win this one.

Note: WR Victor Bolden still appears to be missing in action for the Arlington Renegades, which hurts. The former USFL Championship MVP would be a valuable addition, so it’s a shame he likely can’t play.

Defensive Dominance

As previously mentioned, both of these defenses have been stout this XFL season. Arlington, in particular, boasts a vaunted unit. Jay Hayes’ group has generated so many turnovers – and so many points off of turnovers – this year. Without their efforts, Arlington wouldn’t even be close to sniffing the postseason.

Through two games, Arlington is winning the turnover battle 4-3. That victory hasn’t resulted in any actual wins, though, as the offense has been unable to produce much of anything off of those takeaways.

A key for the Renegades this week will be their ability to put pressure on Silvers. AJ Smith tends to run an up-tempo offense. With Brandon getting the ball out of his hands quickly, Arlington will have to adjust to that scheme, after facing a run-heavy Cole McDonald last weekend.

The Roughnecks feature some sack masters on this team. They lead the entire XFL with 35 sacks on the season, alongside 58 tackles for loss. Trent Harris has been an absolute beast, racking up 9.5 sacks and 12 TFL. Expect him to have a big impact this weekend. Tim Ward has been outstanding as well, with 22 tackles and five sacks.

Their secondary is also one that the Renegades do not want to mess with. Ajene Harris leads the XFL with five interceptions, while Sean Davis isn’t far behind with three. Add in John Daka’s three forced fumbles, and it’s clear to see that Houston has consistently forced turnovers this season.

What To Expect

To be fair, the Houston Roughnecks are the clear favorites in this one. They have a 7-3 record for a reason, and have shown us that they are capable of beating Arlington on multiple occasions. Luis Perez has the spring football playoff experience – but – he’s only been with the Renegades for three weeks.

Houston has had the much stronger, and more competent, offense this season. While the Roughnecks aren’t on the level of a North team such as DC or St. Louis, they have been able to generate points at a much more efficient rate than Arlington.

Things could get out of hand quickly in this game. It all depends on how Arlington handles their offensive possessions. They’ve been quite lackluster under the leadership of Bob Stoops and Jonathan Hayes, as the offense has looked stale and predictable.

Again – they have seen some improvements with Perez at the helm. However, Houston had his number in week ten, and it’s likely they will have it again, if Arlington doesn’t make any adjustments. Making adjustments is something they haven’t done well in 2023, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Houston’s front seven has been quite dominant this season. With Arlington’s struggles at the offensive line position, this is something the Roughnecks will continue to attack.

Final Thoughts

This game could end up being quite sloppy on both ends. Neither team has been able to build seamless chemistry, so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Hopefully, fans will be treated to an entertaining affair.

The Houston Roughnecks will host the Arlington Renegades this Saturday, at 7pm ET on ESPN2. The victor of this game will move on to the XFL Championship.

What are your thoughts on this upcoming matchup between the Houston Roughnecks and Arlington Renegades? Which XFL players will make the biggest impact? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!