XFL Week 6 Recap & Power Rankings: Beatdown in Vegas, Statement in DC

The Defenders’ Lucky Jackson (11) evades Roughnecks corner Will Likely. (Getty Images) 

Written and Edited by Zach Kangieser 

March 27, 2023 - 11:21 AM

Another week, another set of XFL games. This week, however, brought about a new set of scenarios, one that the XFL hasn’t seen since 2001: playoff scenarios. That’s right; this week, two of the XFL’s eight teams saw potential ways to clinch a spot in the 2023 XFL Semifinals, while its worst team saw a worst-case scenario that could result in their elimination from contention. Ultimately, none of these scenarios came to pass, but their mere existence means that we’re at a point in the season where each game matters more than ever.

The sixth week of 2023’s XFL season wrapped up with a Monday night game featuring the XFL’s division leaders. Emboldened by their home crowd at Audi Field, the DC Defenders took on the Houston Roughnecks in a game that had been hyped for weeks to potentially be one of the year’s best. Ultimately, DC cruised to yet another victory, while the Roughnecks had a glaring question rise in defeat. But that wasn’t the only action from the Rock’s football league.

Two games took place on Saturday to kick things off. Early in the afternoon, the Seattle Sea Dragons, who were riding high on a three game win streak, looked to pick up an easy victory over the winless Orlando Guardians. However, the Guardians looked more game than ever with a new QB at the helm and gave Seattle a legitimate fight. Then, later on in the day, the St. Louis Battlehawks arrived at Cashman Field in Las Vegas looking to get back in the win column in a game against the Vegas Vipers, who had just picked up their first win. It turned out to be a mismatch.

Then, on Sunday, a rematch from last week took place, featuring the Arlington Renegades and the San Antonio Brahmas. This match had perhaps the highest stakes of the bunch, as with a win, Arlington could fully tip the scales of playoff contention in their favor, putting two division rivals (in San Antonio and Orlando) all but officially out to pasture. 

For more details about every game this week, including some of the big highlights, interesting statlines and the moment each game could be called, we’ve put together another weekly recap of every XFL game this week. And at the end of that recap, I’ve compiled a ranking of every team in the XFL this week, and why they stand where they do.

Seattle Sea Dragons 26, Orlando Guardians 19 

Morgan Ellison of the Sea Dragons attempts to break away. (Getty Images) 

The Sea Dragons rolled into Camping World Stadium riding high, having knocked off the unbeaten Roughnecks the week prior to extend their win streak to three games. They entered Week 6 looking for a fairly easy victory over Orlando, who did have their best game of the season thanks to new starting QB Quinten Dormady. But regardless, anyone that tuned in to this game expected a beatdown led by Seattle QB Ben DiNucci.

That was absolutely not what happened. DiNucci had a bad time in the first half, completing just eight passes and throwing a pick. Dormady wasn’t much better in the first half, throwing for 122 yards on just twenty-two attempts, but he did lead a twelve-play, six-minute drive that was capped off by a TD run from Devin Darrington. Shockingly, at the half, Orlando was narrowly in the driver’s seat, leading by a score of 10-9.

Seattle was able to adjust their game plan at the half, though, and they were able to right the ship during the second half. Both teams had a passing TD in the third, but Seattle converted their two point try while Orlando didn’t, meaning Seattle was up 17-16 after three quarters. Both teams traded field goals before Orlando had a punt blocked within their own ten yard line. DiNucci immediately followed up with a TD pass to Juwan Green to make it 26-19, and that’s where the score would remain after the Guardians turned it over on downs with seconds left.

Seattle did win, but they look worse with every passing week. DiNucci had a rough time for the second straight game, and star Josh Gordon was nowhere to be found tonight, failing to record a catch. The Sea Dragons will attempt to have a better performance and extend their win streak to five when they travel to Arlington to face the Renegades next week. Meanwhile, the Guardians will continue to look for their first win when they host the Defenders in Week 7.

St. Louis Battlehawks 29, Vegas Vipers 6 

Darrius Shepherd jumps to catch a pass in the endzone. (via Elvin L. Anderson Jr.) 

Like the Sea Dragons just hours prior, the Vegas Vipers were riding a high of sorts, finally getting in the win column with a narrow victory over the Orlando Guardians. Conversely, the Battlehawks left their home field looking to get back into the win column after a close loss against the DC Defenders. In hindsight, it was absolutely clear that the two teams had wildly different mindsets. The Vipers came to play, but the Battlehawks came to win.

After a quiet first quarter that closed with St. Louis deep in opposing territory, the Battlehawks scored on the first play of the second with an A.J. McCarron pass to Gary Jennings. They would score twice more before the quarter ended to go into the half up 17-0. It wasn’t just the offensive side of the Battlehawks that dominated; the defense shut the Vipers out through three quarters, and the only points the Vipers scored came with seven minutes left, when Brett Hundley found John Lovett for six.

Hundley came in for Luis Perez, who had an awful start after two straight weeks of solid passing. Perez went 13-for-20 with only 99 yards passing and two brutal interceptions. Contrast that with AJ McCarron’s stellar, three-touchdown day, with two of those touchdowns going to Darrius Shepherd. Shepherd stepped up on a day that saw St. Louis’s star receiver, Hakeem Butler, go down with a scary injury; Butler recovered and was able to finish the game, but Shepherd’s big day took much of the pressure off Butler to produce.

Off the heels of a dominant win, the Battlehawks will travel to Houston to face the Roughnecks in what should be an entertaining game. The Vipers will stay put, hosting the Brahmas in a game between two of the XFL’s weaker teams.

San Antonio Brahmas 15, Arlington Renegades 9 

TJ Vasher of the Brahmas is brought down for a short gain. (via Charlie Blalock of the San Antonio Express) 

For the second straight week, the Brahmas and Renegades squared off in a battle to decide standing in the XFL South. This time, the stakes were a bit higher; if the Renegades were to win, the division would be nearly locked up, with the second place Renegades sitting at 4-2 and the third place Brahmas three games back at 1-5 with four games to play. Knowing this, both teams had reason to play hard, with the Renegades looking to pull away and the Brahmas looking to keep the standings close.

Once again, the game between two defensively minded teams ended up being low scoring, with both offenses unable to move the ball downfield. Both teams combined for just nineteen first downs over the course of the entire game, and two quarterbacks ended up playing for each team. Jawon Pass drew the start for San Antonio after longtime starter Jack Coan was injured during practice, while Kyle Sloter started for Arlington for the fourth straight week. Pass and Sloter were both benched in the first half for Kurt Benkert and Drew Plitt, respectively, but Benkert performed worse than Pass while Plitt stuck around, throwing one touchdown pass that was beautifully caught by Lujuan Winningham.

  With all four QBs struggling, both teams had to look elsewhere for production, and it was San Antonio’s D/ST that did enough to win the game. Kicker John Parker Romo nailed three field goals, including one from fifty-six yards out with under two minutes left. Romo has proven himself to be an NFL-caliber kicker and has scored more points for the Brahmas than anyone else. But the critical play came in the second quarter. With Arlington starting at midfield, Drew Plitt was sacked and Delontae Scott of the Brahmas forced a fumble. It was scooped up by Jordan Williams, who returned it forty-four yards to the house for the TD. That score, San Antonio’s only TD of the day, put them up 9-0, and Romo’s two field goals in the fourth sealed the deal for the Brahmas’ second win.

San Antonio secured both the win and the aggregate score tiebreaker, but they really need to figure out what they’re doing in the passing game. They travel to Vegas looking to get to 3-4 next week against the Vipers. Arlington, meanwhile, will host the Sea Dragons and try to get back above .500.

DC Defenders 37, Houston Roughnecks 26

Abram Smith easily gets through the hole made by his O-Line. (Getty Images) 

Expectations for this game were high as both teams entered Audi Field. The visiting Roughnecks had had a week and a half to stew over their loss at hands of the Sea Dragons (the first in franchise history), and were looking to prove their loss was a fluke and that they were still contenders. The home team in DC returned to cheers, having knocked off the rival St. Louis Battlehawks to get to 5-0, the best record in the XFL. The general quality of play from both teams led to many fans hoping for one of the best games of the season.

And for the first quarter, that is what we got. Max Borghi put Houston on the board with a goal-line score, and DC put up a field goal to make it 8-3 at the end of the first. Then all hell broke loose for Houston, as DC scored 23 more unanswered points over the second and third quarters. These 23 points came off a long DC drive capped off by an Abram Smith run, which was followed by Defender Santos Ramirez forcing a forty-yard pick six off Houston QB Brandon Silvers before the second quarter closed. DC immediately scored on the first drive of the second half, and then late in the third, a series of penalties on Houston set up a free field goal to make it 26-8.

At this point in time, Cole McDonald came in to play QB for Houston, taking over for Brandon Silvers. He immediately hit receiver Deontay Burnett for an eighty-five yard score, the longest of the season. In just over 18 minutes of game time, McDonald smashed the DC defense, amassing nearly 200 yards passing and another 37 yards on the ground, as well as two scores. However, DC was able to put the game out of reach early in that span, when Jordan Ta’amu hit his WR1 in Lucky Jackson for a thirty-yard score.

DC continues to roll, now sitting at 6-0, two games ahead of the closest three teams. They travel to Camping World Stadium on April Fool’s Day, looking to smash the lowly Orlando Guardians. Houston gets one last chance to get a signature victory, taking on the St. Louis Battlehawks at home Sunday afternoon. Who they plan on playing at QB is currently a mystery.

Where We Stand: The Power Rankings

Finally for today, after six weeks, it seems like the XFL standings are clearer than ever. Like last week, we have one frontrunner, three potential contenders, two somewhat passable squads and two very bad teams. Without further ado, let’s rank ‘em.

     1. DC Defenders (6-0) - The Defenders are the clear-cut favorite to win the XFL Championship and will probably remain that way for the rest of the season. There’s really not much else to say. They have the best rushing offense in the league by miles, one headlined by Abram Smith, and one of the top defenses as well. This week against Houston, QB Jordan Ta’amu found his rhythm as well, having his best passing game to date. DC keeps rolling.

     2, 3, and 4. St. Louis Battlehawks, Seattle Sea Dragons and Houston Roughnecks (all 4-2) - These three teams are still so close, they’re practically interchangeable. All three of them have the tools to potentially knock off DC and win the title, but they all also have questions they need to answer soon. 

     5. Arlington Renegades (3-3) - Even this position is precarious for Arlington, who have failed to score more than fourteen points since the opening game of the season against Vegas. They have three wins, sure, but those all come against the teams below them on this list. This week they only managed a measly nine points, their offense is split between two struggling QBs, and skill position players that have flashes but no consistency.

     6. San Antonio Brahmas (2-4) - Despite having the XFL’s worst offense, San Antonio has managed to keep every game they’re in competitive on the strength of their defense and special teams. Luq Barcoo headlines as a dominant corner for a defense that hasn’t allowed more than twenty-two points in a game, and kicker John Parker Romo is easily the league’s best. However, outside of RB Jacques Patrick, there isn’t much to pull for offensively. Perhaps new QB Kurt Benkert will be able to add some life.

     7. Vegas Vipers (1-5) - Up until this week’s game against the Battlehawks, the Vipers had endured a string of close losses and their singular win against Orlando. However, there just isn’t a very complete team, and Rod Woodson’s unit is prone to collapsing, especially on defense. There are playmakers on both sides of the ball, though. WR Jeff Badet is a consistent producer within Vegas’ offense, and Max Roberts and Pita Taumoepenu are tied for second in the league in sacks.

     8. Orlando Guardians (0-6) - Hoo, boy, where do I start? This team is bad. There’s some talent here, but more often than not, the Guardians are an unorganized, messy bunch. Coach Terrell Buckley hasn’t exactly been an inspiring figure for his group either. There is some hope, with their last two games against Vegas and Seattle being their most competitive of the season; however, it may be too little, too late, as they’re already on the verge of playoff elimination.