XFL Week 7 Recap & Power Rankings: The Upset of The Year in Orlando

Guardians QB Quinten Dormady hands the ball off. (Russell Lansford/Getty Images)

XFL Week 7 Recap & Power Rankings: The Upset of The Year in Orlando 

Written and Edited by Zach Kangieser 

April 3, 2023

The seventh full week of XFL football is finally bringing playoff scenarios to fruition, with our first elimination from the playoffs occurring this week. No teams actually clinched playoff spots, unfortunately, but the picture became significantly clearer regardless. In an eight-team league, even a single team getting eliminated can be huge.

For two weeks in a row, the Houston Roughnecks were in the closing game of the week against an XFL North opponent with a similar record. They played up to their competition a bit more this week, especially defensively, but A.J. McCarron and the St. Louis Battlehawks were game opponents, and they held off the Roughnecks to win their fifth game of the season by a score.

St. Louis’ division rival, the Seattle Sea Dragons, opened the week of play in a similar situation, taking on the Arlington Renegades just a few hours down the road. The end result was a mostly defensive battle, outside of a singular offensive explosion in the second quarter. The Renegades actually made a splash earlier in the week by trading for Vipers QB Luis Perez, but Perez was unable to play immediately, leading to Arlington relying on Drew Plitt once again.

Finally, Saturday once again saw a double-header. First up, the San Antonio Brahmas and Vegas Vipers squared off in a battle between two teams desperately trying to keep pace with their divisions in the playoff race. That game was followed up by the biggest David vs Goliath matchup of the season, as the 6-0 DC Defenders rolled into Orlando to take on the winless Guardians, who were admittedly picking up steam offensively despite lacking any wins.

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 24, Arlington Renegades 15 

Caleb Vander Esch of the Renegades catches a pass before being swarmed by two Sea Dragons defenders. (Matthew Pearce/Getty Images)

Another week, another chance for Seattle to extend its win streak; they entered Arlington having knocked off Orlando in an admittedly close game the week prior. The Sea Dragons entered this game down one notable contributor on offense, as lead RB Morgan Ellison was labeled inactive prior to the start of the game. Arlington was also missing one significant player on offense, as former Vipers QB Luis Perez was unable to suit up for his new team in time.

Both teams started fairly slowly, with the only scoring in the first quarter coming off of a pair of field goals, one from each team. Both squads were looking for a big play that would shift momentum in their favor rolling into the second, and it was Seattle that found it after another field goal, picking off Drew Plitt in Arlington territory. A forty-seven yard bomb from Ben DiNucci to Jordan Veasy set up a quick score to put Seattle up 13-3, and they’d score once more to go into the half 21-9, conceding a TD to Arlington along the way.

Neither team scored in the third quarter, as a pair of long drives ended in turnovers for each team. Another drive for Arlington stalled out early, and Seattle followed up with a long, seven-minute drive that ended in another field goal to go up 24-9 with under seven minutes left. Arlington did follow up with another touchdown to make it 24-15, but the Renegades defense couldn’t stop the Sea Dragons from running out the clock to win it.

The Sea Dragons now extend their win streak to an impressive five games, and will try to make it six when they host the DC Defenders. Arlington will travel to Orlando to play against the Guardians, looking to get back to .500.

Vegas Vipers 26, San Antonio Brahmas 12 

New QB Jalan McClendon stays cool under pressure. (Lucas Peltier/XFL)

Two teams desperate to stay in the playoff hunt clashed at Cashman Field on Saturday afternoon, with the visiting Brahmas coming into Vegas in dire need of a win streak and the home team looking to take out their anger after losing by twenty three points the week prior. Knowing that the Renegades had lost the day prior could have given the Brahmas some extra motivation; with a win, San Antonio would move up to second place in the XFL South with a win.

Both teams also started new quarterbacks coming into the game, and both of them opened the day with a splash. Kurt Benkert opened the game for the Brahmas, going 4/4 for thirty-four yards on the opening drive and finding Fred Brown for a touchdown. Jalan McClendon responded on the following drive by going 3/6 for sixty yards, including a thirty-three yard dime to Sean Price to tie it up and then hitting on the conversion to put Vegas up 8-6. It seemed like we were going to be in for an exciting game… and then Benkert went down with an injury, forcing Jawon Pass to take over and costing San Antonio its momentum.

 Fred Brown returned a kickoff ninety-six yards to the house for the first kick return TD of the year to put the Brahmas up 12-11 in the second, but Vegas again responded immediately with a TD drive that came down to fourth and goal from the one. Benkert was able to return, and he was able to lead San Antonio deep into Vipers territory twice, but he turned the ball over on downs on both drives and failed to score in the second half. Meanwhile, McClendon stalled out the second half after getting up a comfortable two scores.

Benkert showed promise but was unable to convert late, though he’ll look to keep improving when the Roughnecks come to San Antonio in Week 8. Vegas will visit the Dome in St. Louis to take on the Battlehawks.

Orlando Guardians 37, DC Defenders 36 

Clear player of the game Quinten Dormady winds up to pass. (Russell Lansford via Getty Images)

Camping World Stadium wasn’t exactly packed for a game that just about everyone expected to be a blowout, as the winless Guardians hosted the undefeated Defenders. While Orlando had been picking up steam behind new QB1 Quinten Dormady, the Defenders had been able to pick up wins against every other team so far, including two against St. Louis. Surely they’d be able to take out the Guardians, right? …Right?

As it turned out, no. Orlando caught DC off guard and played with heart all game, turning it into a shootout quickly. Dormady contributed three passing touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns for a total of thirty-six points, the same as DC’s entire team. He also threw for over three hundred yards, completed over eighty percent of his passes, and rushed for another twenty-five yards, doing everything in his power to lead the Guardians to victory in what was undoubtedly the best performance from any quarterback all year.

DC didn’t slouch offensively, though. Jordan Ta’amu threw for 285 yards and three scores of his own, while X-Factor D’Eriq King threw a single twelve yard TD pass. Defenders rusher Abram Smith hit the century mark easily, rushing for 127 yards on just eighteen carries and rushing for one score himself. However, they failed to capitalize on even more chances, as they outgained Orlando by nearly a hundred yards. Kicker Matt McCrane missed two field goals, including a 63-yarder as time expired to give Orlando its first win of the year.

After picking up their first win, the Guardians will host Arlington next week, looking to get on a winning streak. DC will travel to Seattle to take on the Sea Dragons, trying to maintain first in the North.

St. Louis Battlehawks 24, Houston Roughnecks 15 

Battlehawks defender Travis Feeney celebrates after making a big play. (@XFL on Twitter)

Not even at home was Houston able to stop their current skid, which has now extended to three games. After two tough losses on the road against Seattle and DC, the Roughnecks returned to TDECU Stadium desperately looking for a signature win, while St. Louis looked to keep pace with its division rivals by any means necessary. Houston’s starting QB, Brandon Silvers, was injured and rendered inactive, leaving second-string Cole McDonald to step up in his place.

The game started in a very back and forth manner. Houston forced a fumble on the first play from scrimmage, setting up Houston at the STL twenty-eight yard line. But McDonald had a pass tipped and intercepted on third and goal for a clutch Battlehawks stop. Both teams followed up their initial turnovers with long TD drives, making the score 6-6 midway through the second. St. Louis then had a short drive for eight points thanks to a bad kick that was penalized, and Houston responded with a field goal to make it 14-9.

Two critical turnovers on downs followed, but St. Louis was able to narrowly make it 17-9 when Donny Hageman drilled a fifty-nine yard field goal at halftime. Then the defenses took over in the second half, forcing seven straight punts before Houston’s Will Likely recovered a fumble and returned it for a score to make it 17-15. Then, finally, the Battlehawks offense put together an eleven play, seven minute drive capped off by an A.J. McCarron TD pass to Darrius Shepherd. Houston’s last gasp drive resulted in a turnover on downs, and St. Louis ran out the clock to hang on and move to 5-2.

With the Battlehawks now at 5-2, they’ll go back to the Dome looking to take out the Vegas Vipers again. Houston will go into San Antonio looking desperately to get back in the win column.

Playoff Scenarios and Power Rankings 

For the first time since 2001, an XFL team was eliminated from the playoffs this week. Despite the victory against the Brahmas, the Vegas Vipers were eliminated from the playoffs by virtue of both the Battlehawks and Sea Dragons picking up wins. With said wins, both teams pulled three games ahead of the Vipers, and both already held tiebreakers over Vegas as well, making a Vipers playoff game impossible despite the team not even having the worst record in the league.

With the Vipers out of the running, seven teams remain mathematically still in the race for the XFL Championship. In week eight, three of them will have scenarios to either clinch a spot or drop out of the dance:

Following the playoff scenarios are the weekly power rankings, and after this set of games there was a lot of movement in the bottom half of the rankings.. Still, some things didn’t change, especially at the top:

    1. DC Defenders - DC walked into the trap game and still nearly escaped the trap, losing by just one point to the suddenly explosive Orlando offense. Even then, DC's own offense did not disappoint, with Abram Smith averaging nearly seven yards per carry and the passing game flourishing. However, the Defenders were unable to live up to their namesake, especially in the secondary, where they gave up well over three hundred yards. Still, they have plenty of time to get their defense back in shape before the playoffs.

     2 & 3. St. Louis Battlehawks & Seattle Sea Dragons (5-2) - Both of these teams picked up a 24-15 win in Texas this week, playing similar games as well; both went up in the first half, gave a little back late in the game, and then put it away. The Battlehawks played a more complete game, with A.J. McCarron throwing for three scores and the defense forcing two crucial turnovers in the first half. But once again, both teams have questions they must answer; St. Louis’ run defense struggled, allowing over five yards per carry, while Seattle must diversify its offense to take pressure off of the turnover-prone Ben DiNucci.

     4. Houston Roughnecks (4-3) - Houston cannot feasibly be ranked alongside St. Louis and Seattle after losing convincingly to them both, even if it was only by a score apiece. Even if they win out they will probably remain here. In terms of their actual play, their defense looked better overall this week, especially in the run game, but their secondary keeps giving opposing QBs easy looks. On the offensive side of the ball, their run game continues to look respectable, but they must answer their QB problem, and fast.

    5. Arlington Renegades (3-4) - Arlington had a respectable showing against the Sea Dragons offensively, but just could not find the endzone when they needed to most. Defensively, they were gashed in the second quarter, giving up eighteen points before Seattle let off the gas. The arrival of new QB Luis Perez may give the team a bit more firepower and keeps them from sliding down the ranks this week, as Arlington may not have played at full strength.

     6. Orlando Guardians (1-6) - Is it a bit weird for me to move Orlando up two spots just one week after leading their section in the rankings by saying they were straight up bad? Maybe, but no team has shown nearly as much improvement as Orlando has from week-to-week. Quinten Dormady has had the best three-week run of any QB in the XFL this season, and TE Cody Latimer now leads the league in reception yards. Still, their defense has tons of holes that they must close if they want any chance of staying in the playoff race.

     7. Vegas Vipers (2-5) - Vegas may have found their man a moment too late. Jalan McClendon dominated the Brahmas in his XFL debut, easily leading the Vipers to victory over the Brahmas, and their defense picked up four sacks and recovered two fumbles. But Vegas was eliminated from the playoffs regardless due to rival performances. They’re in an interesting position with three weeks to play; will they buckle down and shoot for 5-5, or will they shut it down early with nothing to play for?

     8. San Antonio Brahmas (2-5) - The Brahmas didn’t get worse so much as other teams got better. Even in their loss to Vegas, the team showed some flashes of potential, with new QB Kurt Benkert having the best showing of any Brahmas QB in weeks and RB Jacques Patrick excelling in the passing game, though he struggled in the run. However, they turned it over three times, and their typically solid defense gave up nearly 350 yards to a Vegas defense with a new QB at the helm.