The kickoff to the inaugural season of XFL 3.0 is in full swing, and as expected we are in the early and sometimes unpredictable stages of the spring football cycle. As we’ve come to see over recent years and different iterations of spring football, the early weeks are chaotic as teams look to quickly begin to attempt to synchronize to get the upper hand on the season as a whole. Sure you have your yips and missteps with turnovers and miscues, but the best is yet to come. Who knows how accurate this first power ranking will be in Week 10, but boy will it be fun to look back on!
Just before we get to the full ranking I must say it is an incredible time to be a fan of this sport. The XFL is heading up the start of an unprecedented cycle of football for fans to enjoy, and we’ve already seen some incredible moments in the first week from players and fans alike. Onward and upward I say! Just be sure to let the folks at Audi Field build their Beer Snake in peace. I think players would like to not see lemons on the field again and instead a crazy tower of cups. Those DC fans know how to party!
Anyway, let’s get into this first of many XFL power rankings.
#1: Houston Roughnecks
Things change, but some aspects stay the same from the XFL 2.0 days. For the Houston Roughnecks, their winning ways have kept rolling even three years after their first iteration graced the turf at TDECU Stadium. It would be hard not to argue that the Roughnecks had the most complete performance of any XFL roster during the Week 1 slate. Plenty of kudos can be given to offensive coordinator AJ Smith who orchestrated an aggressive pass-first attack that kept the Guardians secondary on its heels for much of the evening.
WOW. Houston catches Orlando off guard, taking advantage of the free play. Brandon Silvers with a perfect pass to Deontay Burnett, who mades a ridiculous catch – taking it all the way to the house.
Lots of excitement so far in Houston for the #XFL. pic.twitter.com/yShlR99DFS
— James Larsen (@JamesLarsenPFN) February 19, 2023
Defensively, Trent Harris was a terror for both Guardians quarterbacks the whole evening, bullying his way to 4 of the 7 sacks on the night, while the unit as a whole forced 4 turnovers. The one knock on this week one performance comes from Brandon Silvers. His hard-throwing gunslinger mentality resulted in some excellent throws primarily in the first half, but two interceptions in the second half show the potential downside to his style of QB plays. It is something to keep an eye on in future weeks, but as long as these are kept to a minimum and Brian Stewart’s defense keeps stacking performances as they did on Saturday night, then the Roughnecks can be looking at many wins ahead. They will look to continue their winning ways on Sunday when they welcome the Renegades to TDECU Stadium for part 1 of the Texas Throwdown.
#2: Arlington Renegades
Sometimes a win doesn’t come by conventional methods. For the Renegades, the defense was the best offense in their come-from-behind win over the Vipers thanks to two pick-sixes in the second half that helped swing the momentum back in their favor. One gets an extra nod from me in this write-up thanks in part to Tomasi Laulile scoring the first defensive TD of the second half as well as the first for the new iteration of the XFL on a well-defended read on a screen pass. Big man touchdowns are the best touchdowns.
Former BYU DL Tomasi Laulile with the pick six for the Renegades first TD of the season!
— Brice Larson (@LarsonSports) February 18, 2023
Give credit to Bob Stoops’ squad for responding to adversity when it mattered after entering halftime down 14-3 with little offensive production to show for it. The second half did see progress from the unit led by a Drew Plitt-Sal Cannella connection but saw several drives stall deep in Vipers’ territory. Arlington can certainly stay in games alone from its star-studded defense but will need to learn how to finish drives fast. They travel to Houston on Sunday for part 1 of the Texas Throwdown in what seems to be an already crucial early-season matchup with the Roughnecks.
#3: DC Defenders
By all accounts of the stat sheet, a first glance would lead you to believe that Reggie Barlow might have suffered his first loss as an XFL head coach on Sunday night in primetime. Then you remember this is football where all it takes is a few moments of opportunity and a good drive or two to have things go your way.
Still not over how electric that @XFL2023 atmosphere was in DC last night.
This moment is what the #XFL is all about.
The Beer Snake drama. Fans throwing lemons. Then Michael Joseph has a pick six and beer starts getting chucked everywhere. I love it.pic.twitter.com/Qrq4DWDYUA
— James Larsen (@JamesLarsenPFN) February 21, 2023
The game ball for this comeback performance goes to Michael Joseph for two crucial interceptions of Ben DiNucci in the second half with one being for a pick-six to initially spark the comeback cutting an 18-8 lead to 18-16. Joseph’s second takeaway set up the Defenders at the Seattle 14-yard line where 2 plays later D’Eriq King would waltz in for the go-ahead score. More credit goes to Gregg Williams and the defense who bent but didn’t break including a crucial goal-line stand to seal the deal. Offensively though, Jordan Ta’amu and company seemed out of sync most of the evening sans a second-quarter touchdown drive. Offensive woes will need to be addressed for their trip to Vegas on Saturday.
#4: Seattle Sea Dragons
Ben DiNucci will have to throw his second-half film away after committing three costly turnovers that directly doomed the Sea Dragons and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. After an efficient and effective first-half and second-half touchdown drive, the quick-release passing offense fell off the tracks for the Sea Dragons with three-and-outs and costly interceptions. Seattle had a chance to wipe it all away late in the fourth quarter after driving 52 yards to the Defenders’ 1-yard line with 19 seconds left on the clock, but those hopes were dashed when DiNucci kept an option run and fumbled away the possession and the last gasp of hope for heading home 1-0.
Ben DiNucci to Josh Gordon 🔥 pic.twitter.com/p6Q279PyEN
— alex (@highIightheaven) February 20, 2023
One thing’s for certain: Ron Zook’s defense held their end of the bargain. The Sea Dragons stifled the Defenders’ offense at almost every turn Sunday night holding Jordan Ta’amu and company to a paltry 177 total yards, 9 completions through the air, and 2.5 yards per rush attempt. The Sea Dragons have little time to dwell on the past as they set up for their home opener on Thursday night with the Battlehawks coming to the Pacific Northwest.
#5: St. Louis Battlehawks
Battlehawks fans had to catch their breath before reaffirming that Kakaw is indeed the law after a stunning comeback that saw the Battlehawks hang 15 unanswered on the Brahmas in the game’s final 2 minutes and 52 seconds. All this was n part by taking advantage of opportunities from the XFL’s 3-point extra points and onside attempts. The onside and game-winner were even more special as wide receiver coach Ricky Proehl watched his son Austin from the sidelines catch the onside attempt and then embrace him after his game-winning touchdown catch to encapsulate the insanity we were watching.
OH MY GOSH. AUSTIN PROEHL. XFL LEGEND. THE BATTLEHAWKS HAVE THE LEAD. THIS IS MADNESS.
The @XFL2023 script writers went crazy with this one! AJ McCarron with a wild comeback in his first #XFL game. pic.twitter.com/2fctFuAmvf
— James Larsen (@JamesLarsenPFN) February 19, 2023
On the final two drives, Bruce Gradkowski’s unit more than doubled their offensive production on an entire day as the script was flipped. Anthony Becht and company deserve their praise for fighting until the last moments and keeping the game in striking distance, though concerns do linger about the reliability of the offensive line to protect quarterback AJ McCarron after having him hit the deck on 5 sacks. Adjustments will need to be swift as they gear up for a trip to Seattle on Thursday night.
#6: Vegas Vipers
The Vegas Vipers story from last Saturday is a true tale of two halves. Veteran signal caller Luis Perez and wide receiver Jeff Badet looked unstoppable through the first 30 minutes, and the roster was playing smart and disciplined as they appeared to be outclassing the Renegades heading into the third quarter. Then, the wheel completely fell off the chassis. The Vipers’ first three possessions of the third quarter were a pick-six from Perez, a fumble from running back John Lovett, and botched punt protection resulting in punter Michael Carrizosa failing to convert a first down.
LUIS PEREZ AND JEFF BADET ARE TEARING UP THE #XFL.
The duo connect for their second TD in the first half, this time for 39 yards. This Vipers offense looks excellent with Perez at the helm in the #XFL. pic.twitter.com/i2P4bCbLds
— James Larsen (@JamesLarsenPFN) February 18, 2023
These gaffs combined resulted in a 12-point swing for the Renegades, and the pattern of mistakes would plague the Vipers to the bitter end. Perez would find Cinque Sweeting for a third touchdown with 12 seconds to go, but a failed 2-point conversion coupled with a dropped pass to Geronimo Allison ended any hopes on the day. There is a potentially good team here, but Woodson and company will need to weed out the miscues and mental gaffs as soon as possible. The Vipers get to try to do just that at their home opener at Cashman Field on Saturday when they welcome the Defenders to Sin City.
#7: San Antonio Brahmas
Heading into the late stages of the fourth quarter the Brahmas seemed to be on cruise control thanks in part to a swarming defense that had made AJ McCarron’s day nightmarish in nature to the tune of 5 sacks and many more pressures that stifled the Battlehawks for over three and a half quarters of action. The Brahmas had also distanced themselves on the scoreboard after a 6-yard touchdown pass from Jack Coan to Fred Brown seemed to make the 15-3 score look insurmountable given the flow of the game at the time. 2 minutes and 52 seconds later, fans and Brahmas teammates alike in the Alamodome left still dumbfounded at how things changed so fast.
"Touchdown" Freddy Brown is what they call HIM! #XFL2023 | #HornsForward pic.twitter.com/ZnMAv4Cayj
— San Antonio Brahmas (@XFLBrahmas) February 22, 2023
Defensive collapse aside, potential points in the second quarter were left on the board by the Brahmas that could have helped avoid this scenario thanks in part to an earlier missed field goal from John Parker Romo and a strip sack fumble of Jack Coan that was recovered and returned deep into Brahmas territory by Travis Feeney. Quarterback Jack Coan was also not helped by his receiving core thanks to several drops that could have continued drives or scored a touchdown in the case of one dropped pass to Travis Jonsen. The Brahmas will have a tough task of moving on from this one, as they head to Orlando on Sunday.
#8: Orlando Guardians
Terrell Buckley has the tall task of figuring out not only who to role within week 2 at quarterback but also how to protect whoever that may be. The Guardians’ front 5 looked lost on multiple occasions in pass protection, and when either Paxton Lynch or Quinten Dormady was able to let it loose the results were extremely mixed to the tune of 3 interceptions. Buckley has come out stating that the position is still being evaluated between the three quarterbacks on the roster as DeAndre Francois was inactive on the night which means this will be a story to follow in the coming weeks.
The @XFLGuardians start the 2nd half strong with an INT 💪@XFL2023 pic.twitter.com/MFFmCWKDJW
— ESPN (@espn) February 19, 2023
A silver lining came in the form of running back Jah-Maine Martin who ran with authority to the tune of 4.6 yards a clip until the game flow turned away from the ground game being a focus. Defensively, aside from 2 interceptions off of Brandon Silvers, the defensive effort for Tony Carter’s unit was on its heels all evening. The Guardians head to Orlando for their home opener with the San Antonio Brahmas for some friendlier confines to tweak issues, but even with this in mind, this roster has many more questions to resolve than any in the XFL at this time.
What do you think of these week one XFL Power Rankings? Which XFL teams have something to prove in week two? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!