Week 2 of the XFL season is in the books with several questions both created and answered across the league for the sake of these XFL power rankings. Who are the pretenders? Who are the contenders? Who’s gonna get caught this week on a hot mic complaining about the referees (I’m looking at you Rod Woodson)?
The early weeks are chaotic as ever, and we may be seeing some new identities of these rosters forming before our eyes. It is part of the fun with spring football after all. The evolution of what can make or break a season is intensified when you have a shorter turnaround for camps and OTAs. I love it all the same!
Week 2 ✔️
Week 3… here 👏 we 👏 come 👏
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— XFL (@XFL2023) February 28, 2023
Side note: Yes, last week was a “Week 1” ranking, but I have changed it to reflect the week ahead moving forward. Call it a necessary audible if you will.
Let’s jump into the rundown.
#1: Houston Roughnecks
Another week, another tally added to the win column for what appears to be the league’s most balanced roster. Houston’s offense had tougher sledding with a more talented Arlington defensive scheme, but plenty of the explosive plays through the air persisted. Brandon Silvers had a clean game this week that although inefficient in the completions department (14/28, 173 YDS, 2 TDs) led to still several explosive plays in AJ Smith’s aggressive pass attack. A special nod goes to Nick Holley this week who has now caught at least one touchdown in the last two iterations of not just the XFL but also the Roughnecks.
Defensively, the Roughnecks had another banner week in making the pocket hell for Drew Plitt to the tune of another five sacks and a fumble coming from contributors all over the defensive front seven. The picks keep coming too with two more this week thanks to Ajene Harris and Sean Davis. Brian Stewart and Wade Phillips are raising each other a glass.
That being said, one does have to walk away from Sunday night’s matchup with the Renegades a bit weary of the turnover woes rearing their ugly head once more with this time coming to the tune of three 2nd quarter fumbles in the span of four different possessions. Two of which were fumbles from poor ball security on punt returns by Will Likely. The spurt of butter fingers led directly to 14 unanswered points for the Renegades along with the halftime lead. A lesser team would have this sink their chances. The Roughnecks are no such pushover. Their final week of a three game homestand comes to a close with their first matchup with the Brahmas this Sunday.
#2: St. Louis Battlehawks
As the Cardiac Kids of the XFL, the Battlehawks move to 2-0 after once again falling behind early and keeping at it til the final whistle. Sure, there was no twelve-point swing in two minutes and fifty-two seconds like last week, but the stakes were still raised once more after the Sea Dragons converted a go-ahead score with 1:21 remaining in the 4th quarter.
AJ McCarron and his core of receivers built on the chemistry they established late in last week’s win as Hakeem Butler and Austin Proehl are quickly becoming the top targets, and both were crucial in the victory with Proehl’s final nine-yard reception setting up the game-winning 44-yard field goal from Donald Hageman. Mistake-free football has also been a key to success with the Battlehawks being the only team in the XFL to not give up a turnover through two weeks. In the world of spring football, that is impressive work from Anthony Becht’s squad.
Defensively, Donnie Abraham’s unit was opportunistic when it mattered by forcing three fumbles that stifled momentum throughout the second half. The unit has been serviceable through three weeks, and for the most part has been a bend but don’t break group. Keep an eye on their ability to stop the run this Sunday against the Defenders. The unit gave up 4.9 yards per attempt to Seattle ball carriers, and DC is coming in hot off finding a rhythm in the ground game against Vegas.
#3: DC Defenders
Speaking of the Defenders, what a difference a QB change and play style makes. Much like Week 1, it took subbing in backup QB D’Eriq King to ignite a blitz of RPO rush packages on the Vipers to eventually steamroll ahead with a win in the downpour at Cashman Field.
The change to the run-heavy RPO scheme in the 4th quarter is intriguing for Fred Kaiss’ offense from the perspective of who starts under center moving forward as both QB’s can make plays with their legs. King was excellent in selling the option in choose situations against Vipers defenders but has been limited to primarily run situations. Ta’amu saw most of his rush production scrambling out of a broken pocket, but gave away two fumbles over the course of his three-quarters of action. Passing prospects were dismal much like Week 1 with no consistent rhythm from Ta’amu or definitive target to be found.
Defensively, Gregg Williams put on a master class as the Vipers looked dazed and confused through four quarters. Rain and turf conditions certainly helped both sides, but consistent late game pressure and a strip sack forced by Davin Bellamy helped to ice the game away as momentum was shifting in the 4th. Williams’ defense has been a definitive force in wins so far, and will have its toughest test this Sunday with the Battlehawks riding high. It’s a good thing they can count on a rowdy fanbase at Audi Field with a beer snake to boot!
#4: Arlington Renegades
Fans in Arlington had to have been getting the sense of deja vu. In fact this effort feels very reminiscent of Week 1 as outside of setting up points off of turnovers, the crew in the baby blue showed little identity sustaining drives.
Given how abysmal the Renegades were offensively, it’s a wonder that they even got the chance to put up 14 points on Sunday night. LuJuan Winningham had a part to play in this by making Will Likely cough up the ball twice on punt returns in the 2nd quarter. An effort like that had to put a smile on the face of special teams coordinator Jonathan Himebauch.
Outside of both touchdown drives off turnovers, quarterback Drew Plitt (15/29, 120 YDS, 2 TD’s, 2 INT’s) was out of sync all night with most receiving options outside of Sal Cannella (4 REC, 38 YDS). Add in a stifled run game that only popped for 2.3 yards a clip with a measly 125 yards total to show for the effort, and you have to wonder what the game plan will be for co-offensive coordinators Jonathan Hayes and Chuck Long in the weeks ahead. They’ll take another shot at it with what might be an ideal get right game when they host the Guardians at the friendly confines of Choctaw Stadium on Sunday.
#5: San Antonio Brahmas
Week 1’s collapse now feels like a distant memory as Hines Ward secured his first win as a head coach to play spoiler in Orlando. This time the story of the second half revolved around capitalizing on opportunities and Guardians gaffs, better executing offensively to finish drives, and seizing away momentum til the final whistle thanks to a stout performance by Jim Hermann’s defense..
A crucial piece to this puzzle was an efficient performance and development from quarterback Jack Coan (16/24, 165 YDS, 3 TDS) who has been raising some eyebrows with fans over the last two weeks. Coan was decisive and smart with his choices. The Brahmas might have also found out who should be getting more targets in the weeks ahead as Alize Mack (4 REC, 48 YDS, 1 TD) and Jalen Tolliver (3 REC, 31 YDS, 1 TD) stood out in a receiving core that really shared the wealth in the victory.
Consistency in the run game will need to be addressed by offensive coordinator Jaime Elizondo for a team that was initially built to bully opponents, but Coan’s development can help open opportunities in that department This Sunday’s matchup will be crucial in pinpointing how far along the Brahmas are as they stay on the road for their first of two showdowns with the Roughnecks.
#6: Seattle Sea Dragons
Seattle is the most frustrating XFL team to watch through two weeks given how well this team can operate when everything is firing on all cylinders. They are the example of why executing the little things go a long way in this sport, and in this case, ball security has become a primary focus surrounding this group’s woes with three lost fumbles to add to the growing pile of turnovers.
All of this is happening to the league’s most productive offense by yardage along with its most versatile air attack by yardage as well. Ben DiNucci didn’t make any glaring mistakes through the air (19/29, 196 YDS, 2 TDS), and he continues to build a repertoire with league-leading receiver Jahcour Pearson. DiNucci however is still responsible again for a glaring mistake this time being in the form of a fumble deep in Battlehawks territory that could have helped change the outcome.
Ron Zook’s defense continues to hold up its end of the bargain even with the Battlehawks finding more opportunities this past week. If anything poor tackling and QB scramble eventually doomed efforts on this side of the ball. They’ll be hoping for a clean game as they look to roll the dice at Cashman Field this Saturday against the Vipers.
#7: Vegas Vipers
The only thing that was uglier than the turf at Cashman Field this past week was the offensive output by the Vipers. After being gifted an early fumble at the DC 2-yard line to set up an early score, the Vipers’ offense went into hibernation mode the rest of the way with the main plot point being the insertion of heavily publicized quarterback Brett Huntley. Huntley (11/18, 98 YDS) displayed that he brings a bit more versatility with his legs to this offense, but even with the weather condition persisting throughout the evening, there is certainly work to be done in getting down chemistry with his receiving core.
The Vipers defensively raised some hell for three quarters until the Defenders decided to daze and confuse the Vipers’ front seven with tons of run-heavy RPO. Cris Dishman had no answer for this and watched what seemed to be a comfortable 6-0 lead swing wildly toward an 18-6 defeat.
This effort also once again highlights some of the mental miscues and penalty woes that the Vipers keep finding themselves in. Coach Rod Woodson very much voiced his displeasure to calls during the broadcast and can’t seem to get out of their own way. Woodson is looking to right the ship once more at home this Saturday when the Sea Dragons come to town in what is looking to be a much less rainy affair.
#8: Orlando Guardians
Things have been less than ideal for Terrell Buckley through two weeks with what seems to be no immediate solutions in sight. The Guardians’ home opener at Camping World Stadium didn’t bring clarity to where the Guardians need to go to right this ship, and as Buckley addressed during a mid-game interview, the effort has not been there.
Many questions still remain as to who should be under center in the first place. Paxton Lynch once again got the start, while this time DeAndre Francois was allowed to rotate in on various drives. Results were mixed overall with each leading a scoring drive, but neither looked like a definitive answer with each seeming out of sync with receivers throughout.
Quarterback discussion aside, execution gaffes have become a norm. Poorly timed penalties killed several drives while a blocked punt midway through the 4th quarter saw a still manageable contest spiral out of control. Add in multiple hot mic instances of discourse (Eli Rogers knows very well), and you have to wonder what the current state of this roster is in the locker room. There will need to be plenty of soul-searching before the Guardians make the trip this Sunday to Choctaw Stadium for a throwdown with the Renegades.
What do you think of these XFL Power Rankings heading into week three? Which XFL teams need to make improvements this weekend? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!