20 Mar

Roughnecks remain unbeaten, but Defenders still cream of the crop

In many ways, the XFL’s third weekend was a who’s who game as the league’s regular season moved past the quarter pole. While the outcomes were somewhat predictable (we went a perfect 4-0 in our Week 3 picks), last week’s results reinforced which teams are contenders versus pretenders.

Only two teams remain undefeated through three weeks: the D.C. Defenders and the Houston Roughnecks. The Defenders were No. 1 in each of our previous Power Rankings, while the Roughnecks started in the middle of the pack before quickly moving up into the No. 2 spot. Both teams justified their spots in our Power Rankings by again taking care of business this past weekend.

Did Houston do enough to surpass D.C.? We have that answer and the rest of our updated Power Rankings below ahead of the XFL’s fourth weekend.

  1. D.C. Defenders (3-0)
    Last week: No. 1
    After two wins in low-scoring games, the Defenders proved last weekend they can win a shootout. D.C. posted a 34-28 win over a BattleHawks team that came into the game with an unblemished mark. As has been the case all year, the Defenders’ defense played an integral role in the game by forcing four turnovers that included Michael Turner’s pick-six of St. Louis quarterback A.J. McCarron.

On offense, the Defenders continued to roll on the ground with 136 yards and a touchdown. But the really encouraging part of this game for D.C. was the play of quarterback Jordan Ta’amu, who enjoyed his best game to date after throwing for 196 yards and a touchdown.

  1. Houston Roughnecks (3-0)
    Last week: No. 2
    Houston appeared on its way to taking the No. 1 spot after playing a near-perfect first half last Sunday night against San Antonio. The Roughnecks led 22-7 at halftime after receiving a brilliant first half from quarterback Brandon Silvers, who completed 15 of his first 20 pass attempts for 225 yards and three touchdowns.

It was a different story in the second half, however, as Houston was outscored 6-0 in an eventual 22-13 win. The Roughnecks’ defense came up with several big stops, but their offense came up empty with two drives that ended in punts, two on missed fourth-down attempts and another via an interception.

Along with Silvers and Jontre Kirklin’s two touchdown catches, one positive regarding Houston’s offense on Sunday was running back Max Borghi, whose 74 yards on 15 carries helped Houston win time of possession while running 20 more plays than the Brahmas.

  1. St. Louis BattleHawks (2-1)
    Last week: No. 3
    St. Louis’ first loss was impressive in the fact that the BattleHawks stood toe-to-toe with arguably the league’s best team. You could argue that St. Louis was the better team on Sunday but cost itself a win by committing four turnovers that led to nine D.C. points. Conversely, St. Louis converted just one of its three forced turnovers into points.

Interceptions aside, McCarron otherwise had a solid game after throwing for a season-high 262 yards and four touchdowns. McCarron’s top target, Hakeem Butler, pulled down nine passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. St. Louis struggled to run the ball, however, picking up just 56 yards on 17 carries.

  1. Arlington Renegades (2-1)
    Last week: No. 5
    Bob Stoops’ team continues to occupy the middle of our Power Rankings after being No. 2 in our preseason rankings. The Renegades jumped up one spot this week after winning an ugly game against the league’s worst team. But a win is a win, and by beating Orlando, the Renegades are one of four XFL teams with a winning record.

Kyle Sloter was highly efficient in his first game for Arlington. The former NFL journeyman quarterback went 18 of 23 for 124 yards and a touchdown. He also didn’t turn the ball over while his defense forced a pair of turnovers in Arlington’s 10-9 win.

  1. Seattle Sea Dragons (1-2)
    Last week: No. 6
    Seattle was finally on the right side of a close score in Week 3. The Sea Dragons won a high scoring, highly entertaining game against Vegas after Ben DiNucci hit Josh Gordon for a 65-yard, game-winning score. DiNucci led two scoring drives late in the game as the Sea Dragons got their first win of the season.

DiNucci put it all together last week after showing flashes during the season’s first two weeks. He went 29 of 37 for 377 yards and four touchdowns and one pick. He received a breakout game from Gordon (who caught six passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns) and running back Morgan Ellison, who ran for 103 yards on 17 carries.

  1. San Antonio Brahmas (1-2)
    Last week: No. 4
    The Brahmas outplayed the Roughriders in the second half, but they were unable to make enough big plays on the offensive side of the ball while not taking advantage of a herculean effort by their defense. A week after throwing three touchdowns, Brahmas quarterback Jack Coan threw for just 64 yards against Houston’s stout defense. San Antonio’s running game didn’t fare much better as the trio of Coan, Kalen Ballage and Jack Coan combined to average just 3.6 yards per carry.

Through three games, it’s clear that San Antonio has one of the league’s better defenses. But the Brahmas won’t be among the league’s elite until they get more consistent play from their offense.

  1. Las Vegas Vipers (0-3)
    Last week: No. 7
    Vegas had its best game of the season to date in a losing effort against Seattle. Brett Hundley made a big step forward as he threw two touchdowns while picking up 66 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Hundley connected on several big plays that included a 56-yard throw to Jeff Badet and a 50-yard scoring strike to John Lovett.

Surprisingly, it was the Vipers’ defense that dropped the ball against the Sea Dragons. It’ll be interesting to see if this game was a mulligan or the start of a bad trend for Rod Woodson’s defense.

  1. Orlando Guardians (0-3)
    Last week: No. 8
    They’re still the league’s worst team, but the Guardians showed growth while playing a competitive game against Arlington. Orlando’s defense played winning football, while the offense received a solid game by Paxton Lynch, who ran for a score while throwing for 219 yards and not turning the ball over.

Pass protection continues to be a major issue for Orlando. Lynch was sacked four times against Arlington and was pressured several other times.

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