XFL Game of the Week: Defenders vs Roughnecks
March 24, 2023 / By Brayden Nazarian
Analyzing what could be the best matchup of the XFL season so far.
How to watch the game:
Streaming on ESPN / ESPN+ at 7PM EST
This week on Monday Night Football, the undefeated D.C. Defenders take on the Houston Roughnecks, who are coming off their first loss of the season. Most agree these have been the two best teams in the XFL so far, which likely means we're in for a treat. Let's take a look at what both teams bring to the table:
Defenders of the District
The D.C. Defenders have been exciting to watch through five weeks. Standing at 5-0, they lead the North division by two games and have an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth at home this week with a win (and losses from both Seattle and St. Louis).
For D.C., everything relies on their run game. They currently lead the league in total rushing attempts (188), rushing yards (870) and rushing touchdowns (11), while bolstering the league's leading rusher in Abram Smith. Quarterback Jordan Ta'amu is also leading all QBs in rushing yards (208), and his backup D'Eriq King leads the league in rushing touchdowns (5). Safe to say Offensive Coordinator Fred Kaiss has a philosophy that's working.
On the other side of the line of scrimmage, the Defenders are just as deadly. They're tied for second in turnovers forced, while allowing just 18 points per game. Cornerback Michael Joseph has broken out as one of the league's best defensive backs, racking up four interceptions and two touchdowns for himself. The Roughnecks will likely have to scheme away from Joseph, unless they want to add to his already stellar season.
Rugged and Rough(necks)
Up until their loss to Seattle last week, the Houston Roughnecks were sitting pretty at the top of the league. Their high-flying offense, which features a two-QB system like the Defenders, has helped them put up over 27 points per game. Quarterback Brandon Silvers currently leads the league with 12 passing touchdowns and ranks second in completions (113), attempts (182) and passing yards (1,189). He also has three receivers with at least 200 receiving yards, the most for any team.
The Roughnecks aren't just an offensive juggernaut, though. Their defense is arguably the best in the league, holding opponents to just 245 yards per game and 11.2 points per game. They also lead the league in quarterback sacks with 19; LB Trent Harris and DL Tim Ward have combined for 11 by themselves so far. Expect to see them dominate up front, as they have all year.
As a Defenders-based blog, it's almost impossible to pick against the Defenders, especially considering their hot start. However, the Roughnecks are a better team as a whole. Week after week, they've shown their dominance on both sides of the ball. Yeah, they may have lost last week, but that shouldn't take away from what they did prior. They simply outwork opposing teams, and if they jump out ahead in this game, the Defenders will have little chance of coming back.
Final Score Prediction: Houston 34, D.C. 27
Images courtesy of the XFL