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XFL Week 5 Recap: A Week of Upsets, Close Games; Defenders Reign as Top Dog

In the 2020 season, Week 5 was the last time we’ve ever seen the rebooted XFL in action until it was canceled amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and all operations were suspended indefinitely. Jumping three years later, after Alpha Acquico, LLC (a partnership formed by former WWE wrestler, Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia and Gerry Cardinale) and RedBird Capital Partners took ownership of the league, it appears that after this week of football that the XFL is looking to finally finish a single season since it was first conceived by WWE Chairman Vince McMahon in 2001.

A big factor that needed to be in play was the XFL’s ratings. Moving the XFL from ABC/ESPN to FX was a questionable move and certainly conflicted with the ratings from Week 2-4 averaging approximately .57 million viewers each game, whereas Week 1’s viewership on the two previous channels was averaging 1.29 million. As ratings declined over the course of three weeks, NBC Sports reported the XFL has announced that starting Thursday, March 16, the matchup between the Houston Roughnecks and Seattle Sea Dragons will be moved to ESPN to hopefully draw in more football fans to the product.

But now that we have crossed over the halfway mark of the 2023 season, it comes as a complete surprise that XFL finished the week off by showcasing one of the best weeks of football in such a long time.


Thursday 3/16 - Seattle Sea Dragons 21, Houston Roughnecks 14

The Houston Roughnecks have remained undefeated since the 2020 revived season of the XFL accumulating a 5-0 record, and entering 2023 with a ratio of 4-0. Combined they have won nine games in a row, and after their recent bout against the Seattle Sea Dragons on Lumen Field, the streak is officially over. The Seattle Sea Dragons pulled off one of the biggest upsets the league has ever seen through convincing, albeit rough fashion.

For the first half, the Sea Dragons dominated both sides of the ball. The offense led by former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Ben DiNucci came away with a 15-point lead after scoring two touchdowns, one being DiNucci’s 20-yard scamper to the house and the other being a 9-yard pass to receiver Damion Willis capping it off with DiNucci passing to receiver Juwan Green for an impressive three-point conversion. However, while Seattle moved the ball effectively, things weren’t so easy for the Sea Dragons as the offense allowed a ghastly four turnovers: three interceptions (with two of them being picked off by cornerback Ajene Harris) and a fumble.

Despite not moving the ball downfield and executing on golden opportunities in the first few quarters, when the game came down the wire, the Roughnecks fought to stay alive in the game racking up 14 points in the fourth quarter, with quarterback Brandon Silvers throwing a 47-yard dart to receiver Justin Smith and a one-yard rush by halfback Max Borghi.

But the true star power lay with the Sea Dragons' defense. From holding the Roughnecks scoreless in the first three quarters for the first time in their franchise to committing two blocked punts and two turnovers: a strip-sack fumble recovered by Antoine Brooks and a game-sealing interception in the fourth quarter by Niko Lalos that kept Seattle’s playoff hopes alive.


Saturday 3/18 D.C. Defenders 28, St. Louis Battlehawks 20

A weekend matchup between heavyweights of the XFL North, the undefeated D.C. Defenders and the St. Louis Battlehawks. Taking place in The Dome at America’s Center with an attendance of a whopping 38,310 fans, the city of St. Louis and the Battlehawks were prepared to come away with an upset of their own against the Defenders. Unfortunately, those expectations fell short.

The biggest takeaway from the Defenders was Abram Smith’s running attack, cultivating 23 carries for 218 yards and three touchdowns. Two of his scores were both 62 and 70-yard runs which are the biggest rushing touchdowns the league has had so far. The defense returned the favor by committing two turnovers against AJ Macarron

With another victory added to their record, the Defenders claimed themselves the leaders of the XFL and the only undefeated team in the league, while the Battlehawks are still searching for answers on offense and defense as they fight for second place against their XFL North rivals, the Seattle Sea Dragons.


Saturday 3/18 - Las Vegas Vipers 35, Orlando Guardians 32

It’s fascinating how the highest-scoring game of the season thus far is between two teams with a winless record. The Vipers and Guardians aren’t projected to get themselves into the semifinals any time soon, but for a game where one desperately needed a win over the other, it was surprisingly engaging.

Both offenses had a combined total of 756 yards, with only one turnover allowed being a fumble recovered by Orlando. Guardians quarterback Quinten Dormady went 256 yards for two touchdowns, and Vipers quarterback Luis Perez (former quarterback for the New York Guardians in the 2020 XFL season) went for 269 yards and three touchdowns.

The game went back and forth until the last minute where after a 45-yard passing touchdown to Guardians receiver Cody Latimer, Orlando was on the verge of tying the game up at 35, but the conversion was denied and Vipers from that point on won the game. Despite one coming away with a victory and the other with a loss, work still needs to be done for both teams if they want to win more games, or even become a semifinalist.


Sunday 3/19 - Arlington Renegades 12, San Antonio Brahmas 10

Probably the weakest game of the four. While it was indeed a close game, it was also a pretty sloppy one. The offenses on both sides of the ball didn’t capitalize on opportunities and had significant trouble moving the ball and scoring. The big difference makers were the Arlington defense causing three interceptions and stopping the passing game against the two Brahmas quarterbacks, Jack Coan and Reid Sinnett for a combined total of 127 yards passing. Despite Arlington being in second place of the XFL South with a 3-2 record, they need to adjust on offense if they want to be considered a future threat and a potential semi-final combatant.


Edited by Sushmita Regmi


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