XFL 2023 Playoff preview: Game schedule, teams, players, stats
The XFL playoffs are here and four teams remain after two playoff spots were wrapped up in the final week of play.
The postseason will kick off Saturday with the Houston Roughnecks (7-3) hosting the South Division Championship against the Arlington Renegades (4-6) and will conclude Sunday when the D.C. Defenders (9-1) host the Seattle Sea Dragons (7-3) in the North Division Championship.
The Roughnecks and Defenders clinched their respective divisions in Week 8, but things weren’t so cut and dry for the two No. 2 seeds.
Despite losing their last regular season game last week, the Renegades clinched given their better record and the Sea Dragons claimed their spot through a divisional tiebreaker.
The winners of each division will meet for the XFL Championship at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas on May 13.
Here’s what to expect this playoff weekend along with betting lines provided by Caesars Sportsbook.
South Division Championship
Saturday, 7 p.m., ET | ESPN2, ESPN+
Spread: HOU -6.5 (41)
These Texas teams are familiar foes, as this is their third meeting against each other. In their first matchup in Week 2 the Roughnecks held the Renegades scoreless through three quarters, ultimately defeating them 23-14. In the rematch just last week, the Roughnecks defeated the Renegades 25-9, holding Arlington to its lowest point total of the season.
Houston started off the season strong at 4-0 before suffering its first loss in Week 5. That started a three-game losing streak but the Roughnecks recovered, finishing the regular season on a three-game winning streak to comfortably win the South Division.
Arlington has had an up-and-down season. For the first six weeks they alternated wins and losses and haven’t won consecutive games at any point this season. They ended with a two-game losing streak but clinched a playoff spot when the San Antonio Brahmas couldn’t win its season finale.
This game could be a repeat of the previous two, with the Roughnecks having one of the best defenses in the league and the Renegades having one of the most deficient offenses. The Roughnecks are second in the league in points allowed per game (18.2), first in the league in sacks (35) and have the most defensive touchdowns (five). On the other hand the Renegades are last in the league in points per game (14.6) and touchdowns (12), and seventh in yards per game (258.3).
Players to watch: The Roughnecks will rely on quarterback Brandon Silvers, who has thrown for 1,551 yards and 13 touchdown passes. He will look for leading receiver Deontay Burnett, who has six touchdowns, tied for the second-most in the league. Running back Max Borghi will also play a crucial role, rushing for six touchdowns on the season (third-most) and 310 yards. On the defensive side they have Trent Harris, who leads the XFL in sacks (9.5), and defensive back Ajene Harris, who has the most interceptions (five).
The Renegades have options in the backfield, starting with running back De’Veon Smith, who has seven rushing touchdowns, tied for the most in the league. Quarterback Luis Perez has helped boost this offense since joining the team in Week 7 from Vegas and has nine touchdown passes on the season. Tight end Sal Cannella will definitely get looks as he leads the team with 42 receptions. On the other side of the ball, Arlington will look to defensive back Joe Powell, who is second in the XFL with four interceptions.
driven by 𝗽𝗮𝘀𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻
going to give our ALL in playoffs!!! pic.twitter.com/LqI45HKaB2
— Arlington Renegades (@XFLRenegades) April 24, 2023
North Division Championship
Sunday, 3 p.m., ET | ESPN, ESPN+
Spread: DC -3.0 (48.5)
These two teams have played twice already, with both coming down to the last play and ending in a Defenders wins. In their first game in Week 1, the Sea Dragons trailed 22-18 with 19 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Sitting on the Defenders’ 1-yard line, quarterback Ben DiNucci fumbled, giving the Defenders their first win of the season. In their second matchup in Week 8, DiNucci threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Jahcour Pearson with 32 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to cut the Defenders’ lead to 34-33. But the Sea Dragons failed to convert on a go-ahead two-point attempt to fall short again.
The Sea Dragons started the season losing their first two games before going on a five-game winning streak. They finished the regular season strong, outscoring their last two opponents 58-21. They clinched in Week 10 with a tiebreaker after they had better combined scoring ranking than the St. Louis Battlehawks.
D.C. has been the league’s most dominant team, starting the season on a six-game winning streak before unexpectedly losing their first and only game to the 1-9 Orlando Guardians in Week 7. They finished their last three games on a winning-streak but won each game by two points or less.
This matchup will feature two of the league’s most potent offenses. The Defenders are first in the league in points per game (29.8) and second in yards per game (343.2). Their ground game has been a strength, as they lead the league with 15 rushing touchdowns and 1,408 yards. On the other side, the Sea Dragons’ rushing offense is fourth in touchdowns (nine) and third in yards (962). But a major concern for Seattle is turnovers, having given the ball away 19 times this season (13 interceptions, six lost fumbles), resulting in a minus-9 turnover differential (second-worst in the XFL).
Players to watch: Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu will lead the Defenders offense. He has 1,894 passing yards and 14 touchdown passes (third-most). He will look to wide receiver Chris Blair, who has 594 yards (third-most) and five receptions of 40-plus yards, most in the XFL. Lucky Jackson will also be a target with 573 receiving yards and 10 receptions of 20-plus yards, most in the XFL. Their ground game is reliant on running back Abram Smith, who leads the league in rushing yards (791) and rushing touchdowns (seven). Defensive back Michael Joseph has four interceptions and two pick-sixes on the season (most in the XFL), one of which came in the Week 1 matchup against the Sea Dragons.
The Sea Dragons are energized by DiNucci, who is first in passing yards (2,671) and second in touchdown passes (20). DiNucci will look to his No.1 receiver Pearson, who has the most receiving yards (670) and receptions (60) in the league. Wide receiver Juwan Green will also be worth watching with six touchdowns, second-most in the league.
“We are the thermostat” – @reggiebarlow #DefendDC | #XFL2023 pic.twitter.com/l1hJTnK6f7
— D.C. Defenders (@XFLDefenders) April 26, 2023