Heading into the halfway point of the season, the D.C Defenders and Houston Roughnecks remain the only two undefeated teams in the XFL.
In Week 4, the Roughnecks, led by quarterback Brandon Silvers’ three touchdown passes, defeated the Orlando Guardians 44-16, the largest margin of victory in an XFL game this season, and became the first team to score more than 40.
The Defenders handled the Vegas Vipers, 32-18. It was their largest scoring output of the season, and they rushed for 173 yards and two touchdowns.
Both teams could be tested heading into Week 5. On Thursday night, the Roughnecks go on the road to battle the Seattle Sea Dragons, who have the XFL’s leader in passing in Ben DiNucci. Saturday night, the Defenders will travel to face the St. Louis Battlehawks, who are second in the league in points (96).
Here’s what to expect in Week 5, along with picks from ESPN sports betting insider Doug Kezirian. Betting lines are provided by Caesars Sportsbook.
Thursday 10:30 p.m., ET| ESPN
Spread: HOU -3.0 (41.5)
This matchup features the two most productive quarterbacks in the XFL. DiNucci is first in passing yards (1,119) and third in touchdown passes (eight), while Silvers is first in touchdown passes (10) and second in passing yards (962). Both team’s defenses have held opposing offenses under 19 points per game. But the Roughnecks’ defense has been putting opposing quarterbacks under pressure the most, leading the league with 17 sacks and are tied for first with five interceptions. The Sea Dragons’ defense is last in the league with one interception and has eight sacks, the third fewest.
Players to watch: Beyond Silvers, wide receiver Jontre Kirklin continues to elevate the Roughnecks’ offense and is tied for the league lead in receiving touchdowns (four). Expect to see Sea Dragons wide receiver Jahcour Pearson receive a high volume of passes, as he leads the league with 40 targets. On the defensive side, expect Houston lineman Tim Ward and outside linebacker Trent Harris to put pressure on DiNucci. Harris is first in sacks (six) and Ward is second (four). If the Sea Dragons have to lean on their running game to slow down the Roughnecks’ pass rush, running back Morgan Ellison leads the league in rushing with 239 yards.
Kezirian: This is a tricky spot for undefeated Houston, as the Sea Dragons are a bit better than their 2-2 record would indicate. The offense was held in check last week, but typically Seattle can move the ball and score. Plus, QB Ben DiNucci will also find a way to generate points for the opposition with inexplicable turnovers. Over 41.5.
Locked in…..Lumen field, here we come 😤#XFL | #roughnecknation pic.twitter.com/WfMvMMOrps
— Houston Roughnecks (@XFLRoughnecks) March 15, 2023
Saturday, 7 p.m., ET| FX, ESPN+
Spread: DC -2.0 (41.5)
This is a rematch from Week 3, when the Defenders won 34-28 and were able to slow down Battlehawks quarterback AJ McCarron by sacking him four times and intercepting him twice. The Battlehawks will look to withstand the Defenders’ ground attack, which leads the league with 622 yards.
Players to watch: An intriguing matchup will ensue between Battlehawks receiver Hakeem Butler and Defenders cornerback Michael Joseph. Butler is tied for first in touchdown receptions (four) and is fifth in receiving yards (250), and Joseph leads the league in interceptions (three). Defensive lineman Jarrell Owens could help Joseph and D.C.’s pass defense by pressuring McCarron, as Owens is fourth in sacks (three). On the other side, the Defenders’ offense has three of the top five rushers in the XFL, led by running back Abram Smith‘s 214 rushing yards, the league’s second most. Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu is right behind Smith with 185 yards. And when the Defenders get close to the end zone, they give the ball to quarterback D’Eriq King, who leads the league in rushing touchdowns (four).
Kezirian: In my opinion, The D.C. Defenders are the best team in the XFL and their offense continues to improve while adjusting to a two-quarterback system. I have come around on the St. Louis Battlehawks and think Anthony Becht is doing a nice job, but I just really like this Defenders squad. Defenders -1
Saturday, 10 p.m., ET| FX, ESPN+
Spread: VGS -7.5 (42)
This is a battle of two winless teams, but the difference is that most of the Vipers’ losses have been competitive and are the result of fourth-quarter failures. In three of their four losses, they either were tied or led in the final quarter. The Guardians have struggled to stay competitive, as they’ve lost by 18 points or more three times. Their offense averages 12.25 points per game, fewest in the league, and their defense is allowing a league-high 29 points.
Players to watch: The leading quarterback for the Vipers heading into Week 5 depends on the health of former Green Bay Packer Brett Hundley, who started last week but left with a hamstring injury. If Hundley is out, Luis Perez will replace him. Perez has five touchdown passes so far this season, tied for fourth-most in the league. Regardless of the quarterback, expect receiver Jeff Badet to make plays. Badet is third in receiving yards (261) and tied for third in touchdown receptions (three). For the Guardians, their passing attack centers around former Denver Broncos quarterback Paxton Lynch, who is fourth in the XFL in passing yards (690) and has thrown four touchdown passes.
Kezirian: The Vegas Vipers should be able to score with ease. They have two solid quarterbacks in Luis Perez and Brett Hundley and the Orlando Guardians are clearly the league’s worst team. I also think the Vipers defense should give up enough to cash the over. Orlando/Vegas over 42
sights set on Vegas 🎰 pic.twitter.com/InDePeiYZz
— Orlando Guardians (@XFLGuardians) March 14, 2023
Sunday, 10 p.m. ET| ESPN 2, ESPN+
Spread: SA -2.0 (35.5)
Both the Renegades and the Brahmas have been struggling on offense. The Renegades’ offense has scored as many touchdowns as games played (four), the fewest in the XFL. Even in their 22-20 Week 1 win over the Vipers, it was their defense that carried the scoring, with two interceptions returned for touchdowns. The Brahmas offense isn’t much better, as they’ve scored seven touchdowns, tied for the second-fewest in the league. Expect this matchup to be low-scoring.
Players to watch: Expect to see the ground game in action for this matchup, as both teams are ranked in the top four in rushing attempts, the Brahmas being second (105) and the Renegades fourth (94). Renegades running back De’Veon Smith continues to be consistent, as he’s eighth in the XFL in rushing (131) and scored his first touchdown of the season last week. Kalen Ballage continues to lead the Brahmas in rushing with 147 yards.
Kezirian: There is a reason this total is about seven points less than the other three games. The Arlington Renegades have a pedestrian offense, but their defense keeps them in games. The San Antonio Brahmas have had their moments on offense but for the most part, they’ve been shaky. Arlington/San Antonio under 35.5