Despite an ongoing lack of viewership and fan attendance, the inaugural season of the third iteration of the XFL has been, in short, electrifying. With this electrification of a long-dismayed football league comes just the second XFL Championship ever.
In 2001, the Los Angeles Xtreme of the original XFL won the first championship. In 2020, a combination of COVID-19 concerns and financial failures forced the second iteration of the league to close up shop prior to ever reaching the playoffs, much less the championship.
Now, in its third iteration, the league seems set to finish off a season for the first time since 2001. Given this assumption, experts are beginning to predict who might pull off XFL history with a championship victory in 2023. The D.C. Defenders, leaders of the XFL North, are the focal point of a majority of these predictions, and for good reason.
Headed into week nine, the D.C. Defenders have dominated the league with a 7-1 record. Their starting quarterback, Jordan Ta’amu, currently leads the league in the touchdown-to-interception ratio category with 10 touchdowns to just one interception. He also leads quarterbacks in overall rushing yards with 239.
Their starting running back, Abram Smith, leads the league in rushing yards (over 700), rushing touchdowns (7), yards per carry (5.2 among running backs) and holds the longest rush of the season: a 70-yarder.
The Defenders, a clear run-first team, is still plentiful at the wide receiver position. They have two top-five receivers in the receiving yards category with Chris Blair at three (492 yards) and Lucky Jackson at four (469 yards).
Given their dominance on offense and third overall rank defensively, the Defenders shouldn’t have a problem winning one playoff game to punch their ticket to the Championship Game, especially given the fact that they’ll likely have home field advantage in said game.
As for the XFL south, the Houston Roughnecks currently lead the pack with a 6-3 record. The Roughnecks starting quarterback Brandon Silvers is currently second in the league in passing yards, roughly 400 yards shy of Seattle Sea Dragons’ Ben DiNucci.
Their starting running back, Max Borghi, is currently ranked fifth in rushing yards and second in rushing touchdowns. They have no receivers ranked in the top eight for receiving yards, but their primary receiver Deontay Burnett ranks first in the league in receiving touchdowns.
However, the Roughnecks fail to shine statistically on defense, where they rank seventh out of eight teams in tackles, interceptions, fumbles and scores.
After starting 4-0 on the season, the Roughnecks hit a dry spell and lost three straight games. In their most recent outings, they bounced back with two straight wins.
While the Roughnecks have struggled against well-performing teams (hinting at the possibility that their record is simply emblematic of the poor play of the XFL South), they seem to have a firm hold on the XFL South, and will likely defeat whoever they play come the XFL South Divisional Championship – punching their ticket to the XFL Championship.
Given this, it seems most likely that we’ll see the Roughnecks take on the Defenders in the Championship Game – so who will win?
While Brandon Silvers, the Roughnecks current starting quarterback, has played relatively well this season in comparison to other XFL quarterbacks, he struggled greatly in the Roughnecks Week Six matchup against none other than the D.C. Defenders. In that game, he threw for just 111 yards and an interception before being benched. The Roughnecks backup quarterback Cole McDonald shined for the remainder of the game, throwing for 194 yards and a touchdown en route to a 26-37 loss to D.C.
In their next game, McDonald struggled en route to a loss, leading to Silvers’ repossession of the starting job just this past week in a Roughnecks 17-15 win over the San Antonio Brahmas.
Assuming that Silvers will remain the starting quarterback for the remainder of the season, the Roughnecks will likely have to lean toward the running game if they hope to knock down the dominant Defenders.
In that same 26-37 loss to the Defenders, the Roughnecks failed to show any strength in the run game. Their leading back, Borghi, ran for just 25 yards on 11 carries.
While the Roughnecks have shown flashes throughout the season that point to a chance at the title, it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to upset the Defenders in a Houston-D.C. championship game.
Given this, the Defenders will likely win with relative ease, sporting a projected 34-24 win over the Roughnecks in the Championship Game on May 9.