With only two weeks left in the XFL regular season, four teams are fighting for the two remaining playoff spots.
With the No. 2 spot in the North Division and a potential playoff spot on the line, the Seattle Sea Dragons (5-3) and St. Louis Battlehawks (6-2) highlight the Week 9 slate. The Battlehawks will look to clinch the final playoff spot in the division Sunday, joining the top-seeded D.C. Defenders with a win over a Sea Dragons team that needs to win to keep their postseason hopes alive heading into the final week.
In the first game Sunday, the Arlington Renegades will take on the Defenders. Arlington can join the top-seeded Houston Roughnecks in the South Division playoffs with a victory and a loss by the San Antonio Brahmas. The Brahmas face the already-eliminated Orlando Guardians on Saturday.
The weekend kicks off with the Roughnecks taking on the Vegas Vipers, who are also eliminated from playoff contention. If the Roughnecks win and the Renegades lose, the Roughnecks will host the South Division Championship, and since the Defenders swept the Battlehawks, they can clinch the division and host the North championship with a win in one of their final two games or a loss by St. Louis.
Here's what to expect in Week 9, along with picks from ESPN sports betting insider Doug Kezirian. Betting lines are provided by Caesars Sportsbook.
Vegas Vipers (2-6) at Houston Roughnecks (5-3)
Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET | ABC, ESPN
Spread: HOU -6.5 (43)
Houston has already clinched their spot in the playoffs, while the Vipers are eliminated. Last week, the Vipers nearly pulled off an upset against the Battlehawks but fell 21-17 in the first overtime game of the XFL season. The Roughnecks ended their three-game losing streak the following day with an overtime win of their own, beating the Brahmas 17-15. But their offense has struggled over the past four weeks, as they've scored fewer than 20 in three of the past four games. Quarterback Brandon Silvers has slumped after a hot start, as he was benched in Week 6 and only went 17-for-36 passing with two touchdown passes and two interceptions last week.
Players to watch: The Roughnecks' defense is led by linebacker Trent Harris, who is first in the league in sacks (8.5) and defensive back Ajene Harris, who leads in interceptions (five). But the Vipers have their own defensive playmaker in linebacker Pita Taumoepenu, who is second in sacks (6.5). Quarterback Jalan McClendon has stepped up for the Vipers offensively, with three touchdown passes and 87 rushing yards in the last two games.
Kezirian's pick: Vegas +6.5. I continue to believe in the Vipers since they turned Jalan McClendon as their starting quarterback. Vegas still find ways to hurt themselves in games but I also think we are seeing the true version of Houston, who are 1-3 over their past four games. I would also look to back Vegas in the first half since they've been so poor after halftime.
They said it was over, but they underestimated our heart.— San Antonio Brahmas (@XFLBrahmas) April 13, 2023
As long as there is a chance, WE WILL FIGHT 😤#XFL2023 | #HornsForward pic.twitter.com/pQJ4UyafpX
Orlando Guardians (1-7) at San Antonio Brahmas (2-6)
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET | ESPN2, ESPN+
Spread: SA -1.5 (39)
The Guardians' playoff hopes vanished last week after losing to the Renegades. Orlando quarterback Quinten Dormady's five turnovers (two interceptions, three fumbles) are the most for a quarterback in a single game this season. The Brahmas' postseason hopes took a hit last week after falling to the Roughnecks. Their defense has kept them competitive, only allowing 16.4 points per game, but their offense continues to struggle scores the second-fewest points at 14.5 per game.
Players to watch: Dormandy's inconsistencies have loomed large for the Guardians. He followed up a league-best six total touchdowns in Week 7 with the five turnovers.To play well he will need to lean on his primary target, tight end Cody Latimer, who is first in the league in yards (558). The Brahmas will rely heavily on their defense, which has defensive lineman Delontae Scott, who is tied for second in sacks (6.5), and linebacker Jordan Williams, who has the second most tackles for a loss (11).
Kezirian's pick: Guardians +2. Orlando had a letdown last week when they really had every chance to win. Plus, Arlington's QB change has paid dividends. San Antonio still has a pedestrian offense, so I have to keep the faith with the Guardians.
Arlington Renegades (4-4) at D.C. Defenders (7-1)
Sunday, 12 p.m. ET | ESPN, ESPN+
Spread: DC -8.5 (41.5)
Last week the Renegades' offense was led by quarterback Luis Perez, who started for the first time since he was acquired via trade from the Vipers in Week 7. Perez threw for 190 yards and helped the offense score 18 points, the Renegades' second-highest total of the season. But they face a tall task in playing the Defenders, who have the best record in the XFL and are led by quarterback Jordan Ta'amu. D.C.'s offense averages a league-high 30 points and is third in interceptions (8), second in sacks (22) and first in interceptions returned for touchdowns (3).
Players to watch: Ta'amu is in the top four in passing touchdowns (10) and passing yards (1,435) while being in the top eight in rushing yards (239). His backfield partner, Abram Smith, leads the league in rushing yards (720). The Defenders' defensive leader is cornerback Michael Joseph, who is second in interceptions (four). The Renegades' offense will look to running back De'Veon Smith, who is tied for third in rushing (322), and their defense will lean on linebacker Donald Payne, who is second in the league tackles (61).
Kezirian's pick: Over 41.5. As I previously mentioned, Arlington's offense has improved with the QB change to Luis Perez. That injected some life into the team and coach Bob Stoops made the most of it. D.C. continues to be the class of the XFL and I do think Arlington can generate some offense against a stout Defenders defense.
Seattle Sea Dragons (5-3) at St. Louis Battlehawks (6-2)
Sunday, 3 p.m. ET | ESPN, ESPN+
Spread: STL -2.0 (46)
It's simple, the Battlehawks are battling the Sea Dragons for a playoff spot. Seattle is looking to get revenge from its Week 2 loss to the Battlehawks and avoid being swept by the top two teams in the division and being eliminated from postseason play.. This game could come down to a quarterback showdown between the Battlehawks' AJ MaCarron and Sea Dragons' Ben DiNucci, who rank first and second in the XFL in passing yards and touchdown passes.
Players to watch: DiNucci is first in passing yards (2,072) and second in touchdown passes (15). He works together with receiver Jahcour Pearson, who's second in the XFL in receiving yards (513). McCarron is second in yards (1,544) and first in touchdown passes (17). His main target is receiver Hakeem Butler, who's tied for first in touchdown receptions (6).
Kezirian's pick: Over 46. This should be the weekend's most exciting game. Both Ben DiNucci and AJ McCarron can light up the scoreboard. This has all the makings of a shootout.
This team isn't done fighting 😤 We're headed to St. Louis with one goal- WIN. #XFL2023 | #BreatheFire pic.twitter.com/haqveTfgH0— Seattle Sea Dragons (@XFLSeaDragons) April 13, 2023