Looking toward Week 8 of the 2023 XFL season, every matchup will have playoff implications. There are three weeks left in the regular season and only the top two teams from each division will make the postseason.
Starting Saturday afternoon, the Vegas Vipers (2-5) will travel to face the St. Louis Battlehawks (5-2). The Vipers are last in the North division; if they lose they will be eliminated from the postseason.
Another team facing elimination is the Orlando Guardians (1-6). They kept their playoff hopes alive in Week 7 with the season’s biggest upset to date, handing the D.C. Defenders (6-1) their first loss behind quarterback Quinten Dormady, who accounted for six touchdowns. The Guardians are only two games behind the Arlington Renegades (3-4) for the second playoff spot in the South division, but a loss to the Renegades on Saturday would knock them out.
The Houston Roughnecks (4-3) will take on the San Antonio Brahmas (2-5) on Sunday. With a win, or a loss by the Renegades, Houston can clinch a spot in the playoffs.
The weekend ends with a matchup between the Seattle Sea Dragons and the Defenders. D.C. could clinch a playoff spot with a win or a Battlehawks loss.
Here’s what to expect in Week 8, along with picks from ESPN sports betting insider Doug Kezirian. Betting lines are provided by Caesars Sportsbook.
Saturday, 1 p.m. ET | ESPN, ESPN+
Spread: STL -7.0 (46.5)
The Vipers are coming off a win against the Brahmas last week, led by an unlikely hero in quarterback Jalan McClendon, who made his XFL debut. After throwing only four touchdown passes in his college career at NC State and Baylor, McClendon helped the Vipers to a 26-12 win with two touchdown passes and 261 yards passing. This week, the Vipers will have a rematch against the Battlehawks, who defeated them 29-6 in Week 6. The Battlehawks beat the Roughnecks 24-15 last week behind quarterback AJ McCarron, who has thrown 17 touchdowns, the most in the league, and only four interceptions.
Players to watch: McClendon might play a significant role for the Vipers again. Las Vegas receiver Jeff Badet is tied for most receiving touchdowns (five) and is fourth in receiving yards (406). The Vipers will also look to their defensive end Pita Taumoepenu, who is second in the league in sacks (6.5), to put pressure on McCarron. Battlehawks receiver Hakeem Butler continues to be a consistent scorer after recording his fifth receiving touchdown last week, tied for most in the league. Fellow receiver Darrius Shepherd has also been productive and is tied for the second-most touchdowns in the league (four).
Kezirian’s pick: Over 46. St. Louis seems to be firing on all cylinders while Vegas unveiled McClendon, who was dynamic last week as a dual-threat quarterback. This has all the makings of a shootout.
Our favorite flicks from that one time we reminded H-Town that Kaw is the Law ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/sP2MoLzAR3
— St. Louis Battlehawks (@XFLBattlehawks) April 4, 2023
Saturday, 4 p.m. ET | ESPN, ESPN+
Spread: ORL -1.0 (42)
This week’s matchup is do-or-die for the Guardians, but if they win, they will have another chance to shake up the playoff picture. The Guardians, led by Dormady, finally broke through in the win column last week. Dormady willed his team to a victory over the Defenders by completing 27 of 34 passes, throwing for 328 yards and three passing touchdowns and rushing for three more scores. His six touchdowns were the most accounted for by one player in a game this season. On the other side, the Renegades are on a two-game losing streak after falling to the Sea Dragons last week.
Players to watch: The Guardians expect Dormady to play at a high level. In the past three weeks, he has five passing touchdowns and has completed an average of 70% of his passes. Tight end Cody Latimer has been consistent for the Guardians, leading the league in yards (488) and is tied for second in receiving touchdowns (four). Renegades running back De’Veon Smith finished last week with 12 carries for 61 rushing yards and two touchdowns, his first multi-rush touchdown game of the season. This week could be a favorable matchup for Smith, who is third in rushing yards (278) and touchdowns (four), as the Guardians have allowed 132 rushing yards per game in the past three weeks.
Kezirian’s pick: Orlando -1.5. The Guardians picked up their first win last week and truly looked like a different team since Dormady took over at quarterback. While Bob Stoops has much more experience than most coaches, I believe Arlington is the worst team in the league right now.
Sunday, 3 p.m. ET | ABC, ESPN+
Spread: HOU -4.0 (41)
The Roughnecks’ season has been a tale of two halves. After starting the season undefeated through Week 4, they are hoping to snap a three-game losing streak against a divisional foe they beat 22-13 in Week 3. The Brahmas are one game behind the Renegades in the South division for second place and two behind the first-place Roughnecks. A win Sunday would put them one game behind the Roughnecks to tighten the playoff race. Their offense will have to step it up, though, as it’s scored more than 18 points only once this season.
Players to watch: One of the biggest questions heading into this game is who will start at quarterback for the Roughnecks. Brandon Silvers is third in the league in passing yards (1,300), but Cole McDonald started last week after replacing Silvers in Week 6. McDonald struggled against the Battlehawks last week, however, completing 15 of 32 passes and throwing for 106 yards. Receiver Deontay Burnett will be a big target, as he leads the team in yards (365) and touchdowns (5). Brahmas defensive end Delontae Scott, a former Pittsburgh Steeler, has been hard to stop for opposing offensive lines. His 5.5 sacks are tied for third most.
Kezirian’s pick: Houston -5. San Antonio is pretty limited on both sides of the ball but especially on offense, as it has scored more than 15 points in only one game. I expect the Roughnecks, who started the season 4-0, to snap a three-game skid.
“Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, FOCUS on what to do next”
New day, new week. 😤#XFL2023 | #HornsForward pic.twitter.com/THJTisit3s
— San Antonio Brahmas (@XFLBrahmas) April 3, 2023
Sunday, 7 p.m. ET | ESPN2, ESPN+
Spread: SEA -2.0 (47.5)
This matchup has massive playoff implications in the North division. The Sea Dragons sit at third place, and a win against the Defenders paired with a Battlehawks win would result in a three-way tie for first place. But if they lose, the Sea Dragons will be barred from winning the division since they’d lose the head-to-head tiebreaker with D.C., meaning their only path to the playoffs would be to finish ahead of the Battlehawks. The Defenders were handed their first loss of the season by a winless Guardians team last week, so they’re looking to bounce back and keep their divisional lead. If they win, not only will they clinch a playoff spot but they will serve as host of the North Division Championship. In the past four games, the Defenders have allowed 300.5 passing yards per game. That could be a problem against Sea Dragons quarterback Ben DiNucci, who leads the XFL in passing attempts (260) and yards (1,771).
Players to watch: Defenders quarterback Jordan Ta’amu continues to demonstrate his dual-threat ability. Last week he threw for 285 yards and three touchdown passes and he has rushed for 226 yards this season. Ta’amu’s passing production has coincided with the emergence of wideout Lucky Jackson, who has 250 receiving yards and three touchdowns the past three weeks. The Sea Dragons’ offense centers around the receiver trio of Jahcour Pearson, Josh Gordon and Blake Jackson, who’ve combined for 1,147 yards receiving.
Kezirian’s pick: Over 46.5. DiNucci and the Sea Dragons continue to provide nonstop excitement. They can score with anyone but DiNucci is turnover prone, which gives Seattle’s opponents opportunities. I believe the D.C. defense is a bit overrated, so I think we will see a high-scoring affair.