Is QB Luis Perez the answer for the Renegades?
Heading into Week 7 of the XFL season, the league’s lone winless team is in jeopardy of being eliminated from playoff contention, and keeping its hopes alive won’t be easy.
The Orlando Guardians head into Saturday’s matchup against the last remaining undefeated team in the D.C. Defenders. With a loss, along with a win by the Arlington Renegades, the Guardians would be mathematically eliminated from reaching the postseason.
They’ll know beforehand if they need a win to stay alive, as the Renegades open up this week’s slate against the Seattle Sea Dragons on Friday.
On Tuesday, the Renegades traded for Vegas Vipers quarterback Luis Perez in exchange for linebacker Ryan Mueller, a move they’re hoping will jump-start their offense against the Sea Dragons and keep them in line for a postseason berth. The weekend will wrap Sunday afternoon with arguably Week 7’s best matchup, featuring the Houston Roughnecks and the St. Louis Battlehawks. Both are 4-2 and have explosive pass offenses.
Here’s what to expect in Week 7, along with picks from ESPN sports betting insider Doug Kezirian. Betting lines are provided by Caesars Sportsbook.
Friday, 7 p.m. ET | FX, ESPN+
Spread: SEA -4.0 (37.5)
With a four-game winning streak, the Sea Dragons are rolling. Quarterback Ben DiNucci currently leads the XFL in passing yards (1,505) but is having issues protecting the football. Over the past two games, he has thrown four interceptions, the league’s most in that span. The Renegades hope Perez will spark their struggling passing game. Through six weeks, Arlington quarterbacks have totaled the second-fewest passing yards (854), the fewest touchdown passes (four) and the second-most interceptions (seven). Perez should be an upgrade, he has more passing yards (906) and touchdown passes (eight) this entire season than the Renegades have as a team.
Players to watch: As DiNucci’s turnover total has risen, his completion percentage has dropped. He completed 68% of his passes through the first four weeks and only 51% the past two weeks. Sea Dragons receiver Jahcour Pearson, who leads the league in receiving yards (448), will look to bounce back after a season-low 18 yards against the Guardians. Perez’s new main target will likely be tight end Sal Cannella, who has 28 receptions (sixth most).
Kezirian’s pick: Seattle -5. The Seattle Sea Dragons might be the XFL’s second-best team, although June Jones inexplicably insists on attempting 3-point conversions and DiNucci has racked up way too many turnovers. Arlington’s offense is anemic, and it is the lowest-scoring team for a reason.
Saturday, 3 p.m. ET | ESPN, ESPN+
Spread: VGS -2.5 (38.5)
The Brahmas are looking to earn consecutive wins for the first time this season after beating the Renegades in Week 6 to keep their playoff hopes alive. A win this week is crucial for San Antonio, which is currently third in the South division. Its offense has been struggling, averaging 14.8 points per game, the second-fewest in the XFL. But this might not be an issue against the Vipers’ defense, which allows 27 points per game, the second most. The Vipers have the league’s second-worst record and will look to bounce back from a 29-6 loss to the Battlehawks. However, this might be difficult against the Brahmas’ defense, which allows an XFL-low 14.6 points per game
Players to watch: Considering all of the Vipers’ defensive woes, their offense has scored more than 25 points twice this season. The leader of their offense is former NFL receiver Jeff Badet, who leads the league in touchdown receptions (five) and is fourth in receiving yards (375). Quarterback Brett Hundley is also back for the Vipers after missing Week 5 because of injury. One of the bright spots on the Brahmas offense is running back Jacques Patrick, who’s fifth in the XFL in rushing yards (206)
Kezirian’s pick: Vipers/Brahmas under 39.5. Vegas has been involved in some very high-scoring games, but the Brahmas are the second-lowest-scoring team. I think both teams will approach this game envisioning a win and thus play conservatively. Plus, Vegas has been dominated in nearly every second half, so I doubt they will score much after halftime.
#1: Get the W
#2: Paint 🎨 the City Yellow#OnToVegas#HornsForward | #XFL2023 pic.twitter.com/kkjbtDJayn
— San Antonio Brahmas (@XFLBrahmas) March 28, 2023
Saturday, 6 p.m. ET | ESPN, ESPN+
Spread: DC -9.5 (45)
On paper, this is one of the biggest mismatches this season, as the undefeated Defenders are a 9.5-point favorite over the winless Guardians, the largest point spread in the XFL this season. The Defenders have the highest-scoring offense (28.5 points per game), while the Guardians allow the most points per game (29.6). Although the Guardians’ past three losses have been within one score, they have been outscored 178-100 this season.
Players to watch: The Defenders’ offense has a league-high 986 rushing yards and is led by running back Abram Smith, who leads in rushing yards (527) and is tied for the lead in rushing touchdowns (five). Another key cog of their offense is dual-threat quarterback Jordan Ta’amu, who is fifth in passing yards (903) and sixth in rushing (203). Even though the Guardians are winless, quarterback Quinten Dormady became the starter in Week 5 and has thrown 499 yards and two touchdown passes with zero interceptions since. Dormady’s No. 1 target is tight end Cody Latimer, who is second in receiving yards (395) and tied for third in touchdown receptions (three).
Kezirian’s pick: Defenders/Guardians over 45.5. I really like Orlando’s decision to make a change at quarterback and start Dormady. They now have a competent offense and D.C. can certainly light up any defense, in addition to generating points with its own defense. I think we see a high-scoring affair.
Sunday, 2 p.m. ET | ESPN, ESPN+
Spread: HOU -3.0 (44)
Battlehawks quarterback AJ McCarron is second in passing yards (1,322) and first in touchdown passes (14). On the other side, Roughnecks quarterback Brandon Silvers is third in passing yards (1,300) and is tied for second in touchdown passes (11). However, the Roughnecks defense has struggled the past two weeks, allowing 58 points after giving up a league-low 55 in the first four weeks. If the Roughnecks can’t fix their recent issues, the Battlehawks could light up the scoreboard, as they’re second in total touchdowns (17).
Players to watch: Outside of their top-tier quarterbacks, both teams can rely on their running game as Battlehawks running back Brian Hill is second in rushing (317) and Roughnecks running back Max Borghi is tied for first in overall touchdowns (five). The Roughnecks will need to rely on defensive back Ajene Harris, who leads in interceptions (five), to help slow McCarron’s aerial attack.
Kezirian’s pick: Battlehawks +3. I am convinced Houston is overrated, although Wade Phillips is an experienced and elite coach. I still like what Anthony Becht is doing and St. Louis improves nearly every week. I’ll grab the points.
It’s about to be a GOOOOOD day 😏 pic.twitter.com/avg30Sy6mo
— St. Louis Battlehawks (@XFLBattlehawks) March 30, 2023