Feb 8, 2020; Houston, TX, USA; View of the field at TDECU Stadium before a XFL football game between the Houston Roughnecks and the Los Angeles Wildcats. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Arlington Renegades (4-6) at Houston Roughnecks (7-3)
Game Time: Saturday, April 29, 6 p.m. CT
What’s at stake: A trip to San Antonio in the XFL Championship game in two weeks to face the winner of the Seattle Sea Dragons and D.C. Defenders.
While the Roughnecks won both games in the regular season against Arlington, the Renegades can erase all of that with a win at TDECU Stadium Saturday night. They will need to close what has appeared to be a significant gap between the teams in order to do so.
When the Roughnecks have the ball: Houston is about as healthy as they can be on offense right now. Quarterback Brandon Silvers and running backs Max Borghi Brycen Alleyne should all return to action after being rested in Week 10, as the Roughnecks had already clinched the top spot in the division. RB Dejoun Lee is no longer on the injury report and is also expected to return.
With Silvers at the helm, the Roughnecks will throw it early and often. It remains to be seen if they run the ball more than usual with Silvers at quarterback, as Houston had tremendous success on the ground against the Renegades last week at Choctaw Stadium in Arlington.
Wide receiver Justin Smith has asserted himself more in recent weeks and has speed to burn. Deontay Burnett has shown the ability to make big plays when Houston gets him the ball.
When the Renegades have the ball: They need to show a lot more life than they did last week against the Roughnecks if they have any hope of winning this game.
Late-season acquisition Luis Perez is the starting quarterback, and he did not fare well last week, finishing 22-for-36 for 205 yards and an interception. He did have three scrambles for 20 yards.
Running back Leddie Brown got nowhere against the Roughnecks’ front seven, carrying 14 times for just 29 yards, barely averaging over two yards per carry. He is dealing with a knee injury, and despite not practicing Tuesday or Wednesday, he is expected to play as he’s carrying the “probable” tag.
Brian Herrien, Sal Cannella, and Tyler Vaughns led the Renegades in receiving a week ago, combining for 12 of their 22 total receptions. However, they will have to face a full game from the Roughnecks’ starting defense this week.
Key Roughnecks to Watch:
LB Tavante Beckett: Beckett scored his second touchdown of the season last week on a 45-yard interception return. He leads the Roughnecks in tackles with 63 (2nd in XFL). Beckett has been a star for the Roughnecks as a player who can come up in the box (3 TFL) and be successful in coverage as well (2 INT). With linebacker Tim Ward out again after reaggravating his shoulder injury last week, Beckett will be counted on to be a key piece on the Roughnecks’ defense.
DB Ajene Harris: Harris has developed a reputation as a ball hawk corner, and his five interceptions lead the XFL. He also tipped the pass up into the air that Beckett snagged and took 45 yards for a touchdown last week. Harris did not see a lot of action, as he only had one tackle in the game. If Perez decides to challenge Harris, big defensive plays could result.
RB Max Borghi: Borghi was rested last week, with the Roughnecks having already clinched their playoff seeding. Fourth-string RB Jeremy Cox ran all over the Renegades’ defense last week for 120 yards on 21 carries (5.7 YPC) and a touchdown and had another touchdown called back because of a holding penalty. A rested Borghi could see extra carries considering the Renegades demonstrated weakness against the run. Borghi is also a very good pass-catching back and should have a significant impact on the game.
QB Brandon Silvers: Silvers was also rested last week and has been battling through an arm injury for about six weeks. The injury cost Silvers one game, and he has struggled in several others after starting the season strong. The Roughnecks’ offense depends on Silvers to make good reads and deliver accurate throws. Hopefully, the extra week of rest has helped him overcome his injury and regain some throwing velocity. Backup QB Cole McDonald has shown flashes, but he does not execute the same offense Silvers does, and Houston will have to change their offense to a heavy RPO-based attack if they have to turn to McDonald. A strong game from Silvers will have the Roughnecks playing for a championship in two weeks.
The Bottom Line: The Roughnecks have proven they are the class of the XFL South, going 6-0 in division play while overcoming key injuries to players at high-importance positions. This game really should be a coronation for the Roughnecks in front of the home fans at TDECU Stadium.
But we all know the phrase “On any given Sunday…” for a reason. Houston’s defense has generally been very good all year, but the offense has been a roller-coaster ride. If the offense performs, this is an easy win for Houston over an offensively challenged Renegades team that only has five passing touchdowns all season.
The Renegades’ defense, while not as strong as Houston’s, still has some playmakers. A poor game from Silvers or offensive turnovers could change the demeanor of this football game in a hurry. Houston has to play smart and clean, but if they do so, they will be playing for the XFL Championship in two weeks.