XFL Preview: Houston Roughnecks at Orlando Guardians, Saturday March 11, 2023

Houston Roughnecks at Orlando Guardians, Saturday March 11, 2023

  • Houston Roughnecks (3-0) at Orlando Guardians (0-3)
  • Saturday, March 11 at 7 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Stadium, Orlando
  • Tickets: Ticketmaster & StubHub
  • Broadcaster: FX, ESPN+
  • Announcers: John Schriffen, Tom Luginbill, Stormy Buonantony, Harry Douglas
  • Odds: Roughnecks -9, O/U 37.5 (DraftKings)

Face it. This is a game the Roughnecks think they can win, and stay undefeated in the XFL. The winless Guardians are no match for them. Going into this weekend, the Roughnecks have an astounding plus-39 point differential, showing their domination over other teams they have met this season. However, this is a football game, and games need to be played in order to reach the outcome of a winner and a loser. The big question for this matchup comes down to whether the Orlando Guardians can turn things around enough to beat the Roughnecks.

Last weekend’s 22-13 victory over San Antonio kept the Roughnecks atop the XFL South standings, while the Guardians dropped what turned out to be a defensive struggle with Arlington. It should be noted that Orlando did make progress last week.

What should we look for?

Roughnecks are tops with scoring on both defense (13.0 ppg) and offence (26.0 ppg). More than half (seven) of the league’s games this season have been decided by six points or less, while all three of the Roughnecks’ victories have been by nine points or more.

Houston has demonstrated the ability to move the ball both on the ground and in the air. The squad ranks third in rushing yards (261) and second in passing (692) so it should come as no surprise that the Roughnecks have dominated their opponents. With seven touchdown passes, quarterback Brandon Silvers is tied for second in the league in terms of touchdown passes and passing yards. Despite throwing three interceptions (tied for the most) and being sacked six times, this offence hasn’t been affected. Silver’s primary target has been wide receiver Jontre Kirklin, who is third in receiving yards with 204, and tied for the lead with three touchdown catches. Running back Max Borghi has been one of the key playmakers for the Roughnecks, although he is nursing an injury that may limit his play this week.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Roughnecks lead the league in a number of categories, including scoring defence, overall defence (200.3 ypg), passing defence (127.3 ypg), sacks (13), and interceptions (five). Linebacker Trent Harris is the league leader in both sacks (4.5) and tackles for a loss. With three sacks, defensive end Tim Ward is only one behind Harris. Defensive backs Sean Davis and Ajene Harris are tied for second place in interceptions with two apiece.

Orlando might wish that Houston would rest on their laurels this week, because the Guardians have plenty of work to do. Despite losing last week’s match against Arlington, the Guardians gave it their all.

This season the Guardians offense has been abysmal, failing to score more than 12 points in a game. However, last week quarterback Paxton Lynch threw for a season-high 219 yards and added another 43 on the ground for a much improved performance. These improvements may have been due to a reorganized offensive line which gave Lynch slightly better pass protection. We shall see if the Guardians’ pass protection can hold up in the face of Houston’s sackmasters. Lynch can always turn to his running game more, with Jah-Maine Martin and Kelvin Taylor combining for 194 yards this season. Surely, with an improved offensive line and a week to prepare, more can be done on the ground this week.

Last week Orlando’s defensive unit came to play, as they limited Arlington to only 10 points. The Renegades only managed 188 total yards of offence, and 64 running yards on 27 carries. If the Guardians can produce the same defensive grip on the Roughnecks this week, then all bets are off.

Turnovers may be a huge difference in this game, with the Guardians being -5 in the turnover department while the Roughnecks are the league leaders in interceptions. It seems that if these statistics continue this week, it may be a long evening for the Orlando Guardians.


Houston has too much momentum and talent on its side. Despite Orlando’s best efforts to improve, it may be a tall order to assume they will pull off this upset.

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