- Orlando Guardians (0-4) at Vegas Vipers (0-4)
- Saturday, March 18 at 10:00 p.m. ET
- Cashman Field, Las Vegas
- Tickets: Ticketmaster & StubHub
- Broadcaster: ESPN, ESPN+
- Announcers: Matt Barrie, Joey Galloway, Eric Mac Lain, Tiffany Blackmon
- Odds: Vegas -7.5, O/U 42 (DraftKings)
Saturday night in Vegas is usually something special to behold. In this case the spectacle is two winless teams battling to stay out of the basement in a baseball stadium with a football field painted on the infield.
Something has to give at Cashman Field when the Orlando Guardians and the Vegas Vipers come together to do battle. Unfortunately, one team will go home still looking for their first win, even after half the 2023 XFL season has transpired.
Orlando had a rough time in their week four game against Houston. They fell behind 20-0 and could never come back, losing 44-6 in one of the biggest blowouts of the season. Orlando quarterback Paxton Lynch did relatively well, completing 18 of 30 passes for 267 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. It was Orlando’s defense that could do nothing right, as Houston’s scored six times and averaged 7.6 yards per play.
In week four, Vegas was man-handled by the DC Defenders from the beginning, as quarterback Brett Hundley fumbled the snap on the opening drive and DC capitalized on the turnover for a touchdown. The Vipers made a game of it, but they could not stop the Defenders, losing 32-18 on the road. Luis Perez looked good, completing 23 of 32 passes for 283 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Vegas totaled 394 yards on offense, which is quite good, especially against a stingy Defenders squad. Perhaps their offense is on track?
What should we look for?
It is questionable who the Vipers will turn to for their offensive production. Hundley had been appointed the starter, but a hamstring injury gave his backup Perez a chance to lead the team. Both Brett Hundley and Luis Perez have been behind center, and each has shown some success. However, neither has led the squad to a win. This week is the team’s best chance to put up a W. Which quarterback will get credit if it happens?
Admittedly, Perez has better numbers as a passer this season, with 533 yards for 5 touchdowns and three interceptions. Hundley has almost the same amount of turnovers, as he has committed two fumbles. We should watch how Coach Woodson rotates his pivots and who he relies upon when he needs the offense to kick in.
Defense has been a big problem for the Vipers as they rank either last or second to last in all four major defensive categories, giving up 25.5 points and 366.8 yards per game. Of course, they have played the undefeated DC Defenders twice, thus skewing their statistics negatively. Against the Guardians, the Vipers will have to put pressure on Paxton Lynch, disrupt his rhythm and force him into bad choices. Vegas is second in the league in tackles for a loss, so the Vipers defense does know how to put the screws to an offense. They might possibly run roughshod over a hapless Orlando squad.
As for the Guardians, are they really as bad as we think? There has been some encouraging signs such as an improved offensive production in the Houston game. Paxton Lynch had two touchdown passes in week four, an improvement over his performance in the first three games. Lynch has also kept the ball out of his opponents’ hands, only committing one interception so far this season. The Guardians racked up a season-high 349 yards against the Roughnecks, which is nearly 100 yards more than their average through the first three games of the season. Does this mean Orlando is starting to put it together on offense? If so, the Vegas Vipers might be the guests at their coming out party.
Orlando’s offensive line must do better, as Houston sacked Lynch four times, and the ground game needs to get going to make for a well-balanced offensive attack. In addition, the Guardians need to be more disciplined as they had 13 penalties called on them last week. Too many self-inflicted mistakes may be the difference in this matchup of teams that tend to lose when they make too many errors.
Both teams badly want to win this game. The winning team can grab momentum, using it to mount a winning streak that could propel them into a playoff race. The losing team will be just that, and relegated to the league basement. There is a lot at stake here.
Look for the Guardians to put it all on the line here, and they will tend to stymie Vegas on offense in the early going. However, the Vipers are the better team, and they will find a way to come out on top and take advantage of this opportunity.