XFL

XFL 2023: Third Time’s a Charm

The XFL was originally formed at the turn of the millennium. However, its association with WWE (mostly due to both companies being owned by Vince McMahon) led to it not being taken seriously & folded after its inaugural season in 2001. McMahon brought it back in 2020, but without the loose association to WWE. The league actually fared better & was gaining positive momentum, but the COVID pandemic forced the XFL to postpone mid-season & file bankruptcy.

The New XFL

Now, under the helm of Dwayne Johnson (known to WWE fans, as the Rock) & Dany Garcia (Johnson’s ex-wife), the XFL has managed to thrive in its 3rd attempt. For the first time in 22 years, a XFL Champion will be crowned, as the DC Defenders will take on the Arlington Renegades to see who finally join the Los Angeles Xtreme as the only champions of the league.

The Defenders went 9-1 in the regular season (losing only to the Orlando Guardians), before defeating the Seattle Sea Dragons for the XFL North Championship. The starting quarterback, Jordan Ta’Amu, has thrown for 1894 yards, 14 touchdowns, & 3 interceptions.  Abram Smith led the league in rushing (791 yards), rushing touchdowns (7), & rushing first downs (43). His 218-yard performance against the St. Louis Battlehawks (in week 4) remains the only 200-yard rushing game in XFL history.

When it comes to wide receivers, Lucky Jackson & Chris Blair were a 1-2 punch for DC. Jackson caught a team-high 36 passes (for 573 yards) & 5 touchdowns. While Blair only caught 26 passes, his 594 yards led them team. Blair actually tacked on 3 touchdowns, as well.

As for the defense, they were loaded. Francis Bernard led the team in tackles with 51. Davin Bellamy led the team in sacks with 5 1/2, tackles for loss with 7, & forced fumbles with 3. Michael Joseph led the team with 4 interceptions & was the only player in the league to return 2 of them for touchdowns. DC’s defense actually led the league in interceptions returned for touchdowns, as they had a “pick 6” on 4 occasions. Of the 9 fumbles that DC’s defense caused, they recovered 8 of them.

Matthew McCrane has been solid on kicks, making 12 out of 16 field goals. There haven’t been too many weaknesses on DC and that is why they’re a considerable favorite to be the champion. 

The Renegades had a shaky season, as they would earn a 4-6 record without winning consecutive games. However, because of worse records by the San Antonio Brahmas (3-7) & the Guardians (1-9), they were able to qualify for the XFL South Championship.

After Kyle Sloter was released (he eventually signed with the USFL’s Birmingham Stallions) & Drew Plitt suffered a knee injury, Luis Perez was acquired from the Vegas Vipers to be Arlington’s quarterback. Perez threw for 829 of 1636 yards, 1 of his 9 touchdowns, & 2 of his 7 interceptions, as a Renegade. De’Veon Smith only ran for 365 yards, but he tied Abram Smith for the rushing touchdown lead by scoring all 7 rushing touchdowns for the Renegades. The best catcher on the Renegades was (tight end) Sal Cannella, who had 42 catches for 415 yards. Oddly, he never scored a touchdown. LuJuan Winningham only had 11 catches, but 2 of them were touchdowns.

As for their defense, Donald Payne led the league in tackles with 61. Will Clarke & Willie Taylor tied for 4 seconds. Taylor also led the league in tackles for loss. Arlington’s defense led the XFL in interceptions with 13. Joe Powell had 4 of them, but De’Vaunte Bausby & Tomasi Laulile returned theirs for a touchdowns.

They also led the league in forced fumbles (tying the Vipers with 10). Of those 10 fumbles, they recovered 9 of them. Bausby also scored a touchdown on his only recovery. Taylor Russolino was deadly accurate on kicks, making 16 out of 19 field goals. Don’t count these Renegades out. They lost both of their matches to the Houston Roughnecks, before convicingly defeating them in the XFL South Championship.

When these teams met in week 9 of the regular season, the Defenders needed overtime to defeat the Renegades in the Nation’s Capital, after DC blew a 26-9 lead in the 4th quarter. Even though the Renegades had the better run game, their defense couldn’t sack Ta’Amu or (backup quarterback) Deriq King. Also, Perez only had 1 interception in the game, but it was a costly one, as (former NFL safety) D.J. Swearinger got a “pick 6” against him.

Another key of that game was it featured 1 of Russolino’s 3 missed field goals. If it wasn’t for those 3 factors, the Renegades might have defeated the Defenders. How will tonight’s match fare in the Alamodome? Both of these teams were victorious there, when they played against the San Antonio Brahmas. Who will earn a 2nd victory in San Antonio?  

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