Week 5 of the XFL season kicked off with an absolute bang. For those who missed it, Seattle outlasted the Houston Roughnecks to hand them their first loss of the season. The rest of this week looks to at least match that energy. The match-up between San Antonio and Arlington(Sunday 10 ESPN2, ESPN+) has potential playoff implications. Saturday night opens up with DC and St. Louis(Saturday 7 pm, FX ESPN+) playing in the Battledome in what is a “must-have” game for both teams. Finally, one of the two winless teams is guaranteed to get their first win. Orlando and Vegas face off at Cashman field(10 pm FX, ESPN+).
It’s been no secret that Orlando’s offense has been shaky this year. The offensive line has been an undisciplined penalty magnet, also giving up far too many sacks. Paxton Lynch has been what I would refer to as consistently inconsistent. He’s shown flashes at times and then will miss a wide receiver on a three-yard drag route by 5 yards. Receiver play, outside of Cody Latimer, has been lacking. That said, there is potential here, considering the Vegas defense is allowing 25.5 points per game.
On the other side, the las vegas offense has started out slow struggling early against Arlington and DC. However, a switch at quarterback to Brett Hundley has given them a shot in the arm. Against Seattle, they put up 28 points, Hundley earning some player of the week discussion before a Josh Gordon hail mary ultimately doomed them. Against DC, Hundley exited the game early with an apparent leg injury. While the offense stalled at times, it does appear to be coming together. With Vegas coming together, and Hundley being listed as probable, Vegas gets the slight nod.
Advantage: Las Vegas
With all of the woes that the Orlando offense has committed, the Orlando defense has performed quite admirably. They have surrendered over 30 points in all games but one, but a quick analysis of that tells a different tale. In all 3 of those games, a mistake or turnover by Orlando gave the opponent a short field. Inconsistencies in the offense force the defense back on the field after only 3 plays off far too often.
The fact of the matter is, when they are not put behind the 8-ball, the defense has played quite well. None of the games Orlando played were out of hand until late when the defense broke completely. Terrence Plummer, Terrance Smith, and Stansley Maponga have done a great job shutting down the run. C.J. Holmes, Orlando’s first pick, just got back on the field. Overall, Orlando has the makeup of a good defensive unit.
The Las Vegas defense has looked good at times as well. They are currently 3rd in the league with 26 tackles for loss. Linebacker C.J. Avery and defensive lineman LaRon Stokes are 5th and 3rd respectively, in tackles for loss. However, this defense has the opposite problem of Orlando. Three times this season, the Viper’s defense has been trusted with a second-half lead.
Arlington wasn’t necessarily their fault, as they did not surrender an offensive touchdown. However, against DC they allowed 3 second-half touchdowns. Finally, with a 28-16 lead in the fourth quarter, Seattle scored two touchdowns to steal the game. While both of these defenses have had their woes, Orlando gets the slight edge here.
Orlando’s coaching staff feels like it has been a bit of a circus this year. In week 2, Buckley calls out his players on national television in a game they are losing by 6 points. The handling of the Dormady situation was found to be lacking. From week to week, the same issues that plagued this team continue to pop up, with nothing seemingly being done to correct these issues. As well, it has been rumored that play-calling is being removed from OC Robert Ford’s responsibility.
Vegas seems to be headed in the other direction. Head Coach Rod Woodson seems to be making adjustments as the game goes along. The switch at quarterback also came with a bit of an offensive overhaul, to great effect. There are still multiple issues on defense that still need to be addressed, however the fact that the Viper’s coaching staff seems to have things headed in the right direction are enough for them to get the nod here.
The Vegas Vipers come into this game as 7.5-point favorites, with a 41.5-point over/under. Given the way this season has gone, I would be very tempted to take the over. The Vipers’ offense has been quite capable, especially in the last couple of weeks. Orlando, despite their turnovers and miscues, has managed to accumulate yards. Against what feels like a suspect defense, Orlando might be able to finally finish drives. With the spread being what it is my inclination is to take Orlando, 7.5 points feel awful generous for what should be a close game.
Orlando wins 34-31