XFL Week 2 Top Bets for This Weekend: Defense Is Key

Max Borghi Houston Roughnecks Baylen Buchanan Orlando Guardians
Max Borghi #22 of Houston Roughnecks rushes the ball against a tackle by Baylen Buchanan #20 of Orlando Guardians. Bob Levey/Getty Images/AFP.

In Week 1 of the 2023 XFL season, favorites were 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS, but three of the games were very close at the end to make for an exciting start.

Which team can we trust to put a better offensive performance on tape in Week 2, and which team is looking to separate itself early from the pack? Those are the two questions we looked to answer when choosing our XFL picks for Week 2.

You will find XFL betting markets at many of the best sportsbooks. The spreads are again still tight with each game in the 2.5-to-3.5 points range and the totals are similar in the 36.5-to-39.5 points range. But three of the four games went over 39.5 points last week.

St. Louis Battlehawks vs. Seattle Sea Dragons

Thursday, February 23, 2023 – 09:00 PM EST at Lumen Field

The first Thursday night game of the season sees the St. Louis Battlehawks on the road against the Seattle Sea Dragons, who blew a fourth-quarter lead on Sunday night in a 22-18 loss to the Defenders. The Sea Dragons are a 2.5-point favorite in this matchup with a total of 36.5 points.

St. Louis’ Incredible Comeback

There was really no game more shocking in Week 1 of the XFL than the 15-3 comeback the Battlehawks had against the San Antonio Brahmas. If this type of comeback happened in the NFL, they would talk about it for decades.

The Battlehawks were the odds-on favorite to win the championship at many sportsbooks going into Week 1, but the offense behind AJ McCarron was absolutely stagnant with a lot of protection issues for most of the game. McCarron was sacked 5 times.

Talk About Groundbreaking Rules

It looked rather hopeless for the Battlehawks when trailing 15-3 late, but the XFL has some exciting new rules in place to make late-game drama like this possible. The Battlehawks finally put it together for a touchdown drive, then they went for the 3-point conversion from the 10-yard line and got that to make it 15-12.

In the NFL, this is where we would normally see the onside kick fail and the game end. But in the XFL, they have gone with the fourth-and-15 attempt in lieu of the old onside kick to gain an extra possession. This is a fantastic change that all levels of football should consider, and sure enough, McCarron hung in there to complete the throw. Game on.

Only down 15-12, the Battlehawks scored the go-ahead touchdown with 16 seconds left to go up 18-15, the winning margin. McCarron’s experience did pay off as he was 11-of-14 for 133 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. It was the most improbable finish of the weekend for sure.

Seattle’s Blown Lead

The Sea Dragons had a slim 18-16 lead going into the fourth quarter against the Defenders before giving up a game-winning touchdown to lose 22-18.

Seattle quarterback Ben DiNucci ended up throwing 54 passes for 282 yards, but he also had two interceptions and could not move the offense for a go-ahead score late in the game.

The Pick

This would not serve Seattle well in this matchup, but the Sea Dragons are favored at home. We think the best bet is to ignore the spread after last week’s comebacks involving these teams and to focus on the total.

Let’s trust the Battlehawks to build on the comeback and the way McCarron caught fire late and for the offense to have a stronger showing for four quarters in this game. Meanwhile, the Sea Dragons showed a willingness to throw and former NFL star Josh Gordon did have 74 receiving yards, which ranked fourth in Week 1.

With DiNucci and McCarron, we have two teams with quarterbacks who have started an NFL game before. Let’s count on them to keep throwing in this one and to produce an over for your XFL picks.

XFL Pick: Over 36.5 (-105) at BetMGM

Arlington Renegades vs. Houston Roughnecks

Sunday, February 26, 2023 – 07:00 PM EST at TDECU Stadium

This is the only battle of 1-0 teams this week as the Houston Roughnecks are a 3.5-point favorite in hosting the Arlington Renegades with a total of 39.5 points.

That is the biggest spread and total this week, but it is understandable when the Roughnecks had by far the biggest win (33-12) of Week 1 and were the only team to score more than 22 points.

Houston’s Dominant Defensive Start

We liked the Roughnecks in Week 1 because of the matchup of Wade Phillips’ defense against first-round bust Paxton Lynch at quarterback. Sure enough, Phillips did not disappoint as the most successful NFL head coach in the field of eight XFL head coaches. His defense got after Lynch with five sacks and an interception, which led to Lynch’s benching.

Houston’s defense finished the game with seven sacks and three interceptions, the most impressive performance of Week 1. It was against an Orlando team many viewed as the weakest in the XFL field going into the season, but given how close the other games were, this Houston performance really stood out.

Arlington’s Defense Was Solid Too

The Renegades got the XFL season off to a fun start on Saturday with a 22-20 comeback win against the Vegas Vipers. Arlington trailed 14-3 at halftime before rallying thanks to its defense.

Arlington scored two touchdowns on pick-sixes, which is really hard to do in a game. The offense was not overly impressive during the comeback, and the Vipers still had a shot at a game-tying two-point conversion before getting sacked.

The Vipers also looked like they were going to convert the fourth-and-15 that replaces the onside kick, but a good, clean hit dislodged the ball and ended the threat as the Renegades escaped with the 22-20 win.

The Pick

This is a great opportunity for Houston to go 2-0 at home. The Vipers really gave away that game to Arlington last week. The offense for Houston looked more impressive and in rhythm than what the Renegades showed, and that Phillips-coached defense is already looking nasty after one game.

As long as the Roughnecks avoid throwing multiple pick-sixes, they should be a good pick to cover in this matchup.

XFL Pick: Roughnecks -4.5 (-110) at FanDuel