The Roughnecks and Defenders battle in Week 6 as the XFlL’s Top 2 teams, and our betting picks see a close game, but one that may not be giving the underdogs enough credit.
With the XFL halfway through its 10-week regular season, it’s apparent that the Houston Roughnecks (4-1) and D.C. Defenders (5-0) have been the league’s two best teams.
Wade Phillips’ Roughnecks suffered their first defeat a week ago but looked the part of a dominant squad before that lone slip-up.
Reggie Barlow’s Defenders entered the season with tempered expectations but that hasn’t stopped them from posting the XFL’s only undefeated record at the halfway point.
Which team will prove to be the league’s best in a standalone Monday night showdown? Check out our XFL betting picks and predictions for the Roughnecks vs. the Defenders on Monday, March 27 below to find out.
Roughnecks vs Defenders odds
|Houston Roughnecks||D.C. Defenders|
|+2.5 (-110)||Spread||-2.5 (-110)|
|O 42 (-110)||Total||U 42 (-110)|
Odds courtesy of DraftKings as of March 25, 2023.
Roughnecks vs Defenders picks and predictions
There’s no debating that both teams enter Monday night’s showdown as successful teams through the first half of the regular season — the Defenders are undefeated and atop the North Division, while the Roughnecks lead the South Divison and have just a single blemish on their record. Let’s overview both squads’ respective resumes to see how they arrived at this point.
Before the XFL season began, I did a deep dive into each team’s roster and coaching staff to set expectations and establish a power rating. I was a huge fan of both teams’ makeup, handing Houston an overall “A” rating and D.C. a “B+” rating. The fact that these teams have been successful is therefore not a surprise to me, as both coaching staffs are sound and both rosters were wisely constructed to foster success in the XFL. I don’t believe either team’s record is a fluke.
Houston has had the advantage of piling up the score in two games against the league’s worst team, the 0-5 Orlando Guardians. In their other three games, they beat the Arlington Renegades 23-14 and the San Antonio Brahmas 22-13, while falling to the Seattle Sea Dragons 21-14 a week ago.
I personally have a futures bet riding on D.C. that I outlined in my preseason betting preview and am therefore pleased with the 5-0 start to the season. I’m not foolish enough to believe this makes them an unbeatable juggernaut and still have my doubts considering the small sample size. They’ve played both the St. Louis Battlehawks and the Vegas Vipers twice after beating the Sea Dragons in Week 1. We’ve only seen them play three teams, so there are still a lot of data points us bettors need to gather before the playoffs.
This is a clash of styles as Houston likes to air the ball out in offensive coordinator A.J. Smith’s Air Raid scheme while D.C. pounds the ball on the ground in Fres Kaiss’s ground-heavy approach. Houston leads the league with 12 touchdowns through the air and is second with 236.2 passing yards per game. D.C., meanwhile, leads the league with 174 rushing yards per game — nearly double the second-best team.
Which team will be able to better execute its style on Monday night? Houston ranks third in PFF’s rush defense grade while D.C. ranks third in coverage grade, so there doesn’t appear to be a huge advantage for either side.
With little advantage for either side, I’m taking the underdog. Houston has the league’s best defense, which should be no surprise considering they’re coached by an NFL legend in Phillips who is known for scheming up terrific defenses. That alone makes them live in any game. Houston is also no slouch offensively, leading the league with 136 points scored — two more than D.C.
I don’t mind a play on the moneyline but will be targeting the spread myself in what could be a close game.
My best bet: Houston +2.5 (-110 at DraftKings)
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Roughnecks vs Defenders spread analysis
The Defenders are -2.5 favorites across the board as of the time of this writing.
In a league where rushing the ball has been difficult for teams to do consistently, D.C. has been the notable expectation. One of just three teams to average more than 4.0 yards per carry, the Defenders pace the league with 4.6 yards per tote. They have 11 rushing touchdowns, five more than the second-place Roughnecks. Former Baylor Bears standout Abram Smith leads the league in rushing yards (432), rushes of 20+ yards (three), and first down rushes (23) and notched the league’s longest rush with a 70-yard touchdown a week ago.
PFF grades Houston as third in rush defense (75.9) and fourth in tackling (51.2) while being the league’s best overall defense (90.8). They’re a disruptive bunch who lead the league with 19 sacks and have the requisite front seven to keep pace with D.C., unlike many other teams in the XFL. Trent Harris and Tim Ward are two of the best defensive players in the league and will loom large in this showdown.
Houston quarterback Brandon Silvers ranked second in passing yards (1,189) and is tied for first in passing touchdowns (11). He has a terrific group of receivers to throw the ball to in Jontre Kirklin, Travel Harris, and Deontay Burnett. Kirklin, the team’s leading receiver, was placed on IR with a chest injury and will therefore be unavailable for this game. While that’s a significant loss, this roster is stocked with receivers who are ready to contribute. I’m not quite sold on D.C.’s secondary considering it has allowed a whopping 569 passing yards across its last two games.
I’m more confident in Houston on both sides of the ball at this juncture even though the margins are slim, and therefore believe the Roughnecks are the correct side, even on the road.
Roughnecks vs Defenders Over/Under analysis
The total currently ranges from 42 to 43 depending on the book, so be sure to shop around as always.
I’d be inclined to look at the Under in this spot as that’s the way I normally look in D.C. games. The Defenders run the ball well and keep the clock moving on offense while playing solid defense on the other side of the ball. That was my initial handicap on D.C. heading into the season, and while that hasn’t been the case in high-scoring games in recent weeks, I think it could be the case here against a stout Houston defense.
Despite Houston’s reputation for having a high-flying offense, its games haven’t been very high-scoring. All three of the Roughnecks’ games that haven’t come against a pathetic Guardians defense have resulted in a point total of between 35 and 37 points.
Gregg Williams’ aggressive defense will look to put pressure on Silvers, who is without his leading receiver in Kirklin. When D.C. has the ball, it may not find the running lanes so easily against a Phillips defense that has been the class of the XFL thus far.
Roughnecks vs Defenders game info
|Location:||Audi Field, Washington, D.C.|
|Date:||Monday, March 27, 2023|
|Kickoff:||7:00 p.m. ET|