The Seattle Dragons (1-1) will be looking for their second win of the XFL season on Saturday when they play host to the Dallas Renegades (1-1). This will be a battle of teams looking to continue to build confidence on both sides of the ball, along with keeping pace with the Houston Roughnecks in the XFL West.
Seattle showed some great resilience in their 17-9 win over the Tampa Bay Vipers last Saturday afternoon in front of 29,172 fans at CenturyLink Field — the largest showing for any XFL crowd this season. They forced three Tampa Bay turnovers, played great defense in the red zone, and dialed up the pressure on the Vipers offense at the right time. Offensively, the Dragons showed they are still a work in progress; Brandon Silvers only completed 39 percent of his passes for 91 yards. The big play of the game was a Keenan Reynolds 68-yard touchdown reception that pulled Seattle within a field goal at 9-6. That explosive play carried over to the defense as Marcell Frazier's one-yard pick-six gave the Dragons a 14-9 lead that would hold up the rest of the way.
It took a little while for Dallas to get going on Sunday, but the Renegades found a way to win in knocking off the Los Angeles Wildcats, 25-18. Landry Jones completed 28-of-40 passes for 305 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. Those numbers should steadily improve as Jones gets back into the rhythm of playing every week. Cameron Artis-Payne carried the ball 14 times for 99 yards and scored a couple of touchdowns. The defense kept Los Angeles in check for the most part and they limited the Wildcats to just 57 rushing yards on 18 attempts — a recipe for a lot of success for the Renegades.
Dallas at Seattle
Kickoff: Saturday, Feb. 22 at 5 p.m. ET
Where: CenturyLink Field (Seattle)
Spread: Renegades -4.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Seattle offense
Brandon Silvers will be further under the microscope this week since fans will not tolerate another week of a completion percentage of less than 40 percent and a stagnant offense. B.J. Daniels provides more mobility, and, with the offensive line issues that Seattle is working through, it will be interesting to see if Daniels gets more game reps. Seattle will also have to address its issue of keeping drives alive; the Dragons converted just 20 percent of their third-down opportunities last week. Staying patient with the running game by feeding Trey Williams, Kenneth Farrow, and Ja’Quan Gardner the rock and setting up short, manageable third-down opportunities.
2. Dallas defense
This unit was locked in during the first three quarters when they held the Wildcats to just three points and forced a couple of turnovers. Things got a little interesting in the fourth quarter as Los Angeles did put 15 points on the board, including the first successful three-point PAT in league history. Linebacker Greer Martini had a big day for Dallas with five tackles and a fumble recovery to set the tone for the rest of the defense. The next step in the evolution for this Renegades defense will be to get off of the field on third down. Josh Johnson and the Wildcats converted 7-of-13 third-down situations. That can’t happen this week up in Seattle because they need to get the ball back to their offense as quickly as possible in order to get the win on Saturday.
3. Seattle defense
This will be a big test for the Dragons defense. The Renegades' Air Raid offensive attack has the potential to stress a defense at any moment. Playing sound football and executing individual assignments will play a big factor in Seattle’s success this week. Linebacker Steven Johnson stepped up in a big way last week with 10 tackles and two tackles for a loss — and this comes after racking up eight tackles in Week 1. Cornerback Steve Williams had seven tackles and 1.5 sacks last week as well. It is going to be very important this week for Seattle to generate pressure from all angles and make Landry Jones uncomfortable in the pocket. Getting off the field on third down is going to be another key to victory for the Dragons. Seattle allowed Tampa Bay to convert 9-of-17 on third down, and that number won’t get the job done this week against a Dallas offense that can move the ball well down the field. The good news is that red zone defense has been perhaps the Dragons' biggest strength. Opponents have failed to convert any red zone opportunities against them so far this season.
There is something about football games at CenturyLink Field that tend to provide a ton of drama no matter what league is involved. This week should provide more of the same as the crowd of just under 30 thousand did a great job of providing a loud environment for Seattle. The noise should give the Dragons defensive line that extra split-second advantage to cause havoc in the Dallas backfield. Pre-snap penalties for the Renegades are also something to keep an eye on. Seattle will come up with a couple of explosive plays on offense to give them just enough to pull off the upset over Dallas in another dramatic affair for a national television audience on FOX.
Prediction: Dragons 19, Renegades 17
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ScottWhittum.