• D.C. Defenders (3-4) at St. Louis Battlehawks (5-2)
  • Sunday, May 19 at 11:00 AM CT (12:00 PM ET)
  • The Dome at America’s Center, St. Louis, MO
  • Tickets: Ticketmaster and Stubhub
  • Network: ABC (Streaming)
  • Announcers: Mike Monaco (Play-by-Play), Sam Acho (Analyst), Stormy Buonantony (Sideline Reporter), Cole Cubelic (Sideline Reporter)
  • Odds: St. Louis 8, O/U 43.5 (DraftKings)

This is the second of two meetings between the D.C. Defenders and St. Louis Battlehawks.

The Defenders lead the all-time series 2-1. During the COVID-shortened 2020 season, D.C. beat St. Louis in week five at Audi Field (15-6). Last year, D.C. defeated St. Louis in week three at Audi Field (34-28) and week five at The Dome at America’s Center (28-20). In week five of this season, the Defenders fell to the Battlehawks (45-12) at Audi Field, the first loss for D.C. since the intense rivalry began.

A Battlehawks win over Washington, D.C., would clinch them a spot in the XFL Conference Championship Game. A D.C. loss could eliminate them from the playoffs if the Brahmas beat the Arlington Renegades in a 3:00 PM CT game that will be held after this matchup.

What do we know?

The D.C. Defenders are coming off a home loss to Michigan, where the Panthers mauled them 22-9. The Panthers ran the ball down D.C.’s throats, while the Defenders were unable to match Michigan’s offensive effort.

Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu completed 10 passes on 14 attempts for 127 yards and one touchdown before sustaining a concussion on a huge sack by Breeland Speaks. Backup quarterback Jalen McClendon came in and completed nine passes on 14 attempts for 73 yards. Injury reports indicate Ta’amu is ready to go for this Week 8 game.

Wide receiver Ty Scott had a game-high 87 yards on two receptions, including a 70-yard touchdown, in the team’s Week 7 loss to Michigan. His touchdown catch from Jordan Ta’amu was the team’s longest offensive play of the season at 70 yards. Kelvin Harmon currently ranks third in the UFL with 375 receiving yards on 31 catches through seven weeks, finding the end zone three times. Statistically, D.C. struggles with offensive production, ranking 7th in the UFL with 121 total points scored (17.3 PPG).

The Defenders are 2nd in kick return yards (774 yards), 24.2 ypg, and 3rd in punt return yards (136 yards, 10.5 avg, and 29 long). Wide receiver Chris Rowland continues to lead the UFL in all-purpose yards through seven games (924 total yards): 692 kickoff return yards, 152 receiving yards, 61 punt return yards, and 19 rushing yards, in addition to two touchdowns.

Defensive end Malik Fisher is having a standout season in his second year with the Defenders. His 5.0 sacks currently tie him for third place in the UFL. Cornerback Michael Joseph has a team-high 54 total tackles (45 solo, 9 assists), which ranks third in the UFL through seven weeks. Joseph’s 45 solo tackles lead the league, along with 5 tackles for loss, 6 pass breakups, and a forced fumble. Defensively, D.C. ranks 6th in the UFL with 172 total points allowed (24.6 PPG), but leads the league in both total tackles (489) and solo tackles (313) through seven games.

Kicker Matthew McCrane hit a 37-yard field goal in the loss against Michigan but uncharacteristically missed on a 43-yard attempt.

In Week 7, the St. Louis Battlehawks traveled to Birmingham to take on the venerable Stallions, with the Stallions coming out ahead, 30-26, in a close game. The Battlehawks held the lead twice in the second half, but Birmingham stormed back both times. The Stallions took the lead for good with 5 minutes, 23 seconds left in the game when QB Adrian Martinez connected with WR Kevin Austin Jr. for a 40-yard touchdown pass.

Running back Jacob Saylors had an all-star performance and set several team and personal marks in Week 7, as he scored a career-high three touchdowns, including two rushing touchdowns, along with a 2-point conversion to account for 20 of the Battlehawks’ 26 points against the Stallions.

In the Birmingham game, Quarterback A.J. McCarron maintained his streak of at least one touchdown pass in every game he has played for the Battlehawks with an 8-yard strike to RB Jacob Saylors that gave St. Louis a 20-17 lead with 6:17 remaining in the third quarter. The touchdown pass was McCarron’s UFL-leading 14th of the season.

McCarron finished the loss to Birmingham 19-for-32 with 161 passing yards, a touchdown, and an interception, however he was taken out of the game in the fourth quarter after sustaining a lower body injury. Recent injury reports have confirmed McCarron to be sitting this game out. On Sunday, look for Manny Wilkins to be the Battlehawks starting pivot.

The St. Louis offense will also be without injured wide receivers Jahcour Pearson (ankle) and Marcell Ateman (illness).

The St. Louis passing game ranks third in the UFL with 196.7 yards per game and features WR Hakeem Butler, who led the team in receptions and receiving yards for the third straight game. He hauled in seven passes for 89 yards against Birmingham, leading all UFL receivers with 567 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns. His team-leading 38 catches are tied for the second-most in the league at 14.9 yards per reception ranking sixth in the league (min. 10 receptions).

The Battlehawks have also protected the ball as well as any team in the league this season. Their six giveaways (3 fumbles lost, 3 interceptions) are tied with the Arlington Renegades for the fewest in the UFL through the first seven weeks of the season. St. Louis has also scored a league-leading 49 points off of turnovers this season, 13 points more than the next-closest team, Birmingham, with 36. St. Louis has produced all but three of those points in its last four games.

The Battlehawks will bring its top-ranked pass defense into its Week 8 matchup against D.C., a team that has passed for the fewest yards in the XFL Conference by more than 100 yards and the second-fewest in the UFL. St. Louis has held opponents to 1,020 passing yards for an average of 145.7 passing yards per game.

What should we expect?

Oddsmakers gave the Battlehawks an 8-point edge in this game, and this is based on the St. Louis record and offensive production, combined with the fact they have a genuine home-field advantage by playing in The Dome in front of their raucous fans.

This game will be interesting, especially with the Battlehawks missing offensive weapons and, most importantly, quarterback A.J. McCarron. Although, the Defenders will have the use of their own weapon, Jordan Ta’amu, he is coming off a week where he was concussed and may still be feeling the effects of the giant hit he took at the hands of Breeland Speaks.

When it comes to securing a spot in the XFL Conference playoff game, both teams need this win. For D.C., without a win this week they may be eliminated from playoff contention. This fact should motivate the Defenders.

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