Game Preview: Arlington Renegades at Houston Roughnecks, Sunday 21 April, 2024

  • Arlington Renegades (0-3) at Houston Roughnecks (0-3)
  • Sunday, April 21 at 1:00 PM CT (2:00PM ET)
  • Rice Stadium, Houston, TX
  • Tickets: Ticketmaster and Stubhub
  • Network: FS1
  • Announcers: Kevin Kugler (Play-By-Play), Joel Klatt (Booth Analyst), and Devin Gardner (Sideline Reporter)
  • Odds: Arlington -2.5, O/U 46.5 (DraftKings)

The Houston Roughnecks meet the Arlington Renegades for the fifth time and the first time under head coach C.J. Johnson. Houston is 3-1 versus their North Texas neighbors. The last time the two teams met was in the 2023 XFL South Division Championship, ending in a Renegades 26-11 win.

Technically, this is the first meeting between the two franchises, if you consider how the UFL’s Houston Roughnecks is a rebranding of the former USFL Houston Gamblers.

Both teams are 0-3, and they are in the basement of their respective conferences. However, both teams are better than their records, and they have faced similar circumstances that have left them winless. One of these two teams will put a notch in the win column, and the other will sink further into the conference standings as a winless team.

What do we know?

The Houston Roughnecks traveled north to the Motor City last week in search of their first win of the season versus fellow USFL conference opponent, the Michigan Panthers. Things started off well for quarterback Reid Sinnett, who was starting in place of the injured Jarrett Guarantano, as he capped off the opening drive with a touchdown run to make it 8-0 after the two-point conversion. However, Michigan soon took over the scoring, and their defense was able to stifle the Roughnecks, leading to a 34-14 win for the Panthers.

In week three, Quarterback Reid Sinnett had a respectable 19-28 passing for 197 yards and a touchdown. During the season, he has completed 38 passes on 59 attempts for 418 yards, two touchdowns, and only one interception. Currently, he holds the 8th position in the league among quarterbacks.

The Roughnecks top two receivers have been Kirk Merritt (113 yds) and Emmanuel Butler (110 yds), but neither has scored a touchdown.

On the ground, the Roughnecks top running back has been T.J. Pledger, with 31 carries for 95 yards on the season. Other than Pledger, quarterback Jarrett Guarantano has been the most effective on the ground for Houston. However, this week, running back Mark Thompson is scheduled to return to play after being injured in training camp.

The Houston Gamblers selected Thompson in the 28th round (227th overall) of the 2022 USFL draft, and he served as the team’s main running back, appearing in nine games, starting seven, and posting a team-leading 114 rush attempts for 463 yards (a 4.1 average), with two touchdowns on the ground and two more in the air. Thompson returned to the Gamblers for the 2023 season and became one of the top USFL running backs, appearing in eight games and carrying the ball 135 times for 655 yards while scoring a league-leading 14 touchdowns. Thompson was drafted by Houston through the UFL dispersal process but has never played a down for the Roughnecks until this game.

On defense, the one bright spot is that the Roughnecks’ defense is tied for second (Birmingham Stallions) in the UFL with total tackles for loss with 17.

On special teams Kicker J.J. Molson is a bright spot for the Roughnecks, as he was 2-2 on field goals in week three, making him a perfect 6-6 on the season.

Last week, in a rematch of the 2023 XFL Championship, the Renegades suffered their third consecutive loss on Saturday afternoon to the D.C. Defenders. Although they led by ten with under two minutes to go, D.C. would find the end zone and convert a 4th and 12 to retain possession of the football before hitting a walkoff game-winning field goal.

The Renegades managed to dominate the time of possession (39:24-20:32) and total yards (419-259) against the dominant Defenders but remained winless in the 2024 UFL season.

QB Luis Perez has returned right where he left off in 2023, as the Renegades offense has ranked as the fourth-best scoring unit through three weeks of play. Perez has completed 66% of his passes for 737 yards (1st in the UFL), 4 touchdowns, and 1 interception, in addition to two carries for six yards. Perez had his best performance of the season in week three versus D.C., going 24-40 (60%) for 290 yards (most in a game this season by a UFL QB), 2 scores, and no turnovers.

Arlington QB Lindsey Scott Jr. has now scored back-to-back rushing touchdowns for the Renegades this season. He has been more involved in the offense in weeks two and three, going 2-3 (66.7%) for 15 passing yards, along with seven carries for 33 yards and two touchdowns.

Also back with the Renegades in 2024 is running back De’Veon Smith. In the 2023 XFL, Smith pounded in seven rushing touchdowns, which was tied for the best in the league. In week two of the UFL season, Smith scored his first touchdown of the year from three yards out in the third quarter. Through the first three weeks of this season, Smith has amassed 30 carries for 103 rushing yards (5th in the UFL) and a score, to go along with four catches for 63 receiving yards.

Running back Leddie Brown has also taken to the ground for the Renegades this season. Through three games this year, Brown has compiled 25 carries for 89 yards (9th in the UFL) on the ground, in addition to seven catches for 60 yards through the air.

Arlington tight end Sal Cannella has caught ten passes for 107 yards and a touchdown through three games this year. His first touchdown of the season came at St. Louis in week two from six yards out in the third quarter.

Through three games played this season, Arlington’s offensive unit has been rolling, scoring 66 points (22 PPG), which ranks fourth in the UFL. The team ranks second in total yards (968), first in passing yards (715), and fourth in rushing yards (253). The Renegades have posted a league-best 62.5% conversion rate on third-down attempts (25–40) and have the second-most first-downs in the league (59).

Renegades DL Jalen Redmond has had a solid start to the year after posting four total tackles (3 solo, 1 assist), two sacks, and two tackles for loss in week two at St. Louis. The Arlington LB duo of Marquel Lee and Donald Payne has been leading the defense through the first three weeks. Lee has a team-high 19 total tackles (10 solo, 9 assists) on the season (T-10th in the UFL), along with 1 TFL and 1 PBU. Donald Payne, who returns to the hub city after winning the 2023 XFL Championship, is a close second on the team with 18 total tackles (9 solo, 9 assists).

What should we expect?

In this game, expect plenty of ball time for Houston running back Mark Thompson. Arlington knows this, and they’ll work hard to thwart his efforts. However, Thompson has been absent from the game for a while and is eager to participate and demonstrate his abilities. It may be a battle to watch in this game.

Arlington is one of the best offensive squads in the league, and they should hit the scoreboard early and often in this game. Houston, on the other hand, is struggling both on offense and defense, mainly due to injuries. It may be a long day for the Roughnecks.

Oddsmakers have made Arlington 2.5 point favorites in this game. Take the spread and put your money on the Renegades.

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