XFL Week 1 Preview and Picks
Feb 8, 2020; Washington, DC, USA; DC Defenders quarterback Cardale Jones (12) passes the ball against the Seattle Dragons in the first quarter during a XFL football game at Audi Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
XFL 2020 opening weekend is here. The league has ramped up its marketing in a big way this weekend, with multiple apps being released and top-tier sponsorships announced. Ticket sales are ahead of schedule and the XFL is all over sports talk radio.
The DC Defenders and Seattle Dragons have already exceeded expectations by selling out Audi Field, which has a seating capacity of just over 20,000. Other venues have opened up additional seating to keep up with the demand. Selling out the opener is an excellent sign for the league.
Seattle Dragons at DC Defenders
Time: 2 p.m.
Line: Defenders -7.5
The first game for this new version of the XFL features former NCAA champion Cardale Jones leading an explosive Defenders lineup that includes Rashad Ross, Donnell Pumphrey, and Jhurrell Pressley. DC is nearly an eight-point favorite, but with the new conversion rules for the XFL, an eight-point lead is not nearly enough. Look for offensive coordinator Mike Riley (Seattle) to get the three-headed running back monster of Farrow, Williams, and Gardner involved early in the contest. Time of possession will be essential for Seattle to pull off the upset.
Prediction: Dragons 39, Defenders 36
Los Angeles Wildcats at Houston Roughnecks
Time: 5 p.m.
Line: Roughnecks -5.5
The Wildcats and Roughnecks have had some interesting last-minute changes at the quarterback position. Connor Cook, the expected starter for Houston, was beaten out for the job by P.J. Walker. Walker, a dual-threat quarterback from Temple, gives the Roughnecks more options offensively, especially in conversion situations. The ability to both run and pass should factor heavily in the XFL this season. For Los Angeles, projected starter Josh Johnson is dealing with a hip injury that will keep him out of the opener. Backup Jalan McClendon gets the nod for the Wildcats. This unanticipated injury for the Wildcats tips the scales in the Roughnecks favor.
Prediction: Houston 33, L.A. 29
Tampa Bay Vipers at New York Guardians
Time: 2 p.m. (Sunday, February 9)
Line: Vipers -2
Former University of Georgia quarterback Aaron Muray leads a talented Vipers squad into New York to battle the Guardians. Murray was last seen with the AAF’s Atlanta Legends. It will be interesting to see how Murray can flourish in the Marc Trestman-led offense. For New York, wide receiver Mekale McKay is exciting to watch. The 6-foot-5 wide receiver was a standout performer with the San Antonio Commanders for the AAF. Another x-factor for the Guardians will be the play of running back Tim Cook. Getting Cook involved in the passing attack will keep this game in reach for the Guardians. This will likely be the closest game of the weekend.
Prediction: Vipers 39, Guardians 37
St. Louis BattleHawks at Dallas Renegades
Time: 5 p.m.
Line: Renegades -10
In the most lopsided line of the weekend, the Dallas Renegades are a 10-point favorite at home against the BattleHawks. This is due largely to the coaching staff of the Renegades, led by Bob Stoops. Stoops won a national title with Oklahoma and is looking to capitalize on that success in the professional game. The only potential setback for the Renegades is the status of starting quarterback Landry Jones. Jones was listed as questionable on the injury report. For the BattleHawks, quarterback Jordan Ta’amu and running back Christine Michael will have to have huge games for St. Louis.
Prediction: Dallas 43, St Louis 27