Defenders defense stuffs Dragons, Roughnecks rough up Guardians

If you are already missing football, then you’re in luck, because a new league kicks off this weekend. The XFL is back, and there’s plenty to be intrigued by this spring. Rod Woodson and Hines Ward are new head coaches, there are some new rule changes to keep an eye on and then the rosters include some names all football fans will know.

Former All-Pro wideout Josh Gordon is a member of the Seattle Sea Dragons, former Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Martavis Bryant is with the Vegas Vipers and even one of the most famous NFL punters from the past decade returns to the field, as Marquette King is booting the ball for the Arlington Renegades.

One of the most fun aspects about this league is that we don’t know what to expect. So naturally, we are going to blindly gamble on it. Every week, I’ll be posting my ATS picks for the XFL on Let’s go ahead and jump into Week 1. To view our XFL Week 1 Power Rankings, click here.

All odds are via Caesars Sportsbook

Vegas Vipers at Arlington Renegades (-2.5)
Saturday, 3 p.m. ET (ABC)

This is Bob Stoops vs. Rod Woodson. Stoops’ Renegades could be the preseason No. 1 team, as they have an impressive coaching staff, a quarterback in Kyle Sloter and a star tight end in Sal Canella — who played with Sloter in the USFL. I will say, Sloter didn’t play as well as I thought he would for the New Orleans Breakers — even though he was named All-USFL. Sloter threw the second-most interceptions with 12, compared to just nine touchdowns. That said, I still believe he has potential, and could be one of the better signal-callers.

Vipers quarterback Luis Perez is a spring league veteran, and he has a few notable targets like Geronimo Allison, Jeff Badet and Martavis Bryant. But I’m interested to see how good this defense is. That unit has former NFL sack leader Vic Beasley coming off the edge. Most will likely have the Renegades winning this game, but I’m going to go out on a limb and take the underdog Vipers. Coach Woodson starts the season off with an upset victory.

The pick: Vipers +2.5
Projected score: Vipers 24-21

Orlando Guardians at Houston Roughnecks (-2)
Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

If you look around at different XFL power rankings, the majority of sportswriters are expecting the Guardians to be the worst team in the league. While that means absolutely nothing, I see where they are getting that from. The quarterback room consists of Deondre Francois, Quinten Dormady and Paxton Lynch. Orlando does have some playmakers at wide receiver, however. Cody Latimer and Eli Rogers may be players you recognize, and then JaVonta Payton led the SEC with 22.9 yards per catch in 2021 at Tennessee (min. one reception per game).

I’m not sure the Roughnecks have an elite quarterback room either, but Wade Phillips is a good coach. If you’re a Maryland Terrapins fan, the Roughnecks are the team for you (behind the D.C. Defenders, of course). They have four former Terps in the secondary with Sean Davis, A.J. Hendy, William Likely and Jordan Mosley. The Roughnecks were the XFL’s best team in 2020, going a perfect 5-0 before the league shut down due to COVID-19. I’ll lay the points with the favorites.

The pick: Roughnecks -2
Projected score: Roughnecks 16-7

St. Louis Battlehawks (-2) at San Antonio Brahmas
Sunday, 3 p.m. ET (ABC)

A.J. McCarron is likely going to be leading the Battlehawks into … battle, and I think he could impress some people in this league. He has a big target in Hakeem Butler out of Iowa State, who was a fourth-round pick back in 2019, but didn’t catch on at the next level. As for the Brahmas, you’ll recognize running back Kalen Ballage and of course head coach Hines Ward. Some think San Antonio could be an underrated team. Maybe it is, but I’m going to lean to McCarron in Week 1.

The pick: Battlehawks -2
Projected score: Battlehawks 23-20

Seattle Sea Dragons at DC Defenders (PICK)
Sunday, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)

The Defenders are the No. 1 team in Bryan DeArdo’s power rankings, so I’m going to have to roll with them. I haven’t watched much of quarterback Eric Dungey, so that’s going to be an interesting storyline to follow. I’m curious to see if he’s the best quarterback on roster with Jordan Ta’amu and D’Eriq King there as well, but I’m picking D.C. because of its defense. Gregg Williams is a very well-known NFL assistant/villain, and then linebacker Reggie Northrup is a veteran linebacker and MMA fighter that takes the practice field with a cigarette in his mouth.

I think Seattle is an interesting team — especially with Josh Gordon at receiver. Ben DiNucci could be a solid quarterback as well. Jim Haslett is an experienced defensive mind, but I’m going to ride with the Defenders.

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