XFL Week 1 Betting Preview: Who will start the season strong?

Heading into Week 1 of the 2020 XFL season, our handicappers take a look at the four games and make their picks in our XFL Kickoff Week betting preview.

Week 1 of the 2020 XFL season is here and we get our first competitive action from these eight teams. All eight have been on the football field in their preseason scrimmage games, but much like the NFL preseason, there is no reason to buy too much into what we saw in those scrimmages. However, this weekend all eight teams will be putting their much-discussed gameplans into action. Let’s take a look at how our handicappers see Week 1 of the 2020 XFL season taking shape in our betting preview.

At the time of writing, there are no totals available for any of the four games. We will update this article as that information gets unveiled by understandably nervous sportsbooks: it’s a market without much checks-and-balances at this point.

Initially, we will just be looking at the spreads on the games due to the lack of totals availability. Week 1 has seen three home teams made favorites, the D.C. Defenders, Houston Roughnecks, and Dallas Renegades. The only home underdog in this first week is the New York Guardians as they host the Tampa Bay Vipers in MetLife Stadium.

Seattle Dragons @ D.C. Defenders (-6.5) | February 8th, 2 p.m. ET

Chris Smith

“The DC Defenders are my choice to win the XFL Championship in April. I also think they have a clear talent advantage over a Seattle Dragons squad making an 11 a.m. PST kickoff early Saturday. Cardale Jones is an XFL MVP front runner, who, by all accounts, has looked tremendous this preseason in our nation’s capital. The Defenders have a plethora of NFL- caliber talent, specifically at the skill positions. Former Pittsburgh Steelers WR Eli Rodgers and AAF breakout star Rashad Ross are just two of the dangerous weapons keeping Seattle coach Jim Zorn up late this week.

The Dragons, meanwhile, are hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with the Memphis Express connection of QB Brandon Silvers and WR Dontez Byrd. Seattle has what is widely regarded as the least imposing roster in the XFL and I suspect they struggle in the opener against the D.C. Defenders. With the volatility of XFL scoring, there really are no key betting numbers. Therefore, I’ll take the clearly better team at home and lay the 6.5 points in a game I believe the Defenders win going away.”

1u – DC Defenders -6.5 | -110

Los Angeles Wildcats @ Houston Roughnecks (-5.5) | February 8th, 5 p.m. ET

Ben Rolfe

“I was already leaning towards taking the Roughnecks in this one with the roster disparity between the two teams. However, the news that Josh Johnson is now expected to either miss the game or be limited takes away any hesitation for me. The Roughnecks have a better roster on both sides of the ball, and they should be able to win by seven or more points in this one.”

1u – Houston Roughnecks -5.5 | -110

Ryan Gosling

“This is one of the matchups that I am most looking forward to watching. The Houston team is led by head coach June Jones. Jones surrounded himself with quite a bit of talent on the coaching staff and that will have an impact when playing in a new league with new rules. On the other side, the Los Angeles Wildcats have Winston Moss at the helm. They have three capable quarterbacks on the roster, but not very many big-name talents anywhere else.

The talent discrepancy in this one is too evident. Houston quarterback Connor Cook, who had a very impressive career with Michigan State, outclasses any talent that the Wildcats put on the field. The number is too large here, so instead of taking the spread, I will parlay the Roughnecks with the Renegades on the moneyline.” 

1u – Parlay – Dallas moneyline + Houston moneyline

Tampa Bay Vipers @ New York Guardians (+2.5) | February 9th, 2 p.m. ET

Chris Smith

“I mentioned in my preseason preview that I believe the early market has overvalued the Tampa Bay Vipers. The Vipers open the XFL’s first weekend as road favorites in New York against the Guardians. The line could be anywhere from -1.5 to -3 depending on where you look, so make sure you shop around. The New York Guardians have the second-best championship odds, yet open getting points against a team led by Aaron Murray? This makes no sense to me. I actually believe the Vipers have more weapons on the offensive side of the ball than New York. However, the truth is we don’t know for sure what any of these teams will look like over the long haul.

One player Murray will need to pay attention to at all times is AAF standout Jamar Summers. The former UConn cornerback dominated for the Birmingham Iron last spring and could make things difficult for a Vipers offense playing without star wideout Antonio Callaway. There’s nothing sexy about the New York Guardians on offense. Penn State product Matt McGloin is penciled in as the Guardians starter at quarterback. McGloin is a serviceable veteran in a prime spot for success under longtime New York Giants coordinator Kevin Gilbride. I’m grabbing the points with the Guardians as the only home underdog in Week 1.”

1u – New York Guardians +2.5 | -110

St. Louis BattleHawks @ Dallas Renegades (-7.5) | February 9th, 5 p.m. ET

Ben Rolfe

“This is a tough one for me. I really like what the Dallas Renegades have done with their roster, but I also love the decision to name Jordan Ta’amu the quarterback of the BattleHawks roster. For many, the potential loss of Landry Jones for the Renegades is a negative, but I can see Eric Dungey bringing an added dimension to this roster. This could be the highest-scoring game of the weekend, but 7.5 points is a little too much for me to be able to lay with the Renegades, and I simply cannot back the BattleHawks with the Renegades roster.”

Update: “With the news that Philip Nelson will be starting for the Renegades at quarterback and the line having moved to -10 in some places I am now going to look to take the BattleHawks plus the points. Nelson really struggled in his four AAF appearances and I am not expecting much from him in this start. Therefore, 10 points are simply too much for the Renegades to lay without their starting QB.

1u – St. Louis BattleHawks +10 | -110

Ryan Gosling

“The last game of the opening weekend will pit the St. Louis Battlehawks against the Dallas Renegades. The Renegades opened as the favorites to win the inaugural season of the XFL at +300. Coming into this game, they will be welcoming the Battlehawks who opened with the longest odds to win it all (+1000). Is there that much of a discrepancy between these two teams? Or can the Battlehawks shock the world and get a road win in Week 1?

When you look at these two teams on paper, the advantage leans towards the Renegades on both sides of the football. But, the biggest mismatch is in the coaching staff. Renegades head coach Bob Stoops has over 17 years of head coaching experience with the Oklahoma Sooners. Whereas St. Louis is led by former Cincinnati Bengals tight end coach Jonathan Hayes. Stoops will also have Hal Mummes calling the offensive plays. If there is one thing we know about Mummes, its that he isn’t lacking creative offensive gameplans. He is the godfather of the air raid offense and will strive in this new XFL league.

Offensively, the Battlehawks have some interesting weapons. Quarterback Jordan Ta’Amu impressed many throughout camp with both his athleticism and arm. While time will tell with the play at quarterback, the rest of the offense is well rounded with a group of guys including Christine Michael, Matt Jones, L’Damian Washington, and Terrance Williams. The Renegades, on the other hand, have former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Landry Jones, wide receivers Jeff Badet and Jazz Ferguson, and running back Cameron Artis-Payne. The biggest question mark heading into the 2020 XFL season opener, is whether or not Jones will be healthy to start after putting together an impressive minicamp and training camp. If not, Philip Nelson will be able to step in as a capable backup.

The number for this game is high at 8.5. The Renegades are very good, and they will be at home. However, it is too soon in a league that we have never seen before to lay those kind of points. Take the Renegades on the moneyline and parlay them with Houston as mentioned above.”

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