The NFL season might be over, but the XFL season is just getting started.
Back for the first time since its short-lived debut in 2001, Vince McMahon’s revived football league kicks off this weekend with four different matchups and all eight of the XFL’s new franchises in action.
If you’re looking for more background on the XFL and what it’ll be like, CBS Sports’ Ben Kercheval dove into all of the league’s key components in our official 2020 XFL Viewer’s Guide.
Once you’re locked and loaded for the XFL season, however, you might still be wondering which team you should be pulling for. Or, better yet, which teams are going to be good and which teams, well, aren’t.
Well guess what? We’ve got XFL Power Rankings!
Having literally never seen any of the XFL’s eight teams play a football game, you might think we’re ridiculously unqualified to tell you who’s capable of contending for a title come April 26, the date of the 2020 championship. But if you’ve ever read any sort of power rankings before, you should know by now that even the biggest of experts have no clue what’s going to happen from week to week. So in that sense, we’re probably more qualified than most! Think of it like a March Madness bracket; you and your sports-nut buddies can obsess all over your picks, but you know darn well it’s the guy in the corner of the office who never watches basketball that’s going to luck his way into the prize.
At any rate, this is the space where we’ll navigate the 2020 XFL season together, and rest assured that as the weeks unfold, we’ll be keeping you up to date with who’s hot and who’s not. For now, in preparation of this weekend’s kickoff, here’s your not-so-stone-cold-lock of a Week 1 pecking order:
1. DC Defenders
OK, so all that talk about not knowing who’s going to be good and who’s not? Forget it. Wipe it from your memory banks. Consider it hogwash. At least regarding DC. If the Defenders aren’t vying for the championship in April, I promise you I’ll only eat two boxes of Girl Scout Thin Mints instead of three during that month. Firstly, their uniform is the cleanest of the crop. Call it boring if you want, but those are the crisp red and whites I want my team rocking for the title game. More importantly, they’ve got incredibly underrated talent that should thrive at the XFL level: Cardale Jones at quarterback, Eli Rogers at receiver and three legitimate NFL-caliber defensive backs in Matt Elam, Shamarko Thomas and Rahim Moore.
2. Dallas Renegades
Riding high on Dallas football teams is usually a recipe for disaster, but this is different, mainly because they could’ve called this team the Oklahoma Renegades and gotten away with it. Bob Stoops and Landry Jones? That combo alone gives them such a level-up on experience — at the game’s two most important spots, head coach and QB. They’ve also got Daryl Johnston pulling the strings in the personnel department, so they’ll have some draw for any potential big-name acquisitions. Oh, and their unis are just as, if not more, sleek than DC’s getup.
3. Los Angeles Wildcats
Their offensive skill positions don’t pop off the page, but they’ve been diligent about keeping Josh Johnson, the longtime NFL backup, atop their QB depth chart, going so far as to block the Detroit Lions from re-signing him during the 2019 season. His experience is a big plus. Even bigger: They’ve got a proven defensive mind running their sidelines in Winston Moss, with some really underrated pieces for his side of the ball — ex-Lions pass rusher Devin Taylor, former Baylor giant Shawn Oakman and former Philadelphia Eagles safety Jerome Couplin among them. Nick Novak is a sneakily solid guy to round out the special teams unit, too.
4. Tampa Bay Vipers
The oddsmakers love them entering this season, but the season-ending injury to former Cleveland Browns speedster Antonio Callaway, just recently added to Marc Trestman’s offense, will hurt more than they realize. Aaron Murray is a familiar and intriguing face at QB, but where is his supporting cast? Ex-USF athlete Quinton Flowers and former NFL backup WR Tanner McEvoy are potential role players, and Trestman’s got a nice non-NFL track record, but they don’t necessarily seem like world-beaters. They also deserve to be punished for replicating Oregon’s uniforms.
5. New York Guardians
They’ve got a two-time Super Bowl champion for a head coach in Kevin Gilbride, so that counts for something. Their QB room is also one of the most underrated in the league, with former AAF phenom Luis Perez joining Matt McGloin via a trade with Los Angeles. They’re going to need a bunch of young guys to make a name for themselves if they want to make any noise, though.
6. St. Louis BattleHawks
Coach Jonathan Hayes, formerly the longtime tight ends coach for the Cincinnati Bengals, has never overseen a staff before, but he’s actually got a solid crop of core, developmental pieces at some key spots — former Minnesota Vikings reserve Taylor Heinicke at QB, ex-Washington Redskins starter Matt Jones at running back, 6-foot-6 NFL prospect Carlton Agudosi at WR, former Florida and NFL standout Will Hill at safety. They might stumble their way to a surprisingly decent record.
7. Houston Roughnecks
June Jones brings some offensive promise to the team at head coach, but let’s be honest: It probably would’ve been better — or at least more explosive, for better or worse — had Jones actually reunited with Johnny Manziel here. QB Connor Cook and WR Sammie Coates are “big” names, but they’re about all the Roughnecks have in the way of proven playmakers going into the year.
8. Seattle Dragons
It’d be great if we could hype up Jim Zorn’s return to Seattle, but that would require being excited about the roster at his disposal. Brandon Silvers flashed a bit in the AAF, but regardless of whether he or B.J. Daniels takes most of the reps at QB, these Dragons are going to have a hard time breathing fire.