XFL Week 1 preview and picks: Vipers to strike, value with BattleHawks
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The NFL season may be over, but that doesn't mean betting on football has to end. The XFL starts this weekend with four games on the schedule.

Here are the picks for this weekend's games.

Seattle Dragons at DC Defenders (-6.5)

The Defenders are one of the favorites to win the XFL championship at 5-1. DC may be the strongest team on paper, especially with a defense that includes a plethora of former NFL players and an offense led by quarterback Cardale Jones (Los Angeles Chargers/Buffalo Bills) and receiver Eli Rogers (Pittsburgh Steelers). The Defenders also hired former NFL assistant Pep Hamilton as head coach, and he brought in one of the XFL's top staffs.

Seattle enters the year with the longest odds to win the title at 10-1, and I have the Dragons as the lowest-ranked team in my power rankings heading into Week 1. Jim Zorn was an uninspiring hire as head coach, while the quarterback combo of B.J. Daniels and Brandon Silvers could be the least effective in the league.

DC is my pick to win the first XFL championship, and while it's typically not a good idea to lay close to a touchdown early in new leagues, the Defenders look to be 10-plus points better than Seattle.

Pick: Defenders -6.5

Los Angeles Wildcats at Houston Roughnecks (-4.5)

This is the Week 1 line that doesn't make a ton of sense. The Wildcats are 5-1 to win the XFL title and the Roughnecks are 8-1, yet Los Angeles is getting 4.5 points. The game is in Houston but home field doesn't mean nearly as much in new leagues as it does in the NFL.

The Wildcats have one of the XFL's top quarterbacks in Josh Johnson and a defense that looks to be loaded. Johnson missed practice this week with a thigh injury but is expected to play Saturday. Meanwhile, Roughnecks head coach June Jones is handing the keys to his high-powered offense over to Connor Cook. Looking over these two rosters and coaching staffs, Los Angeles appears to have a slight edge in both departments. Take the points on the road.

Pick: Wildcats +4.5

Tampa Bay Vipers (-3) at New York Guardians

Some are surprised to see New York as a home underdog in Week 1, but the Vipers are clearly one of the best teams in the league. Both squads enter the season at 4-1 to win it all, though you have to wonder how 68-year-old Kevin Gilbride, who often clashed with NFL players (especially quarterbacks), will do building a team from scratch.

The Vipers should be exciting under the offensive-oriented Marc Trestman, and Aaron Murray is an underrated quarterback who performed well for a bad Atlanta team in the AAF. New York has what is probably the most unproven roster in the XFL, making it overvalued as a league favorite in the futures market. The Vipers should be road favorites here. Don't be surprised if they win the opener easily.

Pick: Vipers -3

St. Louis BattleHawks at Dallas Renegades (-8)

The BattleHawks are the most undervalued team in the betting market entering the season, which is likely due to their unproven head coach, former NFL tight end Jonathan Hayes. St. Louis has the second-longest odds to win it all at 8-1 and is over a touchdown underdog in Week 1.

The Renegades are the favorites to win the XFL championship at 3-1, as they should be with Bob Stoops as head coach and former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Landry Jones under center. However, Jones is dealing with a knee injury and may not play Sunday, leaving Phillip Nelson as the likely starter versus St. Louis.

I bet both DC and Dallas to win the inaugural championship, but eight points are too much to give a quality BattleHawks squad, especially with Jones' status in serious doubt. I'll take the points in what should be a more competitive game than oddsmakers are projecting.

Pick: BattleHawks +8

Thomas Casale is theScore's supervising editor of sports betting. He's been following the sports betting industry for almost 30 years. A devoted fan of the wishbone offense, Thomas bets on all sports but specializes in college football, NFL, and college basketball. Find him on Twitter @TheTomCasale.

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XFL Week 1 preview and picks: Vipers to strike, value with BattleHawks
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