XFL 2023 Week 1 preview: Games, teams, players, what to know

The Rock's reimagined XFL comes with an all-new look (1:58)

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Dany Garcia detail the reimagined XFL and uniforms for all eight teams. (1:58)

This weekend kicks off the newly reimagined XFL under a new ownership group, headed up by Dany Garcia, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and RedBird Capital Partners.

The league will feature eight teams split into two divisions, North and South, and some familiar faces, some of whom saw significant NFL action.

The matchup Sunday will highlight the opening-week slate when former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron leads the St. Louis BattleHawks against the San Antonio Brahmas. McCarron led the Crimson Tide to two BCS titles and started the 2015 wild-card game for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Saturday's matchup includes former NFL All-Pro defensive end Vic Beasley, who will play with the Vegas Vipers against the Arlington Renegades.

Each team will debut new and improved uniforms, which were revealed in December.

Teams will play 10 games on consecutive weekends through April 23, including semifinal playoff games April 29-30. The championship game is scheduled for May 13. Lines are provided by Caesars Sportsbook.

Vegas Vipers at Arlington Renegades

Saturday, 3 p.m. ET | ABC, ESPN+
Spread: ARL -3.0 (37.5)

The Vipers are loaded with NFL experience, as the trio of Beasley, wide receiver Martavis Bryant and quarterback Brett Hundley were active for a combined 142 NFL games. The opposite sideline features former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, who won a national championship with the Sooners in 2000 and is the winningest coach in Oklahoma history with a record of 191-48.

Players to watch: Beasley was a 2015 first-round pick for the Atlanta Falcons and led the NFL in sacks in 2016 (15.5). Bryant played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Las Vegas Raiders and had 17 career receiving touchdowns in his four seasons. Renegades running back Keith Ford played for the Buffalo Bills in 2018 and had 79 yards on 21 carries. Renegades quarterback Kyle Sloter was selected in the first round of the 2022 USFL draft and was All-USFL quarterback last season.

Orlando Guardians at Houston Roughnecks

Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET | FX, ESPN, ESPN+
Spread: HOU -2.5 (36.5)

The Guardians are led by Denver Broncos 2016 first-round pick quarterback Paxton Lynch. Lynch is the only XFL quarterback who was once a first rounder in the NFL. The Houston Roughnecks have a coach, Wade Phillips, with immense NFL experience. Phillips has coached for 10 NFL franchises dating back to 1976, including as head coach for the Broncos, Bills and Dallas Cowboys.

Players to watch: In his two seasons with the Broncos, Lynch started four games, threw four touchdown passes with four interceptions, 792 passing yards and a 61.7% completion percentage. Guardians wide receiver Charleston Rambo wrapped up his college career with Miami, finishing with 1,172 yards 79 receptions, and seven touchdowns. Rambo spent 2022 training camp with the Carolina Panthers. Roughnecks quarterback Cole McDonald was a seventh-round pick by the Tennessee Titans in 2020.

St. Louis BattleHawks at San Antonio Brahmas

Sunday, 3 p.m. ET | ABC, ESPN+
STL -2.0 (36.5)

One of the most notable players in the XFL is McCarron, who will quarterback the BattleHawks. McCarron had a decorated college career at Alabama and was picked in the 2014 NFL draft by the Bengals, where he played four seasons as a backup. He then went on to play for the Oakland Raiders and most recently the Houston Texans. The Brahmas have hired Steelers legend Hines Ward as both their coach and general manager. Along with a 13-year playing career highlighted by being named MVP of Super Bowl XL, Ward has four seasons of coaching experience, most recently as the wide receivers coach at Florida Atlantic in 2021.

Players to watch: Brahmas running back Kalen Ballage was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in 2018 and played for the New York Jets, Los Angeles Chargers and Steelers, scoring seven rushing touchdowns in his career. McCarron played in the NFL for six seasons, and in 16 games played he threw six touchdown passes with three interceptions and has 1,173 passing yards and a 62.6% completion percentage. BattleHawks wide receiver Marcell Ateman was the second pick in the XFL draft. He was drafted in the seventh round in 2018 by the Oakland Raiders.

Seattle Sea Dragons at D.C. Defenders

Sunday, 8 p.m. ET | ESPN, ESPN+
EVEN (36.5)

This game features a matchup between the XFL's No. 1 overall pick, Defenders running back Abram Smith, and the Sea Dragons' Josh Gordon, a former NFL All-Pro receiver. Gordon played for the Cleveland Browns for four seasons and in the past five years has played for the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs and Titans.

Players to watch: Gordon led the NFL in receiving yards in 2013, with 1,646 for the Browns to earn All-Pro honors. Gordon also won a Super Bowl with the Patriots in 2018. Smith spent 2022 training camp with the New Orleans Saints after finishing his Baylor career by breaking the school's single-season rushing record with 1,601 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2021.