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XFL 2023: D.C. Defenders Regular Season Schedule Breakdown/Review

XFL 2023 unveiled its entire season schedule today. All 43 games, including the league’s two semifinal playoff contests and the championship game on May 13th, will be featured on a combination of ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and FX telecasts. On top of that, All XFL games will be streamed live on ESPN+ in 142 countries worldwide.

The D.C. Defenders will kick off their season Sunday Night, February 19th, at Audi Field against the Seattle Sea Dragons. A Week 1 rematch from the 2020 season opener. The game will air on ESPN at 8 pm ET.

Season tickets are now available at, and single-game tickets will go on sale on January 12th, 2023. Season tickets have two membership levels, gold, and silver, which include exclusive benefits such as priority access to fan events, game day access to on-field experiences, merchandise discounts, and much more.

The XFL also announced their divisional alignment for the 2023 season. The Defenders will inhabit the North along with the St. Louis Battlehawks, Vegas Vipers, and their week one opponent Seattle. The South will be comprised of the XFL’s three Texas teams, San Antonio, Houston, and Arlington. With the Orlando Guardians rounding out the Southern division.

The Defenders and the entire league have opened training camp in Arlington, Texas, where the centralized hub will see all eight teams paired together at specific locations for training. The Defenders and Battlehawks will share Vernon Newsom Stadium in Mansfield, Texas, as they prep for the season opener. The onboarding process has begun, and practices will start on January 14th.

XFL: D.C. Defenders 2023 Regular Season Schedule

I couldn’t be more fired up about our slate of games,” said Defenders Head Coach Reggie Barlow. “To play the first Sunday night game at Audi Field in front of our great fans is huge. The dynamics of playing in different cities, climates, and time zones on a week-to-week basis will challenge both our coaches and players physically and mentally. However, we are more than ready for this. Let’s get loud, and let’s get ready, D.C.!”

2023 D.C. Defenders 2023 Schedule Breakdown/Review

1Sunday, February 19th, 20238:00 PMvs. Seattle Sea DragonsESPN
2Saturday, February 25th, 20237:00 PMat Vegas VipersFX
3Sunday, March 5th, 20231:00 PMvs. St. Louis BattlehawksFX
4Sunday, March 12th, 20237:00 PMvs. Vegas VipersESPN2
5Saturday, March 18th, 20237:00 PMat St. Louis BattlehawksFX
6Monday, March 27th, 20237:00 PMvs. Houston RoughnecksFX
7Sunday, April 2nd, 20237:00 PMat Orlando GuardiansFX
8Sunday, April 9th, 20237:00 PMat Seattle Sea DragonsESPN2
9Sunday, April 16th, 202312:00 PMvs. Arlington RenegadesESPN
10Saturday, April 22nd, 20233:00 PMat San Antonio BrahmasABC

Week 1: Sunday Night, February 19th, 2023, Home for Seattle 8 PM ET (ESPN): The Beer Snake returns at Audi Field in Week 1 as the Defenders open their season against the Dragons. The first of two Sunday night meetings during the 2023 season between Reggie Barlow’s D.C. squad and Jim Haslett’s Seattle team.

Most of the XFL’s 2023 teams play indoors or in warm climates. However, it will be interesting to see the forecast for the District during this late game in the dead of winter. It might be the only snow game in XFL 2023.

Week 2: Saturday Night, February 25th, 2023, At The Vegas Vipers, 7 PM ET (FX): The Defenders head to Cashman Field six days after the opener to face another divisional opponent in the Vegas Vipers. It will be the home opener for Rod Woodson’s team. Five of the Defenders’ ten regular season games will air on FX this season. In a familiar theme for D.C.’s early schedule. The Defenders have a quick rematch with Vegas two weeks later.

Week 3: Sunday Afternoon, March 5th, 2023, Home for St. Louis, 1 PM ET (FX): D.C. returns home to square off with arguably the league’s most beloved squad, the St. Louis Battlehawks.

The Defenders will have one of St. Louis’s favorite sons from 2020, QB Jordan Ta’amu squaring off against his former team.

The Battlehawks have one of the most demanding opening schedules in the entire XFL. St. Louis opens the season with three straight road games. Filling the top won’t come into play for them until Week 4. They will play D.C. twice in three weeks.

Week 4: Sunday Night, March 12th, Home for Vegas, 7 PM ET (ESPN2): D.C. is not only playing the Vipers for the second time in three weeks. But yet another night game. The Defenders have seven games on in primetime during the 2023 regular season.

Week 5: Saturday Night, March 18th, At St.Louis, 7 PM ET (FX): D.C. will be playing their fifth straight game against a divisional opponent. The second clash for D.C. with Anthony Becht’s Battlehawks in three weeks.

St. Louis should be the most challenging place to play in the league because of their rabid fan base. No road game is more daunting. The return of Jordan Ta’amu to STL will provide added intrigue.

This stretch of divisional games will be crucial for the Defenders to make a playoff push in the second half of the season.

Week 6: Monday Night, March 27th, Home for Houston, 7 PM ET (FX): The Defenders get a couple of extra days to prepare for this game with the Roughnecks at Audi Field. Houston will also be coming off added rest, playing a Thursday night game the week prior. The XFL is certainly utilizing different parts of the week throughout its schedule with Monday, Thursday, and Friday action. The game should provide a fun atmosphere at Audi Field.

Four of D.C.’s final five games are against teams from the Southern division.

Week 7: Sunday Night, April 2nd, At Orlando, 7 PM ET (FX): The Defenders meet Terrell Buckley’s Guardians in Orlando at Camping World Stadium. It’s the third straight FX telecast and the fourth of five straight night games for D.C.

Week 8: Sunday Night, April 9th, At Seattle, 7 PM ET (ESPN2): The final divisional game during the regular season for D.C. The Dragons will be coming off playing a Friday night game on March 31st, giving them added rest for this crucial contest. Seattle is entering a stretch where they play three straight games against the North to end their campaign. It will be fascinating to see how different these two teams look after meeting in week one.

Week 9: Sunday Afternoon, April 16th, Home for the Renegades, High Noon ET (ESPN): The earliest start time of any Defenders regular season game. And only the second airing on the main ESPN channel for D.C. in 2023. Unless the Defenders make the playoffs and get to the championship game on May 13th, this will be the Defenders’ final regular season home game at Audi Field.

The league hasn’t announced or determined where the semifinal playoffs or championship game will take place. Typically, division winners would host the semi-final at the bare minimum. However, the early word is that all three playoff games could occur at a neutral site. Some of the league’s venues, like Audi Field, may not be available for playoff games if necessary. The XFL, when reached for comment, stated that the locations for the playoffs would be determined at a later date.

Week 10: Saturday Afternoon, April 22nd, At San Antonio, 3 PM ET (ABC): The Defenders’ regular season finale sees them play their only game on Network TV against the Brahmas. The Saturday afternoon game on ABC could have significant playoff ramifications. Perhaps Reggie Barlow’s matchup with Hines Ward could be a preview of the league’s championship game three weeks later.

D.C. Defenders/XFL 2023 Schedule Final Analysis

D.C. fans back in 2020 rivaled some of the best markets in the XFL three years ago. There’s no doubt that Audi Field is the near-perfect venue for a spring pro football team. And that the DMV embraced their team with open arms the last time. I expect them to do the same again.

Only seven of the XFL’s 43 games will air on ABC in 2023. This is a departure from the 2020 schedule, where the league aired multiple weekly network games, and the Defenders will be on ABC just one time in Week 10.

D.C. has four games combined on ESPN and ESPN2. Twice on each. The rest of the schedule lands on FX with five telecasts on that Disney network. For those who don’t have FX or have cut the cord on ESPN. The alternate route and perhaps saving grace is that every game will air live on ESPN+. Maybe a reason to subscribe to the Disney/Hulu/ESPN+ bundle.

The number of primetime games throughout the league is fascinating. Twenty-three of the league’s 43 games are nighttime affairs, eastern standard time after 6 PM, and the Defenders have seven primetime tilts in ten weeks. As far as TV ratings go, it makes sense. But from an attendance perspective, night games can be problematic for some families or traveling fans.

One of the more fascinating elements and arguments against pro football leagues that play their seasons immediately after the Super Bowl is how these entities schedule their games during March Madness. There’s no way of escaping the national fever of the tournament, which runs from March 14th until the Final Four, and, ultimately, the NCAA championship game on April 3rd. But the XFL does have some unique scheduling during that month.

Twelve of the XFL’s 23 primetime games are parked in late windows in March. The league has Thursday, Monday, and Friday night games scheduled during that stretch, and only one game will be on ABC during that period. In Week 5, on 3/16-3/19, there are no afternoon weekend games scheduled by the XFL. The league will have later start times for all four of their telecasts, and three weekly games will be after 9 pm ET.

The USF-Elephant in the room is how the XFL handled their mid-to-late April schedule. The USFL is still aways away from releasing their 2023 schedule, likely out of four hub locations. But the 2023 season is slated to start for them on Saturday, April 15th, on FOX/NBC.

The launch of season 2 of the USFL will commence as the XFL enters Week 9 of their regular season. The XFL has two games that weekend at noon start times, one of which will be Vegas at Houston on ABC. It will be interesting to see if there is counter-programming by the USFL and if FOX/NBC chooses to go head-to head-from week 9 of the XFL season to week 13’s championship game.

The playoff schedule for XFL 2023 has some uncertainty. In terms of where the three playoff games will be played and the curious decision to play the XFL Championship game two weeks after the semifinals. It will give teams and the league added time to promote and play the big game, something the NFL does. But one has to wonder if there is another reason for the strategy of a bye before the league championship.

One of the neat quirks about the late season schedule is that the XFL’s first semi-final game will air after the 2023 NFL Draft concludes on ESPN. The Draft on ESPN will serve as a promotional tool and lead into the XFL’s first weekend of playoff games.

The XFL Championship Game will air on ABC Saturday, May 13th. The location for the game will be an exciting choice. Venue availability will certainly play a factor in where the game is played. For example, the Defenders won’t have Audi Field at their disposal in the event D.C. gets to the big game. Because MLS’s D.C. United will be hosting Nashville SC at Audi on that day.

The league could stay stationed in Texas for the big game. After all, it makes sense with all eight teams practicing in-state all season. But perhaps St. Louis, the XFL’s most robust market, can get the honors of hosting the championship. No matter where the game ends up, the D.C. Defenders hope to be there.

For any people who followed the XFL in its first iteration over two decades ago, but specifically those who experienced 2.0 from 2018-2020. It’s been a long road to get to this point, from death and back. The stops start, and restarts have led to today. XFL 2023’s schedule release makes the return seem real and come to life again.

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I am a pro football writer who has extensively covered and reported on multiple leagues over the years. I started covering the XFL back in 2001. You can follow me on Twitter @byMikeMitchell

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