USFL Saturday Odds, Picks, Predictions: Week 1 Picks for Generals vs. Stallions, Gamblers vs. Panthers
Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images. Pictured: Todd Haley.
Spring football? Why not.
The new USFL kicks off its inaugural season on Saturday night, then has three games throughout the day on Sunday.
It’s hard to handicap a league with little information, but we can rely on pedigree, coaching philosophy and more to find edges.
Ben Hauver and Joey Carrion host The DFS Dose podcast.
USFL Odds & Picks
Generals vs. Stallions
Joey Carrion: The Stallions are -2.5 point favorites, and the total sits at 41.5 at BetMGM.
Birmingham is the de facto home team in the USFL, as all games will be played in Birmingham, Ala.
The Stallions are led by head coach Skip Holtz and QB Alex McGough. McGough, a four year starter at FIU, is quietly one of the better QBs in the USFL. In his four years at FIU, he had over 9,000 passing yards and 65 TDs with a 60% completion percentage. He also has prior NFL preseason experience. McGough will be throwing to Victor Bolden Jr, who was the first WR drafted in the USFL.
The New Jersey Generals are led by coach Mike Riley and former Last Chance U star De’Andre Johnson at QB. To put it frankly, the Generals are the worst team in the USFL on paper. They lost their first-round QB selection Ben Holmes to injury and released him. They are currently +900 to win the championship, worst in the USFL.
The Generals are also dealing with several injuries on the offensive side of the ball to key players like TE Nick Truesdell and RB Mike Weber. This does not inspire much confidence in the Generals to compete at a high level early on in the season.
The QB position is the most important position in football, and the Stallions have the clear advantage at QB in this matchup. Skip Holtz in his career has shown a tendency to be more aggressive in his play calling, while Mike Riley has been more conservative.
I think QB play and coaching will ultimately be the deciding factors in the early portion of the USFL, and the Stallions have the upper hand. Expect the Stallions to come out and start the season 1-0 in a low scoring game.
Gamblers vs. Panthers
Ben Hauver: It’s hard not to want to get behind a team called The Gamblers. That said, it’s a fitting name for the level of risk they face with a Week 1 matchup against The Panthers. Michigan opened as second place favorites to win the USFL championship at +450.
Led by first overall pick QB Shea Patterson, it’s unsurprising to see this team favored by -2.5 in their first game. Houston’s offense will live (or die) by the arm of former Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson. The public is clearly riding with the “home team,” in this spot. Per BetMGM, 82% of bets are on The Panthers. The most likely outcome is that Michigan starts the season 1-0.
The thought of taking a shot on Houston at +2.5 here is certainty intriguing. The overwhelming confidence being placed in a team coached by perennial disappointment Jeff Fisher is a major red flag.
However, the Panthers project to be a slow-paced, run first offense. That, combined with question marks surrounding Houston’s QB situation and general offensive upside makes the under a clear lean in this spot.
Stars vs. Breakers
Ben Hauver: The New Orleans Breakers, notably led by QB Kyle Sloter, open the week as -2.5 point favorites.
Since 2017, Sloter has spent time with six different NFL teams and should bring a level of professional poise to the Breakers offense. While player props are scarcely available at a USFL level, some books (Prize Picks) have Sloter with a league-high passing prop for Week 1 (O/U 220.5 yards).
The Stars will have their work cut out for them as head coach Bart Andrus reunites with QB Bryan Scott. This under-the-radar pairing is no stranger to success. The duo’s resume includes a previously secured Spring League championship in 2020. In a brand new league, continuity is a scarce asset that Philadelphia finds themselves quietly rich with.
This game’s 45.5 point total is tied for highest on the week. Out of the four inaugural games for USFL Week 1, this bout appears to have the most back-and-forth shootout potential.
Ultimately, the familiarity between Andrus and Scott could prove to be an X factor both this week, and for the season as whole.
Bandits vs. Maulers
Joey Carrion: Tampa Bay comes into Week 1 as one of the Championship favorites at +450 odds, tied with the Michigan Panthers. Tampa Bay arguably has the best QB and head coach duo in Jordan Ta’amu and Todd Haley, as well. Ta’amu was the second QB selected in the USFL draft and has shown the ability to perform in these developmental leagues.
As the starting QB of the St. Louis BattleHawks in the XFL, Ta’amu had 1,050 passing yards, five touchdowns and just two interceptions in five games played. In 2018, Ta’amu threw for over 3900 yards and 19 touchdowns at Ole Miss after replacing Shae Patterson, who was the first-overall selection in the USFL.
Todd Haley, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers, is one of the better offensive coaches in the league. Haley in seven NFL seasons had four top 10 offenses, mostly with the Chiefs and Steelers. Haley’s offensive system should be one of the best in the USFL and will allow Ta’amu, BJ Emmons, and Derrick Willies to feast as premier players in the Tampa Bay offense.
The Pittsburgh Maulers will be led by QB Kyle Lauletta and coach Kirby Wilson. Lauletta has NFL pedigree as he was a fourth-round pick by the New York Giants in 2018. In four years at Richmond, Lauletta had over 10,000 passing yards and 93 touchdowns on a 63.5% rate.
Lauletta is one of the better quarterbacks in the USFL, but Kirby Wilson will most likely run a very conservative offense. Wilson, a career NFL RBs coach, will look to come out and establish the run and limit pass volume. Offensive efficiency will be a concern for the Maulers, especially with an outdated style of offense.
This is a spot where Tampa Bay should easily come out and dominate this game as a -5.5 point favorite. They are the better all around team, and will look to come out and make a statement as the best team in the USFL. 89% of the bets and 82% of the handle is on the Bandits -5.5 per BetMGM, and that is my favorite bet on the entire slate.
Ben Hauver and Joey Carrion host The DFS Dose podcast.