USFL Odds, Picks, Predictions: Panthers-Generals, Stallions-Gamblers, Breakers-Bandits, More Week 2 Betting
Getty Images. Pictured: Stallions QB J’Mar Smith, Bandits QB Jordan Ta’amu of USFL
Week 2 of the USFL season kicks off Friday night, with three additional games through Sunday. It’s hard to handicap a league with this little information, but we can rely on pedigree, coaching philosophy and more to find potential betting edges.
Now let’s break down our favorite bets for each USFL matchup this weekend!
Ben Hauver and Joey Carrion host The DFS Dose podcast.
USFL Odds & Picks
Michigan Panthers vs. New Jersey Generals
Joey Carrion: Michigan is coming off a Week 1 loss to Houston in which the Panthers ran 79 (!!) offensive plays and managed to put up a whopping 12-points on offense.
Jeff Fisher predictably instituted a run-based scheme, with six different players seeing at least one attempt in the game. Michigan finished with a 62% rush-rate despite never leading.
Shea Patterson was the lone bright spot for Michigan in Week 1. Fighting through coaching ineptitude and being benched for former first-round NFL draft bust Paxton Lynch, Patterson finished the game with a 68% completion rate and a 104.1 QBR, second-best in the USFL. Patterson looks to be the guy moving forward, proving that he could potentially keep the Panthers competitive as the season goes on.
New Jersey is coming off a Week 1 loss to Birmingham in which the Generals put up 24 points. The Generals were the most run-heavy team, finishing with a 64.39% rush rate. I did not think we would see a more run-heavy team than the Panthers, but alas, the Generals eclipsed them.
Quarterback play was not an issue for the Generals, as Luis Perez was the best QB statistically last week. De’Andre Johnson also contributed for the Generals, rushing for a league-high 98-yards and one touchdown. This is a full blown QB committee with Perez being the “passing” QB and Johnson being the “rushing” QB.
What is the common denominator between both of these teams? They want to establish the run, so this Week 2 matchup should feature plenty of rush attempts — something that would make our grandparents proud.
This is going to be a slow-paced, low-scoring game between two teams that want to deflate the ball and control the clock. I don’t know which team is more likely to win, but I do know there won’t be a ton of points scored.
Pittsburgh Maulers vs. Philadelphia Stars
Ben Hauver: The USFL’s battle for Pennsylvania features a week-low total of 36.5 in a matchup that Philadelphia rightfully opens as a six-point favorite.
While the Stars and Maulers enter Week 2 boasting identical zeros in the win column, expectations for these teams could not be more different.
Coached by noted chicken salad enthusiast, Kirby Wilson, the Maulers offense looked stagnant and predictable. If Pittsburgh hadn’t been blown out and forced to abandon the run, it would not have been shocking to see what ended up as a 55% run-rate finish closer to 70%. The drive-by-drive workload split between Maulers running backs Garrett Groshek and Madre London yielded a combined 78-yards on 30 attempts (2.6 avg).
Despite the inefficiencies on the ground, expect Wilson’s unwavering commitment to the run to once again be on display as the Maulers seek to score their first touchdown of the season in Week 2.
On the other side of the ball, the Stars primary focus will be reducing the number of self-inflicted errors. In Week 1, Philadelphia managed to miss two field goals, throw a pick-six and have a punt blocked, later resulting in a safety.
Despite that myriad of unfortunate events, it wasn’t all bad for Philly. Stars quarterback Bryan Scott efficiently completed 69.4% of his passes and threw a league-leading 202 yards. Scott dropped back to pass on more than 70% of the team’s offensive plays as the fast-paced offense that coach Bart Andrus hinted at materialized before our eyes.
Chris Rowland has emerged as an early favorite to be the Stars’ leading receiver. He produced seven catches for 74 yards on nine targets in Week 1. Scott should look to continue to build on that connection in Week 2.
Ultimately, this game profiles as a matchup of dueling ideologies. I will always side with the team leaning toward an innovative pass-heavy approach compared to the archaic run-first philosophies of decades past.
Birmingham Stallions vs. Houston Gamblers
Carrion: Birmingham was the highest-scoring team in the USFL last week, scoring 28 points against New Jersey. The Stallions went against the run-first mentality of the league, finishing with a 57.4% pass rate, partially due to game script.
Although they were the highest-scoring team, they were far from efficient on offense. Birmingham was beaten in numerous categories, including time of possession, total yards, total plays and yards-per-play.
After losing QB Alex McGough to injury early on, J’Mar Smith took over and looked sharp, throwing for 156-yards and one touchdown while also rushing for another score. I would expect Smith to be the starting QB for the Stallions this week. And with Smith at QB, we could see one of the more efficient offenses in the USFL.
Houston is coming off a 17-12 win over the Michigan Panthers. Houston, for the majority of the game, was pretty inefficient on offense. The Gamblers averaged a pathetic 3.9 yards per play and were dominated in every faucet of the game, scoring only one touchdown on offense.
Clayton Thorson had one of the worst QB performances of the week, going 9-of-17 for 73 yards and one touchdown with one interception. Thorson could not move the ball for the Gamblers, so they relied on RB Mark Thompson to create big plays on the ground.
Houston adopted a run-first mentality, just like many other teams in the USFL, rushing on 60% of their offensive plays.
While I’m not confident in the Stallions outlook as a team, I will be riding with them once again this week. They have the better QB, as we saw in Week 1, and quarterback play will most be an important factor in many of these games.
Nothing I saw from Houston’s offense in Week 1 inspired confidence to back the Gamblers in this spot against a better overall team.
New Orleans Breakers vs. Tampa Bay Bandits
Hauver: In the Week 2 finale, we will see (arguably) the best two teams in the USFL face off in a matchup that opens with a 40.5 total and 2.5 point spread favoring Tampa Bay.
Despite being underdogs, the Breakers could be the most well-rounded and complete team in the league. Jordan Ellis and TJ Logan Jr. appear to be the most dynamic rushing duo in the USFL after combining for 145 yards on the ground and a pair of touchdowns last week. The dangerously explosive backfield should take some of the pressure off quarterback Kyle Sloter, who in his own right flashed upside in the team’s debut.
Defensively, New Orleans will aim to keep David Bellamy heavily involved. Bellamy was rightfully named defensive player of the week after recording three sacks on Stars QB Bryan Scott.
As for Tampa Bay, the Bandits will have to build on their promising Week 1 to remain undefeated in this spot.
Coached by NFL-experienced Todd Haley and quarterbacked by Jordan Ta’amu, this team is absolutely equipped to build on their initial success.
Despite possessing a lead for all of last week’s game against Pittsburgh, Haley still called a relatively aggressive offensive game plan. Ta’amu finished Week 1 second in pass attempts and was one of only two QBs to throw 30+ times.
If that pass-rate continues, Cheyenne O’Grady (TE) figures to be one of the primary beneficiaries. The former Arkansas Razorback ran through the Maulers defense like Travis Kelce runs through defenses in the NFL playoffs. O’Grady led the USFL with 11 targets in Week 1, producing an impressive 8-86 receiving line.
These teams are ripe with talent on both sides of the ball. I would expect the increased level of competition to bring the best out of both.
How would you rate this article?
This site contains commercial content. We may be compensated for the links provided on this page. The content on this page is for informational purposes only. Action Network makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the information given or the outcome of any game or event.