USFL Week 1 Analysis: Can the Stallions Repeat?

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Birmingham Stallions quarterback J'Mar Smith #6 throws the ball in the third quarter against the Philadelphia Stars in the USFL Championship game at Tom Benson Hall Of Fame Stadium on July 03, 2022. Gaelen Morse/Getty Images/AFP

USFL Pick: Panthers vs. Gamblers Under 38.5 (-110) at Bovada (visit our Bovada Review)

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Panthers vs. Gamblers Under 38.5 (-110)
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Week 1 of the USFL’s 2023 season begins Saturday. The Birmingham Stallions are the defending champions, and they are the odds-on favorites at many of the top-rated sportsbooks to repeat again. 

However, the New Jersey Generals are also considered frontrunners, and half the league changed head coaches from last season. 

We look at the betting odds for the four games this weekend and make our best bet for Week 1 of the USFL at the top U.S. sports betting sites.

Philadelphia Stars vs. Memphis Showboats 

Saturday, April 15, 2023 – 04:30 PM EDT at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium

Season Debut 

The first game of the season features the only road favorite this weekend as the Philadelphia Stars are a 2.5-point favorite against the Memphis Showboats, a team that was called the Tampa Bay Bandits in 2022.  

USFL fans should recall Philadelphia turning a 2-3 start into a 6-4 finish followed by an upset playoff win over New Jersey to put the Stars in the championship game against Birmingham. They may have won it all too had quarterback Case Cookus not broken his leg during the game, and the Stallions came back to win 33-30. 

Cookus Looking To Feast

Cookus is back healthy and ready to lead the team to another spirited run after the Stars led the league in scoring last year at 26.2 points per game. They also tied for allowing the most points in the league at 24.3, so their games were definitely more exciting and interesting than most teams. 

Todd Haley will try to coach a better result in Memphis after a 4-6 finish with the Bandits last year. There is definitely a quarterback disadvantage in this game after the Bandits lost Jordan Ta'amu to the XFL where he is doing a great job for the DC Defenders. The most familiar name on the Showboats’ offense may be Alex Collins, a veteran running back with stints for the Ravens and Seahawks on his resume.  

New Jersey Generals vs. Birmingham Stallions

Saturday, April 15, 2023 – 07:30 PM EDT at Protective Stadium 

Largest ATS of the Week

The largest spread of the week belongs to the defending champions as the Stallions are a 5-point home favorite against a solid Generals team. The total is set to 40 points, the highest game in Week 1.  

Coach Skip Holtz returns a familiar roster to try to repeat, a very difficult task in football. But the Stallions were solid on both sides of the ball last year in going 9-1 and quarterback J’Mar Smith is also back with perhaps a chip on his shoulder after he was also injured in that championship game. His statistics were also not what you would expect of a 9-1 championship team, but Birmingham kept it balanced with the run and defense too. 

Victor to Repeat MVP Performance?

New Jersey’s best player is running back Darius Victor, who won the Offensive Player of the Year award for his 2022 performance that saw him score 9 touchdowns. But the Generals are going to have to get more out of the passing game to keep up with Birmingham. They no longer have Luis Perez at quarterback, and he is another one of the better XFL quarterbacks playing right now. 

This rematch of 9-1 teams from last year could have easily been the championship game if New Jersey did not fall to Philadelphia. But these teams also met in Week 1 last year, and it was by far the highest-scoring game at 28-24, a Stallions win. Maybe we could see something explosive again this week as Birmingham begins its title defense.

Michigan Panthers vs. Houston Gamblers

Sunday, April 16, 2023 – 12:00 PM EDT at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium 

Best Bet of the Week

Our best bet of the week narrows in on Michigan against Houston in a game with a total of 38.5 points. The Panthers are going to remain a defensive-minded team with Mike Nolan taking over for head coach Jeff Fisher, and the Gamblers have a lot of work to do under new coach Curtis Johnson to improve on last year’s 3-7 record. 

Neither one of these teams produced a 1,000-yard quarterback in 2022. The Gamblers were dead last in rushing yards last year and played from behind often. The Gamblers also converted just 22.0% of their third downs last season, more than 10 percentage points worse than the next-to-last team in the USFL. 

The Panthers were actually second best at 42.5% on third down, but they had bigger issues on defense, tied for allowing the most points. 

Greener Grass?

It was 17-12 when these teams met early last season. With neither having high championship prospects or sorted out in the passing game, this could be one of the lowest-scoring games this week. 

It also will be played on a field early Sunday afternoon that just hosted the Stars-Showboats game on Saturday afternoon, so keep the field quality in consideration too for the total. That is why our best bet is the under. 

USFL Pick: Under 38.5 (-110) at Bovada

Pittsburgh Maulers vs. New Orleans Breakers 

Sunday, April 16, 2023 – 06:30 PM EDT at Protective Stadium 

The Final Show

Week 1 ends Sunday evening with the New Orleans Breakers as a 3.5-point home favorite over the Pittsburgh Maulers. The total is only 37.5 points, Week 1’s lowest total.  

The Maulers were 1-9 last year, and when you look at which stats they ranked dead last in, it is not hard to see how: 

  • 14.7 points per game scored
  • 5.2 yards per pass attempt 
  • 53.2% pass completions  
  • 17.2% first downs per rush rate 
  • 22.2 points per game allowed 

Ray Horton is the new coach in Pittsburgh, but this is a lot to overcome. The Maulers added Reuben Foster, once thought to be a high draft pick in the NFL before off-field issues caused him to slide. But an off-ball linebacker who has yet to live up to the hype is not going to solve the full-team woes of the Maulers.

Flippin’ the Switch

Meanwhile, the Breakers have a new coach in John DeFilippo, affectionately known as “Coach Flip” for his work with the 2017 Eagles as quarterbacks coach to Carson Wentz and Nick Foles. DeFilippo has also worked for the Vikings, Jaguars and Bears, so he is an offensive-minded coach. 

The Breakers could turn to veteran quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who led the CFL in passing in 2022 and has won the Grey Cup twice. He should give the Breakers a quarterback advantage in this matchup. The Breakers were 6-4 last year and 4-1 in home games.

*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.