Week 7 at the USFL gave us some much-needed separation in the standings. The Birmingham Stallions now lead the league with a 5-2 record after a hard-fought 24-20 win over the New Orleans Breakers. As most teams struggle to make the final weeks meaningful, the New Jersey Generals and Pittsburgh Maulers fell 2-5, putting themselves at risk of not making the playoff roster in the North Division.
Last weekend’s results didn’t provide as much movement in the futures market as expected, as the Stallions still top the league as favorites at +325. The Houston Gamblers, a team I took a position on last week at +550, remain at the same odds after a disappointing 23-20 loss to the Memphis Showboats. Memphis are surprisingly still available at +800, despite winning their fourth game in a row and trailing Birmingham at 4-3 only one game.
My best advice for betting in Week 8 is to trust your instincts and not let the movement of the lines influence your decisions. Just as we saw in the second half of the XFL season, the USFL is a very inefficient market. If you erased the movement of the lines to the sides, you would have swept across the chart in each of the past two weeks. This is certainly no reason to place a bet blindly, but it is important to keep in mind if you see the line moving against your bet. These trends speak to week-to-week variance in the little leagues, which is why I prefer to focus primarily on totals. Now on to my bets for this weekend.
These are two teams that suffered really disappointing defeats. After a rough start to the season, Pittsburgh seemed to be pulling itself together behind their defense, but that side of the ball crumbled in a 37-31 loss to Philadelphia. The Stars rushed for 114 yards and scored touchdowns on three of four trips to the red zone, after failing to score an offensive touchdown in the previous two weeks.
Sitting at 2-5, a loss wouldn’t mathematically eliminate the Maulers, but it would put their season on very thin ice. The Gamblers are coming off a disappointing 23-20 loss to Memphis, where they tried to force their way down the field against a solid Showboats pass rush. They’ll have to open things up if they’re going to be successful against the Maulers defense, and I’m not sure they can protect QB Kenji Bahar enough to achieve that. The gravy train on the Pittsburgh unders finally dried up after six weeks, but I’m getting in line. The score was fueled by turnovers and special teams scores, and I bet this game was an outlier. Best Bet: Under 43.5
Philadelphia Stars +6 at Birmingham Stallions (O/U 45.5)
The Stars hit rock bottom in Week 4 after an embarrassing 41-16 loss to Houston. However, they have reversed their season with three straight wins and now hold the third shortest odds in the futures market (+500). Much like last season, Philadelphia seems to be hitting its peak at just the right time.
The Stallions are one of the few teams in the league that can get away from their opponents with their powerful offense. Three of their five wins have come by two or more scores. However, I can’t swallow six points with a team that gives up the most yards per game in the league.
The Stars offense is coming off its best performance, and the Stallions defense is a great game to keep the momentum going. The Dogs are 6-2 over the past two weeks, so I’ll take all six points with the team over a three-game run. Best bet: PHI +6
Memphis Showboats +1.5 at New Jersey Generals (O/U 41.5)
I can’t stress how important transparency is in sports betting, so I have no problem raising my hands on this one. A four-fight winning streak meets a four-fight losing streak, and guess who’s the favourite? Of course, it’s the New Jersey Generals. For what? Honestly, I do not know.
After a 2-1 start, the Generals grabbed four straight Ls, including an embarrassing 25-22 loss to Michigan. And it was no accidental loss for the Panthers, who entered the game at the bottom of most power ratings. NJ was outshot 373-258 in total yards and 6.1-5.5 in yards per play. Don’t be fooled by Memphis’ 4-3 record. The Showboats are four straight and 4-1 winners since turning to QB Cole Kelley to lead the offense. They’ve benefited from building turnovers on defense, which is why I think the market is waiting for a pullback to hit, but I’m not convinced that’s happening this week.
The Generals haven’t won the turnover battle in a game since Week 2 and have more freebies this season than Memphis. It’s a game of “trust your instincts”, and I can’t let the market influence my position. Best bet: Memphis +1.5
Michigan Panthers +3 vs. New Orleans Breakers (O/U 43.5)
The Panthers breathed new life into their season with an upset win over New Jersey. Can they do it again against a reeling New Orleans team that has lost three straight? Anything is possible, but I’m definitely not comfortable with New Orleans. The Breakers continue to shoot themselves in the foot on offense with poor execution, patchy pass protection and turnovers.
Michigan’s best defensive player, USFL sack leader Breeland Speaks, should disrupt New Orleans’ offense enough to keep this game competitive. After a 45-point outburst against Birmingham in Week 3, New Orleans hasn’t eclipsed 20 points in its last four games. Michigan is one of three teams to average less than 20 points per game (17.3), and last week’s win was the first time in five weeks that they’ve scored more than 13. I don’t Trust neither of these offenses to succeed, so I’ll bet against both. Best bet: Under 43.5