USFL Week 1 Picks, Odds and Analysis: A Big Game for New Jersey and Birmingham

J'Mar Smith Birmingham Stallions vs Philadelphia Stars
Birmingham Stallions quarterback J’Mar Smith #6 throws the ball against the Philadelphia Stars. Gaelen Morse/Getty Images/AFP

The USFL kicks off its 2023 season with four games this weekend. With the XFL able to provide a competitive, engaging brand of football this year, it is now the USFL’s turn to show what it can do with its 8-team league.

Many online sportsbooks have betting odds on which team will be crowned champion this season. The Birmingham Stallions (+275) and New Jersey Generals (+300) stand out as the favorites to win the championship, while the Pittsburgh Maulers (+1200) are considered the longshot according to Caesars.

We made our top pick for each game, and you can find USFL betting markets at many of the top-rated sportsbooks.

Picks Summary

  • Stars -2.5 (-110)
  • Generals vs. Stallions Over 39.5 (-110)
  • Panthers vs. Gamblers Under 38.5 (-110)
  • Breakers -3.5 (-110)

Philadelphia Stars vs. Memphis Showboats

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

The USFL season opener sees the Philadelphia Stars as a 2.5-point road favorite against the Memphis Showboats with a total of 39 points.

How Did the Teams Do Last Season?

Last season, the Stars had a spirited late-season run to the title game, which may have gone their way if quarterback Case Cookus did not break his leg. He has spent time on NFL practice squads and threw 12 touchdowns to 5 interceptions last season in the USFL.

The Showboats were the Tampa Bay Bandits last year before that team was moved to Memphis. Todd Haley returns as the head coach, and he is an offensive guru who likes to throw the ball.

But things are a bit harder when you do not have Kurt Warner or Ben Roethlisberger, so his team was just 4-6 last year. The most memorable name on this offense is running back Alex Collins, who has played for the Seahawks and Ravens.

The Pick

Handicapping Week 1 of an inexperienced league is never easy, but the Stars were hot at the end of last year and brought back many of the same pieces. Cookus was second in the USFL with 12 touchdown passes, which only trialed Jordan Ta’amu, who is currently lighting it up for the DC Defenders, the best XFL offense and team.

Cookus’ leg is healed, and he should be excited to pick up where he left off with this team. Let’s take the Stars to cover in the first game of the season.

USFL Pick: Stars -2.5 (-110) at Caesars Sportsbook

New Jersey Generals vs. Birmingham Stallions

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

The Stallions are the defending champions of the USFL, and they open this season as a 5-point home favorite with a total of 40 points.

Two Historically Good Teams Face Off

These teams have the best betting odds to win it all, with the Stallions favored to repeat behind coach Skip Holtz. Quarterback J’Mar Smith returns for the Stallions. His numbers were not the best last year with 54.8% completions, 6.6 yards per pass, 10 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions.

But Birmingham went nine straight games without allowing more than 18 points last year before winning the title game 33-30 after both quarterbacks were injured in that shootout. Bo Scarbrough also returns at running back, a name that may be familiar to Alabama fans.

For New Jersey’s run-based offense, running back Darius Victor returns as the reigning Offensive Player of the Year in the USFL. He scored 9 touchdowns last year, but the Generals will have their work cut out here without Luis Perez, who is now one of the better XFL quarterbacks. He helped New Jersey to a 9-1 record last year.

The Pick

Feels like a big spread given the preseason odds for these teams to win it all, but the Stallions are a worthy favorite. But the best value may be in the over, as both teams should be capable of putting together some drives right away as two of the most competent and prepared squads in the league.

USFL Pick: Over 39.5 (-110) at Bet365

Michigan Panthers vs. Houston Gamblers

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

The Houston Gamblers are a 1-point home favorite with a total of 38.5 points. Both teams changed their head coaches, with Mike Nolan (another defensive mind) replacing Jeff Fisher in Michigan and Curtis Johnson replacing Kevin Sumlin for Houston.

Consider the Playing Field

With Michigan and Houston in the bottom half of the odds for the championship, we might be a little more creative with this pick and consider some external factors. All four games this weekend will be played at two stadiums with a quick turnaround time at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, with Saturday’s game at 4:30 PM and Sunday’s game at 12:00 PM.

Maybe the field will be a little torn up from the day before and not as sturdy of a playing surface, providing less offensive spark to a matchup that already has the second-lowest total this weekend. Neither the Panthers nor the Gamblers had a 1,000-yard passer in 2022.

The Pick

Last season, Michigan was just a 2-8 team while Houston was not much better at 3-7. These teams actually opened in Week 1 last season too with Houston winning a 17-12 game.

History does not have to repeat itself, but 38.5 feels like a high bar for these teams to clear together. Let’s go with the under as the best value bet in this matchup.

USFL Pick: Under 38.5 (-110) at Bet365

Pittsburgh Maulers vs. New Orleans Breakers

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

The Breakers are a 3.5-point home favorite against the Maulers in the final game of Week 1. The total is 37.5 points, the lowest of the four games this weekend.

A New Lineup

The Maulers were 1-9 last year and have the lowest odds of winning the championship this year. The Breakers were 6-4 and lost a playoff game. They have a new head coach in John DeFilippo, who was once a hot commodity in NFL coaching circles as the quarterbacks’ coach for Carson Wentz and Nick Foles on the 2017 Eagles, a Super Bowl winner.

Some underwhelming stints with Minnesota, Jacksonville, and Chicago cooled the head coaching talk for DeFilippo, but he has over 20 years of coaching experience.

The Breakers have 34-year-old McLeod Bethel-Thompson at quarterback, who has spent time with numerous NFL teams and is a two-time Grey Cup winner in the CFL, where he led the league in passing yards in 2022.

The Pick

Last season, the Breakers allowed the fewest points in the league, while the Maulers were tied for allowing the most. On offense, the Maulers were next to last in most offensive categories, including yards and first downs. New coach Ray Horton has his work cut out for him on both sides of the ball.

Look for New Orleans to have too much offense for Pittsburgh to keep up with, and the Breakers should cover to get to 1-0.

USFL Pick: Breakers -3.5 (-110) at BetMGM is your sports betting command center. Read featured betting strategy compiled from a panel of leading sports betting experts.

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