USFL Semifinals Betting Preview


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USFL Semifinals Betting Preview

The USFL regular season has come to a close, and now the four best teams remain to compete in Canton for the title of USFL champion. And even though the regular season is over, we still have plenty of opportunities to make some money on the only football to be played until August.

Let’s bet on some USFL games!

Simulated Championship Odds per PFF’s Eric Eager:

Philadelphia Stars (+4.5) @ New Jersey Generals (47.5)

To me, this is by far the most interesting matchup of the playoffs, in large part because these teams played last week. And, while you would expect teams who know they are going to face each other in a playoff elimination to not put their best foot forward in a meaningless Week 10 contest, both teams were clearly trying to win.

The result was a thrilling back and forth game where the starting QBs on both sides played throughout the entire contest. And the teams looked evenly matched, as Philadelphia had a chance to win the game with under 2 minutes remaining before Case Cookus (who had played well up to that point) threw an interception, leading to the Stars losing 26 to 23.

The Stars offense has been hot as of late, averaging a league-leading 30.3 PPG and the 3rd-most YPG (329.3) since Week 7 – a 43.3 YPG improvement on their YPG from Weeks 1 through 6. And while Philadelphia has struggled with run defense all season (league worst 152 YPG allowed) they have improved in that area in recent weeks, allowing just 111 YPG since Week 7. That’s going to be crucial against New Jersey, the league’s best rushing offense by a massive margin (158.9 rushing YPG).

New Jersey, on the other hand, has looked much more pedestrian as an offense in the final four weeks of the regular season, seeing their rushing YPG fall nearly 25% to 122.5. And we could pretty easily argue that had it not been for Trey Williams 61 yard TD run against Philadelphia in Week 10, that New Jersey would have underperformed their rushing average from the last month (122.5 YPG) and almost certainly would’ve lost the game to the Stars.

Based on regular season accomplishments, it seems clear New Jersey should be favored. But I think oddsmakers have gotten a bit too aggressive with this line, especially given how well Philadelphia has played in the back half of the season. I would price this as much closer to Philadelphia +3, but I do think bookmakers nailed the 47.5 game total.

Best Bets

Philadelphia Stars +4.5 (FanDuel)

Philadelphia Stars Over 21.0 team total -115 (Bovada)

New Orleans Breakers (+4.5) @ Birmingham Stallions (44.5)

Breakers QB Kyle Sloter didn’t play in Week 10 (knee), and this New Orleans offense was a complete disaster as a result. Backup QB Zach Smith threw multiple interceptions and 3rd stringer Shea Patterson couldn’t get anything going either. Obviously, if Sloter can’t play, the Breakers would be massive underdogs, likely to the tune of more than a full touchdown. But Sloter has logged limited practices so far, and looks likely to play on Saturday.

But this New Orleans offense, even with Sloter, has seriously struggled as of late. Over the last 3 weeks, New Orleans have averaged just 9.0 PPG, including scoring just 9 points against Birmingham in Week 9. That’s in large part due to turnovers, as Sloter joins only former Panthers QB (and current New Orelans 3rd-stringer) Shea Patterson with a sub-1.0 TD to INT ratio (0.81). To make matters worse, Sloter is also easily the worst graded passer in the USFL playoffs and has a ridiculous 23 turnover worthy plays (in just 9 games), according to PFF.

But, New Orleans does boast one of the league’s best defenses, allowing the fewest yards per pass attempt (5.8, tie), yards per carry (3.3), and fewest EPA per play of any team this season.

The Birmingham offense managed a much more impressive ending to the season, averaging 347 YPG since Week 7 (2nd-most among all teams) and a respectable 18.0 PPG. But the real strength of Birmingham is their defense. Across the full season, Birmingham ranks 1st in sack rate (6.5%), 1st in YPA allowed (5.8), 2nd in rushing YPG allowed (96.2), and 2nd in EPA per play allowed (-0.16). This is clearly a top-2 defense in the USFL.

Offensively, Birmingham has drifted closer to league-average across the full season, granted they certainly don’t have the turnover concerns at the QB position that New Orleans does. But at least recently, they seem to have really found their groove. The Stallions rank 2nd in passing YPG (218.3) and top-3 in both YPA (6.6) and YPC (4.3) since Week 7.

It isn’t difficult to make an argument that Biurmingham should be favored by as much as a full TD, even with Sloter as the starter. But the bet I’m absolutely in love with in this game is the under. These are the top-2 defenses by a number of metrics. And the last time these teams played, the combined for just 19 total points in Week 8. Add in Sloter’s poor QB play and the overall poor play of the New Orleans offense as of late, and it’s easy to see why the 44.5 total is simply too high.

Best Bets

Birmingham Stallions -4.5 (Bovada)

Under 44.5 total -110 (FoxBet, FanDuel)

Jake Tribbey is a recent college graduate and lifelong football fan obsessed with extracting every edge possible from NFL DFS, Best Ball, and player props/futures.