USFL Betting Preview and Week 1 Odds: Familiar Faces Set to Kickoff New League

The United State Football League's inaugural season begins on April 16th with a matchup between the New Jersey Generals and Birmingham Stallions. Get primed for kickoff by reading our USFL betting preview.

Last Updated: Apr 13, 2022 9:15 AM ET Read Time: 6 min
Todd Haley Tampa Bay Bandits USFL
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

Opening kickoff is just around the corner for the newly minted United States Football League.

We're digging into the team previews as well as some of the other aspects that make this eight-team spring league unique, and hopefully more successful than the handful of spring leagues before it.

Check out our 2022 USFL season preview, along with some of our favorite bets based on USFL Championship odds.

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USFL team-by-team breakdown

Birmingham Stallions

The only team with home-field advantage comes into the season tied with the longest odds to win it all at +750.

The Stallions will play in the South Division which will consist of the Houston Gamblers (+750), Tampa Bay Bandits (+500), and New Orleans Breakers (+500). The Stallions will be led by head coach and OC Skip Holtz who is known as more of a pass-heavy play-caller than some of the other coaches in the USFL.

Holtz will have former Florida International University QB Alex McGough, who completed over 60% of his passes as a four-year starter and threw for 65 TDs and 37 INTs. He has some NFL preseason action under his belt and averaged 6.4 air yards per attempt as well.

Combined with Holtz, Birmingham could commit to the passing game out of the gates. Establish The Run has Holtz at a 51.8% situation-neutral pass rate with collegiate pass rates sitting around 47% in the same situations.

The Alabama receiving group is made up of Victor Bolden who was the team’s first WR chosen and is a great slot option at 5-foot-8 from Oregon State, speedy Emanuel Hall, and big-body receiver Osirus Mitchell who sits at 6-foot-5.

This is a well-constructed roster that benefited from picking sixth or third in the opening rounds. Even backup QB J’Mar Smith played under Holtz at Louisiana Tech and could push for snaps after playing four years there.

Houston Gamblers

The Houston Gamblers might have the best name in sports, but they also have the worst odds to win the league in year 1 at +750.

Houston didn't have a top-two pick in any round until Round 14 and will be led by head coach Kevin Sumlin who is 95-63 SU in his collegiate career (Houston, Arizona, and Texas A&M) including four bowl wins. He was a bigger name a decade ago after winning SEC Coach of the Year in 2012 but has had a losing record in every following year since winning the award. 

The QB play could also leave a little to desire with the Gamblers taking Clayton Thorson with the No. 5 overall pick. The former QB from Northwestern threw for a TD just once every 27 attempts. He has played with some NFL practice squads but was unimpressive in his preseason action with a 44.9% completion rate. 

This could be a run-first Houston team that will need Dalyn Dawkins to move the chains. Dawkins was the sixth RB off the board and runs a 4.58 40-yard dash and isn't very big at 185 pounds.

The Titans kept Dawkins on the active roster ahead of Jeremy McNichols back in 2019 but never had a touch in a meaningful game. Brian Dawkins' nephew also can play in the passing game, which could mean a more conservative approach for a team we'd bet on to finish at the bottom of the division.

The Gamblers don't have a great decision-maker under center and Dawkins is likely the team's most dynamic offensive player. This could be the biggest ball-control team in the league as they lack elite talent at other positions, and likely won't pass at more than a 50% clip looking at Sumlin's past trends.

Michigan Panthers

The Panthers are led by former NFL coach Jeff Fisher who has 173 career NFL wins and a Super Bowl appearance. He has the best resume out of the other seven head coaches and had the luxury of drafting first, taking former Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson.

The former undrafted QB has spent some time in the CFL, a little time with the Chiefs, and has never attempted a pass in either the CFL or the NFL. He might not even be the team’s No.1 signal-caller at the end of the season as the Panthers also have Paxton Lynch who may be more familiar from his time with the Denver Broncos. 

The Panthers are the betting favorite to win the inaugural season, but a lot of that has to do with Fisher and Michigan getting the first choice of QB. We saw with the XFL that poor QB play is a death sentence in minor-league football, but we aren’t ready to jump on them at +400. Due to picking first, their depth at other positions is weak and the only other top pick they have is a defensive tackle. 

The Michigan pick with Patterson seems tacky and one that was likely more aimed at the fan base and marketing. This team could struggle to move the ball, as even offensive coordinator Eric Marty has an unimpressive resume where his Grambling State offense averaged 17.2 points per game, just 4.6 yards per attempt, and passed 45% of the time. We certainly aren’t high on the North’s top team heading into the opener.

New Jersey Generals

The New Jersey Generals can be found as short as +700 (DraftKings) or as long as +900 (Caesars) to take home the trophy.

Either way, the Generals are getting much respect in the future market. They have some competent coaching in Mike Riley who is a two-time Grey Cup champion head coach and has plenty of experience in spring football, with a coaching stint in the Alliance of American Football and as the OC of the Seattle Dragons of the XFL.

Riley's time in the XFL didn't produce great results as his team averaged 17.4 points per game and a 1-4 SU record. His offense also rushed the ball at roughly the same rate despite the negative game script.

The Generals will play out of the North Division and used their No. 4 pick on QB Ben Holmes from Tarleton State. However, the Lone Star Conference QB suffered a foot injury and has been subsequently released.

Now the Generals will likely lean on Luis Perez who played in the XFL and AAF. There is likely a reason he wasn't on a roster before the injury to Holmes. If you're looking for a pass-first offense, it isn't with the Generals.

New Jersey didn't get a Top-2 pick in any round until the 14th round when they took their second WR. They're strong in the secondary with corner De'Vante Bausby who won a Super Bowl ring from his time with the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad.

However, if the team can't move the ball, Riley and his team might be heading for another losing Spring. This team was already weak at QB and the Holmes injury makes things even worse. A bottom-place finish in the division is very possible.

New Orleans Breakers

The Breakers are tied for the second-shortest odds to win the league along with fellow South Division opponent Tampa Bay. The Breakers had the last choice at QB but picked first in the second and fourth rounds.

They had first dibs on edger rushers, picked fourth and fifth for offensive tackles and cornerbacks, and had the third-overall pick for wide receivers.

Despite getting the last pick of QB in the first round, the Breakers could be in great shape under center with Kyle Sloter. Sloter went undrafted out of Northern Colorado but was a one-man traveling show with stops in Denver, Minnesota, Arizona, Detroit, Chicago, and Las Vegas. NFL teams were certainly interested in him and he posted a 74% completion rate across 150 preseason passes. 

Fedora and OC Noel Mazzone are expected to run an up-tempo offense with very little time in the huddle. With No. 3 wide receiver Shawn Poindexter who played under OC Mazzone in Arizona, this could be one of the better offenses in the league and could lead the USFL in passes once the season is all said and done. 

With a spread offense that has some talented pass catchers and a defense that has high picks on the outside and in the secondary, we can see why this team went from +700 to +500 in the outright odds.

Philadelphia Stars

The Philadelphia Stars enter the inaugural season as decent +600 favorites to win the league. Starting with their QB, there is more to like here than with some other teams.

The Stars will be led by QB Bryan Scott who won the league MVP in the 2020 Spring league and was the only player to throw for over 1,000 yards. 

Scott will be under the tutelage of head coach Bart Andrus, who has a resume longer than most coaches in the league. Although not as impressive as some, Andrus has coached in the CFL, XFL, Spring League, UFL, as well as some other collegiate institutions. If there is one coach in this league that knows a thing or two about coaching minor league football, it's Andrus. The veteran coach also has prior experience with both of his QBs.

The Stars also used top picks on a running back and corner, plus Andrus used his minor league knowledge to select a group of players he's familiar with and are experienced in minor league football. 

This team has more familiarity with each other than any of the other seven teams which could go a long way in the USFL. Scott is in a good position to succeed with a coach who knows him and has familiar receiving weapons in receivers Devin Gray and Jordan Suell, who both played with Scott in 2020 in the Spring League.

Pittsburgh Maulers

The Pittsburgh Maulers (+600) will have one of the least-experienced HCs in the league. Kirby Wilson has not been a head coach at any point of his career and was a running back coach in the NFL from 2002 to 2020. He had success working under John Gruden and Mike Tomlin but taking over the head job is unfamiliar territory.

The Maulers had the seventh pick in the first round of QBs (Kyle Lauletta) and the second pick in the second round (Josh Love). Wilson spent plenty of draft capital on players with NFL practice squad experience, and Lauletta is one of the few signal-callers with NFL experience and has thrown five passes in an NFL regular-season game (0 for 5 with an interception). Pro Football Network has him ranked as the third-best QB in the league.

Tampa Bay Bandits

Now we're getting somewhere. The Tampa Bay Bandits have the second shortest odds to win the league this Spring (+500) and might have the best QB-HC combo in the league, which should go a long way in the Bandits' success. 

Former NFL HC Todd Haley will be in charge of the Bandits and next to Jeff Fisher, is likely the biggest name in the league. He'll be paired with arguably the best QB in the league in No. 2-overall pick Jordan Ta'amu, who was one of the more talented QBs in the XFL before COVID. He parlayed that XFL experience into some NFL practice squad work with stops in Houston, Washington, KC, Detroit, and Carolina.

He'll have some weapons as well. The Bandits drafted WR Eli Rogers with their first receiver pick. Rogers spent three seasons with the Steelers (and Haley) and could form the best QB-to-WR combo in the league.

As we saw with Ta'amu in the XFL, good QB play drives this league and the Bandits might have the best QB in the league despite picking second overall.

USFL players to watch

Shawn Poindexter WR New Orleans

New Orleans Breakers WR Shawn Poindexter was selected as the No. 3 receiver in the USFL draft. He jumps into a good situation in New Orleans with super-accurate QB Kyle Sloter, who despite being the last QB taken in the first round, actually has a solid resume which included a 74% completion rate over 150 NFL preseason passes.

Poindexter, who is 6-foot-5, joins his former OC Noel Mazzone from Arizona in what many think will be the highest-volume pass attack in the league. There won’t be much huddling from the Breakers which should be a big boost for the big-bodied Pointdexter on the outside. 

Poindexter was an undrafted WR that was signed by the 49ers in 2019. His size, hands, and offensive system are putting him in a great spot to succeed with an accurate quarterback in a likely no-huddle offense. 

Jordan Ta'amu QB Tampa 

The Bandits got lucky with QB Jordan Ta'amu slipping to the No. 2 pick. He has the best collegiate track record in the league with multiple school records at Ole Miss and looked better than the competition during his five games in the XFL, where he threw for over 1,000 yards and five TDs. He finished with the best-adjusted completion percentage (81.8%) in the abbreviated league. 

Ta'amu also has some wheels and spent time playing Lamar Jackson on the Chiefs' scout team. Add in head coach Todd Haley, who had a passing-friendly pass-play rate during his time in Pittsburgh, as well as former Steeler Eli Rogers to catch the ball, and it's safe to say Ta'amu is surrounded with the tools to take home the league's MVP.

USFL recommended bets for 2022

  • Tampa Bay Bandits (+500)
  • Philadelphia Stars (+600)

The combination of Todd Haley, Jordan Ta'amu, and Eli Rogers is the best HC-QB-WR combo in the league. If one offense is going to rack up the yards, it will likely be the Tampa Bay Bandits.

Ta'amu excelled in his five games in the XFL and proved how important QB play is in the Spring League. He possesses the athletism and arm-strength that will likely be lacking from his competitors. The odds aren't out, but we'd assume the Bandits' QB would be close to a +150 to +200 favorite to win the league's MVP.

The Stars have something that not many of these teams have, which is plenty of experience in playing with each other. Head coach Bart Andrus has coached in seemingly every minor league football stop known to man.

He used high picks on defensive players and built his offense around his Spring League championship roster that included QB Bryan Scott and top-two receivers in Devin Gray and Jordan Suell. Scott won The Spring League MVP and led the team to a 4-0 record. 

USFL rules to know

The first big difference between the USFL and the NFL is in the extra-point system. Teams can elect to go for one, two, or three points following a touchdown. The one-point XP is a kick from the 15-yard line. The two-pointer is a conversion from the two-yard line with the offense on the field, while the three-point option is a conversion attempt from the 10-yard line with the offense on the field.

One might think that this could create better chances to hit the Over, but teams could likely stay low-risk early in the game and risk leaving points on the field attempting the two- and three-point attempts.

The replay system is also more extensive in the USFL. More plays can be challenged including roughing the passer, defenseless players, and even pass interference that occurs 15-yards past the line of scrimmage. 

The league will also use drones to give us better camera angles as well as player cams where two players on each team will wear a helmet cam. 

The use of first-down sticks has also been eliminated and has been replaced by a measuring system similar to the one used in tennis. Each ball will have a chip in it which will determine first downs and touchdowns. 

Kickoffs will be from the 25-yard line and any ball kicked farther than 20 yards and isn't touched by the receiving team will be considered dead.

A very big wrinkle is within the onside kick rules. Teams can go for the traditional onside kick from the 25-yard line or they can choose to go for a 4th-and 12 conversion from their own 33-yard line, and failing to convert would turn the ball over.

Overtime is a best-of-three shootout from the two-yard line. Each team will alternate opportunities from the two-yard line and a successful attempt will get two points. If the teams are still tied after three attempts each, then it's sudden death.

The clock will stop for every first down inside the final two minutes of the second and fourth quarters.

Gunners cannot be double-teamed nor line up outside the numbers.

In regards to pass interference, if a ball is thrown behind the line of scrimmage there can be no pass interference or ineligible man downfield. Any defensive pass interference under 14 yards will result in a spot foul, while any PI great than 15 yards will just be a 15-yard penalty. Teams can also throw multiple forward passes as long as they are behind the line of scrimmage.

Week 1 odds

New Jersey Generals at Birmingham Stallions

Opening Line: Stallions -3, O/U 42.5
Date: Saturday, April 16
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, NBC, Peacock

Houston Gamblers at Michigan Panthers/h3>

Opening Line: Panthers -3, O/U 43.5
Date: Sunday, April 17
Kickoff: noon ET
TV: NBC, Peacock

Philadelphia Stars at New Orleans Breakers

Opening Line: Breakers -2.5, O/U 44.5
Date: Sunday, April 17
Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET

Tampa Bay Bandits at Pittsburgh Maulers

Opening Line: Bandits -4, O/U 41.5
Date: Sunday, April 17
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET

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