The Week 9 slate produced a second straight 2-2 week, which, given the unpredictable nature of the USFL, is an accomplishment.
Even the previously undefeated Birmingham Stallions were subject to an upset loss in Week 9, underscoring how even what had been the most reliable team in the league isn’t immune to an unexpected stumble.
We’ve now arrived at the final week of the regular season, and with all four playoff spots sewn up, this could well be a rollercoaster of a slate to try and prognosticate.
It remains to be seen whether coaches on those postseason contenders will rest certain key players or at least pull starters early, so we’ll look to navigate the uncertainty as successfully as possible.
All USFL Week 10 betting odds are courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook and current as of Thursday, June 16 at 3 p.m. ET.
- Juan Blanco USFL Week 9 Betting Record: 2-2
- Juan Blanco USFL Season Betting Record: 13-23
USFL Best Bets: Philadelphia Stars vs New Jersey Generals
Philadelphia Stars vs New Jersey Generals Prediction
The Stars had an unexpectedly difficult time with the Maulers, albeit under a set of rather unusual circumstances, before prevailing 17-16 in Week 9. The Generals had their own scare against a non-contending team before getting past the Panthers 25-23.
Philadelphia saw starting quarterback Case Cookus struggle and get banged up in Week 9, and he was replaced by K.J. Costello, who scuffled in own right. The Stars passing game compiled all of 131 yards at a 39.1% completion rate.
It remains to be seen which quarterback will be under center Saturday in a game that head coach Bart Andrus will almost certainly play close to the vest with a postseason rematch on tap next week.
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The Generals reincorporated De’Andre Johnson back into the offense after a couple of games away due to an ankle injury. The duo combined for a modest 152 passing yards with a touchdown and interception, and with the help of a strong game on the ground from Trey Williams (62 yards), plus a punt return from the electrifying Kavontae Turpin. It ended up being just enough for a two-point win.
With both teams likely to cycle in plenty of backups as the game unfolds, I see the outcome as a likely toss-up. I’ll give New Jersey the edge by three points in what should be a low-scoring affair.
New Jersey Generals 20, Philadelphia Stars 17
Stars vs Generals Best Bet: Under 41.5 Points (-110)
WAGER: 1 Unit
With both teams getting ready for next week’s playoff matchup, I can see each coach getting their key players some reps and then getting them out in order to prevent injury.
Both teams can put points on the board when their first-team offenses are on the field, but that certainly doesn’t project to be the case for the full game Saturday. As such, I can see some stalled drives, especially in the second half, making the Under our USFL bet of the day.
USFL Best Bets: Birmingham Stallions vs Tampa Bay Bandits
Birmingham Stallions vs Tampa Bay Bandits Prediction
The Stallions’ memorable undefeated run came to a halt in Week 9, as the Gamblers tripped them up in 17-15 contest. The Bandits came up woefully short in their quest to keep their playoff hopes alive, dropping a 17-6 decision to the Breakers.
Birmingham ironically lost its first game while J’Mar Smith threw for 260 yards, his most productive performance of the season. However, the typically productive ground attack was mostly stymied, and the defense was tough but not stingy enough against a Gamblers team that had nothing to lose and plenty of incentive to knock off the undefeated squad.
The Bandits didn’t play like a team with any real incentive, as their offense was largely stuck in neutral most of the game against the Breakers and they had absolutely no semblance of a ground game. Tampa Bay’s defense did play with heart and helped get New Orleans quarterback Kyle Sloter benched for Zach Smith, but the one-dimensional nature of the team’s offense has played a part in Jordan Ta’amu throwing 11 interceptions.
The Stallions got Victor Bolden back last week and will likely be playing with a bit of a chip on their shoulder after their first loss, giving them a bit more motivation than the other three playoff teams. While it’s difficult to gauge how deep into the game Holtz may play his front-line assets, I like Birmingham to come away with the win.
Birmingham Stallions 21, Tampa Bay Bandits 13
Stallions vs Bandits Best Bet: Stallions Moneyline and Under 41.5 Points (+203)
WAGER: 1 Unit
The Stallions are going to be the exception to the rule to an extent with respect to how I view Week 10 playoff contenders. Birmingham undoubtedly would like to get the bad taste of last week’s loss out of its mouth, so I can see Holtz leaving his starters a bit longer in order to enter the postseason with some momentum and positive vibes.
Meanwhile, the Bandits couldn’t achieve consistency on offense with everything on the line last week, so I have my doubts as to whether they can remain collectively motivated on both sides of the ball for all four quarters.
While this will be a close game for a while, I like the Stallions to avoid going into the playoffs with two straight losses in a lower-scoring game.
USFL Best Bets: Michigan Panthers vs Pittsburgh Maulers
Michigan Panthers vs Pittsburgh Maulers Prediction
The Panthers gave the Generals all they could handle in Week 9 before losing a 25-23 squeaker. Meanwhile, the Maulers did the same to another playoff team in the Stars before dropping a 17-16 decision on a memorable run by Philadelphia’s Matt Colburn.
The Panthers’ competitive effort was spearheaded by an impressive combined effort from QBs Josh Love and Eric Barriere, who combined to throw for 286 yards and three touchdowns, albeit while also tossing three picks. Michigan didn’t get much help from the ground game with Reggie Corbin (arm) out for a second straight game, but if he can return for the finale, a team that’s scored over 20 points in three straight games could be headed for another productive afternoon.
The Maulers went back to Vad Lee at quarterback in Week 9, and he responded with 146 passing yards and a touchdown, along with two interceptions.
Garrett Groshek was more efficient than usual on the ground while averaging 4.4 yards per carry, and Pittsburgh’s defense played one of its best games of the season before giving up the game-winning TD to Colburn. However, Pittsburgh’s secondary was especially impressive yet figures to have its hands full Sunday with a deep Panthers receiving corps.
I expect each coach to throw caution to the wind here despite each’s preference for the running game. As such, I think the more effective air attack, Michigan’s, prevails in a high-scoring affair.
Michigan Panthers 27, Pittsburgh Maulers 20
Panthers vs Maulers Best Bet: Over 42 Points (-110)
WAGER: 1 Unit
Given each team’s questionable defenses and the fact neither has anything to lose in this finale, this could well turn out to be the most entertaining game of the final week, even as the Maulers didn’t score so much as a single point in their first meeting against Michigan this season.
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The Panthers defense has mostly gone south since that game and Pittsburgh’s offense has improved to a considerable extent, so I can see some points being scored on both sides here.
With each squad capable of running balanced attacks to an extent and each coach likely to get a bit creative with the playbook, I’ll go with the Over of what is a modest total overall.
USFL Best Bets: New Orleans Breakers vs Houston Gamblers
New Orleans Breakers vs Houston Gamblers Prediction
The Breakers made up for a narrow loss to the Stallions in Week 8 by clinching their playoff spot in Week 9 with a 17-6 win over the Bandits. Meanwhile, the Gamblers accomplished what New Orleans couldn’t, tripping up Birmingham by a 17-15 score to blemish Skip Holtz’s club’s record for the first time this season.
Kyle Sloter was benched for Zach Smith on the Breakers’ third possession, and the latter completed five of six passes for 83 yards and a touchdown before suffering a shoulder injury. As such, it’s difficult to know which player may get the call for this season finale, or if head coach Larry Fedora is forced to deploy an alternative option in order to ensure the health of his top two signal-callers for next week’s playoff clash against the Stallions.
While there’s uncertainty regarding the passing game, the ground attack is in good hands with the duo of Jordan Ellis and Anthony Jones. The backfield mates combined for 104 rushing yards and a touchdown against Tampa Bay, with Ellis also adding three receptions for 20 yards.
How much work each player receives Sunday against a Houston defense that’s given up over 130 rushing yards per game remains to be seen.
The Gamblers’ Kenji Behar turned in a rock-solid effort in his first start, completing 66.7% of his passes and rushing for 36 yards on six attempts as well. Behar should be under center again for this finale and will look to continue building on the chemistry he displayed with the likes of Tyler Palka (6-83) and Isaiah Zuber (3-31-1) in last week’s upset.
Meanwhile, Mark Thompson and Devwah Whaley figure to see the bulk of the groundwork again, although Houston’s running game was absolutely non-existent in Week 9 (24 attempts, 29 yards).
The Breakers are the better team, but not if they’re playing scores of backups, as I expect will be the case. As such, I’m in the camp of a possible Houston upset after they already gave New Orleans a 23-16 scare in Week 4.
Houston Gamblers 23, New Orleans Breakers 20
Breakers vs Gamblers Best Bet: Gamblers +3 (-110)
WAGER: 1 Unit
Playoff spot in hand, the Breakers are likely to be flexible with their personnel in Week 10 as they prepare for the postseason.
Sloter may take a seat or play sparingly, as might some of the team’s talented group of receivers. New Orleans has some solid depth overall offensively, but they’ve had trouble with efficiency even with their top unit on the field at times this season.
Meanwhile, the Gamblers are riding high after dethroning the previously undefeated Stallions last week, and they’ll head into this finale with what will likely be a freewheeling, go-for-broke game plan.
Given Houston’s aggressive defense and Bahar’s improving play, I see it leading to a potential upset, and a cover at minimum, as Kevin Sumlin‘s squad tries to end its first season on a positive note following a series of close losses earlier in the season.