Four slates of USFL action are already in the books, and the league continues to gather momentum each week. The quality of play has unsurprisingly ratcheted up more each week as teams become more cohesive and offense/defensive identities become further entrenched.
Time has also helped clarify each team’s personnel usage to a large extent, but there is still some uncertainty when it comes to predicting games.
That was the case to a great extent again last week, although the Breakers salvaged me from a second straight 0-4 week as Kyle Sloter‘s late TD pass to Jonathan Adams helped New Orleans cover the spread.
We’ll look to carry over the momentum from that final game into this week, with the season approaching its halfway point.
All USFL Week 5 betting odds are courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook and current as of Thursday, May 12 at 10 a.m. ET.
- Juan Blanco USFL Week 4 Betting Record: 1-3
- Juan Blanco USFL Season Betting Record: 6-10
USFL Best Bets: Michigan Panthers vs Tampa Bay Bandits
Michigan Panthers vs Tampa Bay Bandits Prediction
The Panthers were my narrowest miss in Week 4, as they dropped a 26-25 decision to the Stars on a missed 21-yard field goal as time expired, despite Philadelphia playing with backup quarterback Case Cookus.
Michigan’s Shea Patterson was a better runner than passer, throwing three interceptions but gaining 79 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Reggie Corbin led the backfield for the second straight game, compiling 152 rushing yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.
Meanwhile, the Bandits fell to 2-2 with a 16-10 loss to the Stallions. For the third time in four games, Tampa Bay had trouble sustaining drives on offense. Jordan Ta’amu threw for only 125 yards, and B.J. Emmons was once again stymied on the ground, recording just 18 yards on 11 carries.
Tampa Bay’s defense fought valiantly and limited Birmingham to 3.3 yards per play, but it wasn’t enough to avoid the six-point loss.
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This game is shaping up as a defensive battle. The Panthers rank first in the USFL with just 53 points allowed, while Tampa Bay has been less stingy (79 points allowed) but still held Birmingham and Pittsburgh to 16 and three points, respectively, in two of its four games.
Michigan’s heavy reliance on the ground attack and the Bandits’ difficulty establishing any semblance of one will lead to a narrow, low-scoring Panthers win.
Michigan Panthers 17, Tampa Bay Bandits 15
Panthers vs Bandits Best Bet: Under 34 Points (-110)
WAGER: 1 Unit
The Panthers will pound the ball with Corbin and Stevie Scott for four quarters and eventually wear out the Bandits’ defense, but that approach will also naturally eat up plenty of clock.
The Bandits’ offense figures to have difficulty making consistent inroads against the Panthers’ aggressive defense, especially considering the likelihood that Tampa Bay will once again be largely one-dimensional.
Given the offensive outlook for each team, I like the Under to hit in our USFL Bet of the Day.
USFL Best Bets: New Orleans Breakers vs New Jersey Generals
New Orleans Breakers vs New Jersey Generals Prediction
After falling to the Stallions in a battle of undefeated squads in Week 3, the Breakers got right back in the win column in Week 4 against the Gamblers. It wasn’t easy, however, as New Orleans needed a late drive that culminated with the aforementioned Sloter-Adams touchdown connection in the closing seconds to snap a 16-16 tie.
The Breakers once again managed to run a balanced offense, as Jonathan Ellis, now the unquestioned lead back with the release of T.J. Logan, rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown.
The Generals also continued to thrive, with the De’Andre Johnson-Luis Perez duo once again playing effectively in a 21-13 win over the lowly Maulers.
New Jersey’s deep ground attack flashed its versatility when Darius Victor took over as lead back for the week after Trey Williams had put together a standout effort in Week 3. Victor combined for 78 total yards and a touchdown on 13 touches in the 21-13 victory.
With both teams capable of running balanced offenses, this could well turn out to be the most entertaining game of the week. In what could be a title-game preview, I like the Breakers’ proficient passing attack to help produce a close, high-scoring win.
New Orleans Breakers 24, New Jersey Generals 20
Breakers vs Generals Best Bet: Over 36.5 Points (-110)
WAGER: 1 Unit
The Breakers’ defense has been almost as good as the Panthers’ in limiting point production, allowing just 58 through four games. However, the Generals have shown the ability to keep teams off balance with a highly efficient passing attack that also features a significant running threat from one of its quarterbacks in Johnson.
Meanwhile, New Orleans’ offense is arguably the deepest in the league, with Sloter also having the likes of Johnnie Dixon, Sal Cannella and Taywan Taylor, the latter who broke out for a 4-112 line in Week 4, to throw to.
Factoring in Ellis’ impressive work on the ground, and the Breakers should be able to continue on the pace that’s already seen them accrue 93 points through four games.
USFL Best Bets: Birmingham Stallions vs Philadelphia Stars
Birmingham Stallions vs Philadelphia Stars Prediction
The Stallions continued to ride the most aggressive defense in the USFL to victory in Week 4, remaining undefeated with a 16-10 win over the Bandits. Birmingham had to make do without starting quarterback J’Mar Smith, who missed the game due to an illness.
Backup Alex McGough, who had opened the season as the starter before suffering an ankle injury in Week 1, stepped in and held it together, throwing for 126 yards and adding another 39 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
The Stars had their own reserve signal-caller thrive in spot duty in Week 4, as Case Cookus took over for the injured Bryan Scott and led Philadelphia to a wild 26-25 win over the Panthers. Cookus threw for 190 yards and two touchdowns, while adding 35 rushing yards.
The impressive performance against one of the league’s best defenses once again validated the offensive prowess of head coach Bart Andrus, who had been getting even more impressive results with Scott, a Division III product.
This game sets up as a matchup of strength against strength. No team pressures the quarterback more frequently or effectively than the Stallions, who are now allowing just 17 points per game since Week 2. However, the Stars have essentially been matchup-proof on offense, scoring 89 points across their four games.
In what could well turn out to be a back-and-forth affair, I like defense to carry the day. I’m rolling with the Stallions to emerge with a close win.
Birmingham Stallions 25, Philadelphia Stars 20
Stallions vs Stars Best Bet: Stars +6.5 (-110)
WAGER: 1 Unit
The Stars’ offense can seemingly keep them in every game, and Philadelphia now has a full game (plus part of Week 3) with Cookus leading the way.
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The Stallions’ defense will make things difficult at times for Cookus and company, but Philadelphia will keep things close.
The Stars’ two losses this season have come by just six and eight points, and I see them staying within that range here in Week 5 to slide in under the number.
USFL Best Bets: Pittsburgh Maulers vs Houston Gamblers
Pittsburgh Maulers vs Houston Gamblers Prediction
The Maulers are not only the USFL’s only remaining winless team, but they sport the most punchless offense in the league as well. Pittsburgh hasn’t been able to find an answer at quarterback, with Kyle Lauletta unable to offer much in the 21-13 loss to the Generals in Week 4.
Lauletta completed under 50% of his passes in the defeat, and with Josh Love now having been released, coach Kirby Wilson doesn’t really have any other viable options. The ground attack continued to show flashes with Garrett Groshek and Madre London serving as its top two rushers, but defenses aren’t really being forced to respect Pittsburgh’s passing game at the moment.
The Gamblers are only 1-3 but Houston has been playing competitive games, as corroborated by their relatively thin -8 point differential. Kevin Sumlin‘s squad lost a heartbreaker to the Breakers in Week 4, but Clayton Thorson showed some progress under center by refraining from throwing an interception for the first time this season.
Sumlin has stood by his signal-caller despite some early struggles, and he continues to develop rapport with wideouts Isaiah Zuber and JoJo Ward in particular.
The Maulers defense continues to shoulder a heavy burden, with the general ineffectiveness of the team’s offense dragging them down. Meanwhile, the Gamblers can operate a balanced attack that also features bruising running back Mark Thompson, who could easily wear down Pittsburgh’s front as the game goes on.
Houston’s offense is much more functional right now, so I like them to notch a reasonably comfortable win in Week 5.
Houston Gamblers 23, Pittsburgh Maulers 12
Gamblers vs Maulers Best Bet: Gamblers -5.5 (-110)
WAGER: 1 Unit
Thorson appears to be gaining more confidence by the week, and Thompson, despite being stymied for the first time by New Orleans in Week 4, is a legitimate workhorse back that can handle 20-plus carries.
The Gamblers should be able to control the clock plenty, and its opportunistic defense should feast on occasion against Lauletta and the Maulers’ offense.
I see the Gamblers earning their second win and covering this manageable number.