The second iteration of the United States Football League (USFL) is at the halfway point of its inaugural regular season, and the on-field results have been encouraging overall. There has been no shortage of one-possession games, including a last-play touchdown by the Maulers against the Gamblers in Week 5.
Attendance at Legion Field and Protective Stadium has been spotty at times, but a variety of concerns, including some springtime storms, have played a part. The nascent league also continues to draw plenty of attention through its various TV outlets.
With the season at the halfway point, a two-week postseason will unfold at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio is drawing nearer, followed by the USFL title game on July 3.
The undefeated Birmingham Stallions and the 4-1 New Jersey Generals appear to be clear frontrunners at the moment, but there are several teams that could give them a run for their money. That’s especially true in the South Division that the Stallions currently head up, where the two next-best squads at the halfway point reside.
Heading into Week 6, let’s check in on the USFL winner futures market for a look at the favorites and possible value selections.
USFL Winner Odds
USFL winner odds are courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook
- Birmingham Stallions (+160)
- New Jersey Generals (+300)
- New Orleans Breakers (+350)
- Tampa Bay Bandits (+550)
- Philadelphia Stars (+1100)
- Michigan Panthers (+2500)
- Houston Gamblers (+2500)
- Pittsburgh Maulers (+2500)
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USFL Winner Prediction
Birmingham Stallions (+160)
I’d tabbed the Stallions as a sleeper pick with good value at +750 prior to the start of the season, and those who jumped on that opportunity are seemingly sitting pretty for the time being. Coach Skip Holtz has smartly gone with the hot hand at quarterback for the most part, as J’Mar Smith has been effective helming a talented air attack that includes high-upside targets Victor Bolden, Osirius Mitchell, and Marlon Williams, and that just added speedy Jeff Thomas in a trade with the Maulers.
Meanwhile, the defense has been the USFL’s best overall at bringing pressure, which has led to 14 sacks, four interceptions, five fumble recoveries, a safety, and a defensive touchdown. Birmingham is allowing a tiny 186.6 passing yards per game as well, and the unit could get even more ferocious down the stretch as it further gels and non-contending teams potentially get even more careless with the ball.
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A Stallions-Generals showdown for the USFL title looks like the likeliest outcome at this point, one that would be a rematch of the league’s first-ever game and which would test Birmingham’s defense significantly. Nevertheless, the Stallions still look like the slightly more complete team, especially with running back C.J. Marable getting more comfortable by the week.
USFL Championship Contenders
New Jersey Generals (+300)
The Generals were another strong preseason value at +700, and they’re still a sharp pick at this price given their chances of reaching the championship game. New Jersey does have some tough competition in its own division, where the only other two teams that have the look of legitimate contender, the Breakers and the Bandits, also reside.
Both of those squads carry 3-2 records into Week 6, but each has displayed some weaknesses, and New Orleans just suffered a 10-point loss to New Jersey in Week 5. The remainder of the schedule is favorable for Mike Riley’s team as well, considering Tampa Bay is the only team with a winning record remaining on their ledger.
Riley is likely to stick with a single-QB set-up for the time being with De’Andre Johnson having performed very well in the role in the Week 5 win against the Breakers. New Jersey also has a pair of standout running backs in Darius Victor and Trey Williams, and versatile receiver KaVontae Turpin, who seems to be developing into a USFL version of Deebo Samuel, could truly blossom during the second half of the season.
The New Jersey defense is another key factor — the Generals enter Week 6 tied with the Panthers with a league-low 80 points allowed and has been impressive against both the run and pass.
New Orleans Breakers (+350)
The Breakers have arguably looked as good as the Stallions and Generals at times, especially on offense, where Kyle Sloter has led an impressive passing attack that features standout receivers Jonathan Adams and Johnnie Dixon, as well as tight end Sal Cannella. Running back Jordan Ellis has also done a solid job as a lead back on most weeks.
However, New Orleans’ defense has had some slip-ups, and the Breakers have lost to Birmingham and New Jersey by nine and 10 points, respectively. The defense has tallied an impressive 11 sacks and snagged five interceptions, however, and if it can step up in potential postseason opportunities by causing some opportune turnovers, this bet could pay off.
USFL Championship Sleepers
Tampa Bay Bandits (+550)
The Bandits were my preseason pick for USFL title winner, but quarterback Jordan Ta’amu hasn’t always lived up to expectations and Todd Haley‘s club also lost to the Breakers, their competition for a possible second-place finish in the South, by 31 points. They did impressively hold their own against the Stallions, dropping a 16-10 decision in Week 2, but they’ve yet to be tested otherwise.
The Generals still loom in Week 7, while a rematch with the Breakers, which could decide a playoff berth, awaits in Week 9. Then, the Stallions finish off Tampa Bay’s campaign in Week 10.
That’s a particularly arduous path to travel in the second half, and the Bandits also have yet to really establish a consistent ground attack that can help Ta’amu out.
The longer odds are explained by that series of challenging circumstances, making the Bandits strictly a longshot wager to roll the dice on if your bankroll can support it.