Week 1 of the USFL season is in the books. Last week, I split my picks, going 2-2 on my four suggestions. This week, with more information, I’m looking to provide a positive return on investment on the following three top picks in Week 2.
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Michigan Panthers at New Jersey Generals Under 41.0 Points (-110)
The Panthers and Generals want to pound the ball between the tackles, a recipe for chewing up clock and hitting an under. The Panthers scored only 12 points in their first game. They also trailed by three points halfway through the first quarter and 11 points after Houston opened the second quarter with a scoop-and-score fumble recovery and successful two-point conversion. The Gamblers scored another touchdown at the 5:15 mark in the second quarter and led 17-0 after an unsuccessful two-point try.
Still, Michigan had a run-centric offense, despite being in a negative game script most of the afternoon. The Panthers attempted only 30 passes versus running 46 times. Meanwhile, the Generals lost a heartbreaker, 28 to 24. The Generals scored on their opening drive but mustered just 17 more points the rest of the game. Further, they had an even larger discrepancy between runs and passes than the Panthers, attempting 44 rushes and only 26 passes. Moreover, they attempted 24 runs in a row at one point in the game.
K.I.S.S. = keep it simple, stupid.
— New Jersey Generals (@USFLGenerals) April 17, 2022
If these two teams have their druthers, they’ll run, run, and run more. I say the following only partly in jest. The Panthers and Generals might challenge the fastest televised professional football game ever played by keeping a running clock from the first whistle to the last whistle by pounding the rock relentlessly.
Philadelphia Stars -6.0 Points vs. Pittsburgh Maulers (-110)
The Stars lost their first game of the year after repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot. Philadelphia missed a field goal on their opening drive, threw a pick-six on their second drive, failed a fourth and goal early in the second quarter, had a punt blocked for a safety, and missed another field goal later. It was a confluence of unfortunate happenings that would be hard to duplicate if they tried. Still, they hung around and lost 23-17.
Comparatively, the Maulers were drilled. They scored a week-low three points, losing 17-3 to the Bandits. First-time head coach Kirby Wilson was over his skis. Predictably, the long-time running back coach used an archaic ground-and-pound offense while getting his tail whipped. The Maulers were 11 of 26 through the air and attempted 32 runs in a loss that felt more lopsided than 14 points. Watching his clapping on the sideline and hearing his rah-rah coach talk in the final minutes of the loss gave me very Jason “clapper” Garrett vibes.
I have more faith in spring and developmental league veteran Bart Andrus tightening up Philadelphia’s execution in Week 2 than a first-time head coach who cut a player for wanting pizza instead of chicken salad righting his team’s ship.
Power trip. That’s all that is. Cutting someone over a food preference and making a decision before hearing both sides. @i_BSmith4 the best RB in that league somebody need to pick him up ASAP https://t.co/SY1CCdvhqT
— Mike McCray II (@CoachMcCray9) April 18, 2022
Further, Philadelphia’s modern pass-happy tendencies, which Cody Main of Establish the Run highlighted on Twitter, could make this ugly.
This Philadelphia Stars offense will ultimately be fun for DFS (and the league) once it gets rolling.
* in 3- or 4-WR sets on 98.5% of plays
* using former converted WR Bug Howard in the slot
* one of few anti Establish It teams with a 72.3% dropback rate
— Cody Main (@cmain7) April 19, 2022
After one week, the Maulers are in a class of their own for futility, making laying six points with the Stars an easy pill to swallow.
Birmingham Stallions at Houston Gamblers Under 41.0 Points (-110)
This total feels at least a field goal higher than it should be. Yes, the Stallions hung a week-high 28 points on the board in their season opener. Nonetheless, their quarterbacking left a lot to be desired. Alex McGough started the game and was 5-10 for 55 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Then, he was injured and either benched because of the injury or ineffectiveness, paving the way for J’Mar Smith to lead a comeback. Still, Smith was just 11-21 for 156 yards, one touchdown, and zero interceptions.
Birmingham ran only 53 plays, and they possessed the ball only 22 minutes and five seconds compared to 37 minutes and 55 seconds for the Generals. So, Birmingham’s formula for a win and scoring 28 points isn’t repeatable. However, their defense was great. According to Ian Hartitz of Pro Football Focus, the Stallions pressured the Generals on a staggering 68.8% of their dropbacks. As a result, I expect them to breathe down Clayton Thorson’s and Kenji Bahar’s necks all game.
Additionally, Houston’s offense was dreadful in their first game, scoring 17 points, running just 44 plays, passing for only 81 yards, and rushing for 100. Yikes. Like Birmingham, Houston got after it on defense. The Gamblers forced four fumbles (recovering two, including a scoop-and-score touchdown), had an interception, and tallied three sacks. Thus, this game has a defensive slobber knocker written all over it.
NFL Win Totals: BettingPros Staff Early Picks >>
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Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @BChad50.
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