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UFL Week 1 Preview: Birmingham, St. Louis Top Spread Picks

Last year, spring football was divided into two leagues featuring eight teams each – the USFL and the XFL. However, the two leagues will no longer compete for fans’ attention, joining forces to form the United Football League. Check our sportsbook for UFL futures odds.

The newly formed UFL, which is unrelated to the league with the same name played in 1961-1964 and 2009-2012, will kick off on Saturday, March 30. Like the prior two spring leagues, the UFL will have two conferences of four teams, and the top two teams in each make the playoffs. The difference is that the UFL will have an XFL and USFL conference, made up of teams from those leagues.

UFL Week 1 Preview: Birmingham, St. Louis Top Spread Picks
Birmingham Stallions quarterback J'Mar Smith #6 -Gaelen Morse/Getty Images/AFP

What can help simplify football player news and rumors about the UFL is that most of the team names, rosters and coaching staffs from the 2023 leagues are still around in 2024. The XFL conference will be made up of the Arlington Renegades, DC Defenders, San Antonio Brahmas and St. Louis Battlehawks. The USFL will feature the Birmingham Stallions, Houston Roughnecks (formally the Houston Gamblers), Memphis Showboats and Michigan Panthers.

Birmingham and St. Louis are the co-favorites to win the league championship at +300 odds.

The first games of this new league will be played on March 30 and 31, and at BetUS, we will break down each game to help you make picks for the start of the UFL.

 

Saturday, March 30

 

Birmingham Stallions at Arlington Renegades, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)

Right off the bat, the UFL will start with possibly two of the top teams heading into the 2024 season. The Stallions, who won the last two USFL Championships, will face the Renegades, who won the 2023 XFL Championship. Having the reigning champions of each league match up for the opening game is great for UFL news.

However, with that being said, there is a clear front-runner in this matchup. The Stallions have been one of the most dominant teams in spring football with a record of 21-3 over the last two seasons and back-to-back USFL championships. However, there was a change at quarterback due to Alex McGough, the 2023 USFL MVP, leaving for the NFL. But the original starter for 2023, J’Mar Smith, whose injury led to McGough taking over, is back.

 

The biggest test for the Stallions might be facing an XFL opponent. Out of the two spring leagues last year, the XFL had the upper hand regarding talent and might have that again in 2024. However, despite the Renegades winning the 2023 XFL championship, they only had a 4-6 record. The Renegades had a solid defense that allowed the third-fewest yards in the XFL last season, and the addition of quarterback Luis Perez sparked the offense, leading to the championship.

 

 

St. Louis Battlehawks at Michigan Panthers, 4 p.m. ET (FOX)

There is a good chance this game will have the biggest UFL spread over the weekend, favoring the Battlehawks. While they will be on the road and despite missing the playoffs in the XFL last season, the Battlehawks could be one of the top teams in the UFL.

Of the teams joining the UFL, the Battlehawks might have the best offense and surely will have the top passing game. In the 2023 XFL season, they averaged 226.2 passing yards per game, led by AJ McCarron. That helped the Battlehawks to a 7-3 record, but they missed the playoffs because that was not good enough to be a top-two team in their division.

On the other hand, the Panthers did make the playoffs in the USFL, but finished with a 4-6 record and lost in the first round. The team seemed to scrap by in its playoff run in 2023, and there have yet to be any improvements to have confidence about the Panthers doing that again in 2024.

 

 

Sunday, March 31

D.C. Defenders at San Antonio Brahmas, Noon ET (ESPN)

This game has a chance to be extremely lopsided for UFL lines. At the start of this season, the Defenders have the second-best odds to win the UFL (+360) while the Brahmas have the worst (+1400). That immediately puts this game into perspective for both teams.

In the 2023 XFL season, the Defenders seemed like the best team in the league. They went 9-1, winning all six games in their division, making them the clear favorites to win it all. However, in the championship, the Defenders were upset by the Renegades. The offense averaged 29.8 points, the most across both leagues, and should be able to replicate that success again in 2024.

 

 

Memphis Showboats at Houston Roughnecks, 3 p.m. ET (ESPN)

One of the more confusing things about the UFL is the Houston Roughnecks. There was a team by that name in the XFL in 2023. However, this team is composed of the coaching staff and roster of the USFL franchise named the Houston Gamblers.

The Roughnecks, formerly the Gamblers, will face the Showboats in their season’s opening game. Both teams were in the USFL in 2023 and in the same division, which could affect UFL picks. The teams are more familiar with each other than most other matchups during this opening weekend.

In addition, both teams went 5-5 in the USFL, missing the playoffs, and split their season series, with the home team winning each time. Given that the Roughnecks will be the home team in this matchup, that should favor them to win.

 

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