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USFL Playoffs 2023: Betting Guide, Format, and Players to Watch
After ten weeks of regular season games to decide the contenders, the USFL playoffs are upon us. On July 1, a champion will be crowned from among the teams that remain: the Pittsburgh Maulers, Michigan Panthers, Birmingham Stallions, and New Orleans Breakers.
Here, we’ll break down the contenders – how they got here, what matchups are upcoming, how those matchups might unfold, and what those hoping to bet on the USFL playoffs should know heading in.
USFL Playoff Structure
The USFL playoffs are structured in a simple manner – the league is divided into two divisions, and a playoff berth is given to the first-place and second-place teams in the standings of each division at the end of the regular season.
On Saturday, the two teams from the North Division will play each other; the winner will advance to the championship game. Same story on Sunday, when the two teams from the South Division will play with the same prize on the line.
Matchups in the USFL Playoffs
Here are the matchups that await us this weekend in the USFL playoffs:
- Pittsburgh Maulers (4-6) vs. Michigan Panthers (4-6) – Saturday, June 24, 8:00 PM EDT
- Birmingham Stallions (8-2) vs. New Orleans Breakers (7-3) – Sunday, June 25, 8:00 PM EDT
The winners of these games will go on to play against each other in the championship on Saturday, July 1, at 8:00 PM EDT.
Memorable USFL Playoff Moments
While the USFL is only entering their second season of consecutive operation, the Birmingham Stallions and New Orleans Breakers are already entering their second consecutive season of meeting each other in the playoffs.
Last year, the Stallions emerged victorious 31-17 against the Breakers, defeating them for the third time in a season in which the Stallions went 9-1 and would go on to win the USFL championship.
J’Mar Smith led the team through a controlled, effective game at quarterback, scoring a pair of touchdowns and orchestrating several long drives that largely kept the Breakers’ offense – led by All-USFL quarterback Kyle Sloter – off the field.
On the north side, the Pittsburgh Maulers and Michigan Panthers are both entering the playoffs for the first time after watching from home in the league’s first season. The Philadelphia Stars made last season’s championship a close affair, taking a narrow 33-30 loss from the Stallions. We’ll see if the Maulers or Panthers can bring the North their first championship.
Betting Favorites to Win the USFL Playoffs
Odds will vary between sites, but the Birmingham Stallions open as the clearcut favorite to repeat as champions.
Birmingham boasts the longest active consecutive win streak at five games – including a 24-20 victory over their upcoming opponent, the New Orleans Breakers. They also have a 27-13 victory over the Michigan Panthers and a 24-20 victory over the Pittsburgh Maulers on their 2023 résumé.
For the opening playoff weekend, the Maulers are favored slightly over the Panthers at most online sportsbooks, while the Stallions are favored slightly over the Breakers.
The odds for the championship game – whoever participates – will bear watching. The Stallions won as many games this season as the Maulers and Panthers combined; how much will the perceived quality gap between the divisions affect the lines?
Teams to Watch in the USFL Playoffs
Below are brief summaries of the four teams participating in the 2023 USFL playoffs:
Birmingham Stallions (8-2, 1st in South)
At 8-2 and riding a five-game win streak, the Birmingham Stallions are the hottest team entering the USFL playoffs and will be heavy favorites to win the championship for the second season in a row.
Their offense leads the league in both total yards (3,326) and points (287), and has 50 more points this season than the second-highest-scoring team. They also have the best third-down conversion rate in the league at 51 percent, and their defense has given up the third-fewest points in the league (190) despite giving up the most yards.
Altogether, finding a reason to bet on the Stallions is much easier than finding a reason to bet against them. It’ll be an upset if they lose in either round of the playoffs.
New Orleans Breakers (7-3, 2nd in South)
The Breakers have been one of the streakiest teams of the USFL season, surging out to a dominant 4-0 record before losing their next three in humbling fashion, then winning their next three to reassert themselves as a title contender.
Their offense ranks second in both yards (3,154) and points (237), and their defense allowed a league-low 17.0 points per game while also notching a league-high 28 sacks.
With their superior record and victories over both the Maulers and Panthers in the regular season, the Breakers figure to be favored in the USFL championship if they make it past the Stallions. That’s a big ‘if’, but the Breakers have topped the Stallions before and are the best bet in the current playoff field to do it again.
Pittsburgh Maulers (4-6, 1st in North)
Despite a rough season in an incredibly rough North Division, the Maulers found a way to win each of their last two games, rising to 4-6 and stealing the division from the jaws of every other team in it.
They did this not on the strength of their offense – which finished dead last in the USFL in yards (2,426) and nearly in points (177) – but on the strength of an incredible defense and a special teams unit that continually made plays of their own and dramatically lowered the difficulty for enough of the Maulers’ offensive drives.
The Maulers are hardly a conventional favorite, but they routed the New Jersey Generals 26-6 to secure the top seed in the north a week after defeating their upcoming opponents, the Panthers, by a score of 19-7.
Their earlier matchup against the Panthers this season saw them leave with another 23-7 victory. It’s a tough way to win, but the Maulers will be favored to win at least one more game for good reason.
Michigan Panthers (4-6, 1st in North)
The Panthers – owners of the longest odds to go anywhere in the playoffs by a significant margin – tried desperately to spoil a 2-0 start to the season before beating the Generals and Stars in the last four weeks to edge out the second playoff berth in the North.
They’re the only team to score fewer offensive points than the Maulers, with 171, and their defense gave up the sixth-highest number of points at 209.
There’s little case for taking the Panthers’ odds in this playoff, but the USFL has proven difficult to predict, and the Panthers odds may be long enough to inspire some flier bets.
Players to Watch in the USFL Playoffs
The USFL will offer no shortage of key players to watch in the upcoming playoffs.
- Alex McGough, QB – With a league-high 20 passing touchdowns this season alongside five rushing touchdowns, a league-high 67.4 completion percentage, and 2,507 yards from scrimmage between passing and running, it’s hard to argue against McGough being the best QB the USFL had to offer in 2023.
- Jace Sternberger, TE – The Stallions offense isn’t short of talent, but Sternberger finished fourth in the USFL with 517 yards on only 33 catches and led the league with seven touchdown receptions.
- Davion Davis, WR – On only 39 catches, Davis managed to finish second in the league with 552 receiving yards, including a fourth-highest 292 after the catch.
New Orleans Breakers
- McLeod Bethel-Thompson, QB – Bethel-Thompson led the league in passing yards throughout the season, finishing with 2,433 to go along with 14 touchdowns. There were some rough games, but Bethel-Thompson is, at worst, the second-best quarterback left in the field.
- Sage Surratt, TE – Surratt was a focal point of the Breakers’ offense, finishing second in the league with 50 receptions, third in the league with 552 yards, and leading the league with 340 yards after the catch.
- Wes Hills, RB – Hills’ 3.8 yards per carry average isn’t anything to write home about, but he led the league by a wide margin with 180 rushing attempts and crossed the goal line 10 times. His league-high 679 rushing yards looks markedly less impressive next to his carry count, but Hills clearly fills an important function in the Breakers’ offense.
- Isiah Hennie, WR – Hennie didn’t just give the Maulers 309 yards after the catch – the second-highest number in the league – and three touchdowns on 46 catches. He was also the only player in the USFL season to successfully return a punt for a touchdown. Hennie took advantage of the Maulers’ forcing punts to rack up 297 yards on 17 punt returns; no other player eclipsed even 100 return yards.
- Kyahva Tezino, LB – 94 tackles, nine TFLs, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, six pass deflections, and two defensive touchdowns? Tezino has drawn credit for his performance and might be the best defensive player of the 2023 USFL season.
- Mark Gilbert, CB – With league-highs in both interceptions (4) and pass deflections (15), Gilbert was the most productive cornerback in the USFL this season by a substantial margin.
- Breeland Speaks, DE – Speaks led the league with 9.0 sacks on the season, but had an especially dominant game in Week 1 – including seven tackles, three sacks and two TFLs. With six total TFLs and two forced fumbles at season’s end, Speaks has shown an ability to create drive-ending defensive plays.
- Frank Ginda, LB – After leading the league with 104 tackles and adding on three TFLs and three interceptions, Ginda has established himself as one of the most consistently productive defensive players in the league.
Where and How to Bet on the USFL Playoffs
Betting on the USFL isn’t difficult – many popular sportsbooks in the United States will offer markets on USFL games.
How To Register?
To register on a mobile sportsbook in the United States, go to the sportsbook’s website or mobile app, find the ‘Register’ prompt, and complete the registration process. You’ll need to verify your identity and location for legal reasons, but the process is straightforward and should take little time to complete with established operators.
How to Deposit?
Depositing funds to bet with, like registration, is a straightforward and simple process at reputable mobile sportsbooks in the United States. Find the prompt to deposit funds on the website or mobile app and have an acceptable payment method ready – credit/debit cards and PayPal are valid methods at almost all sportsbooks. Once the deposit is confirmed, most sportsbooks will allow you to bet with your new funds immediately.
USFL Playoff Betting Markets
The USFL won’t offer bettors the same bevy of options they could expect from NFL games, but the basics will all be there. These include:
- Moneyline – A form of betting popular in all sports, where all that’s involved is picking a team to win a game outright. Odds are set based on each team’s perceived chance of winning.
- Spread – Spread betting is similar to moneyline betting, but accounts for predicted margin of victory to make the odds on each side of the spread roughly even. If the favorite team wins by more than the spread, they cover it; in any other outcome, the underdog wins against the spread.
- Total – Also known as an over/under bet; betting on the total allows players to win money by correctly predicting whether the points scored in a game exceed or fall short of a particular number.
- Props – Any prop bets for USFL games – whether they be player, team, or game props – will vary between sportsbooks.
- Futures – While the limited rounds in the USFL playoffs tightens the window for futures betting, bettors can still place wagers on the future champion before the final two teams are decided.