By Geoff Schwartz
FOX Sports NFL Analyst
USFL Week 3 is here! And there’s no better way to bring in the third week than with some of my favorite wagers for the upcoming games.
I’m a fan of this weekend’s games as a fan and as a bettor. Both the Maulers and the Panthers are looking for their first wins. Then you’ve got the Stallions and the Breakers — two teams that will be battling to keep their perfect records intact. And then the Gamblers and the Bandits, teams that struggle moving the ball but can use this weekend to prove the doubters wrong. Basically, the stakes are high for all these squads.
With two games in the books for everyone, we’re getting a good idea of every team’s identities. I know there’s still a good bit of football ahead, and in this game, a tiger can always change his stripes. But from what I’ve seen from all these squads, I’m ready to give you some solid picks to throw a couple of bucks on.
Let’s jump into the games, with odds courtesy of FOX Bet.
Tampa Bay Bandits (1-1) vs. Houston Gamblers (1-1), 4 p.m. ET Saturday, FOX
If you read my columns, you know I love unders. The first matchup of the weekend features the Bandits and Gamblers, and this game is prime for an under.
Both of these teams are the worst in the league at moving the ball down the field. The Bandits have averaged 219 yards per game while the Gamblers are at 229 yards through the two games. Both teams are also awful on third downs as well. The Gamblers are at 20% on third down while the Bandits are at 30%.
Neither of these teams can move the ball or score. Expect a slugfest, and take the under.
PICK: Under 38.5 total points scored by both teams combined
Pittsburgh Maulers (0-2) vs. Michigan Panthers (0-2), 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday, USA
I can’t get enough of these unders to start the season. Three totals went under the number out of four games in Week 1 and two of four last week. Defensive scores have helped a few of those games go over, but that’s going to be unreliable on a week-to-week basis.
This Maulers-Panthers matchup presents a perfect recipe for an under. The Panthers are only allowing 9.5 points per game through two weeks while giving up only 109.5 passing yards per contest.
The Maulers’ passing attack is not good. They only complete 49.2% of their passes, and they average only five yards per pass attempt. I do not expect Pittsburgh to just start moving the ball this weekend against Michigan.
The Panthers have their offensive issues as well. They’ve scored only three offensive touchdowns in the two games and are averaging just 4.8 yards per passing attempt. It’s not much better on the ground for Michigan, as they are averaging 3.4 yards per rushing attempt. While the Maulers have allowed some teams to put up points on them this season, I don’t expect the Panthers’ offense to improve all of a sudden.
I will keep betting on these games to go under the number until proven otherwise.
PICK: Under 39.5 total points scored by both teams combined
Birmingham Stallions (2-0) vs. New Orleans Breakers (2-0), 8 p.m. ET Saturday, FOX
The marquee matchup in the USFL this weekend features the 2-0 Breakers facing the 2-0 Stallions on Saturday night. When it comes to metrics, both teams rank at the top of the league when it comes total yardage per game this season. These teams are too evenly matched for the Stallions to be getting over a field goal.
On offense, New Orleans is speedy, and that’s been effective on the field so far. From a football lover’s perspective, it’s a lot of fun to watch. Quarterback Kyle Sloter leads that quick offense and hasn’t thrown an interception this season. Stallions’ QB J’Mar Smith is pretty good, too, but Coach Holtz’s Birmingham offense still has some big room for improvement.
It will be a close game as these two teams square off in the toughest game they’ve each played so far. Look for this one to come down to the last possession, so I’ll take the points.
PICK: Stallions (+3.5 at FOX Bet) to lose by fewer than 3.5 points or win outright
Geoff Schwartz played eight seasons in the NFL for five different teams. He started at right tackle for the University of Oregon for three seasons and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection his senior year. He is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffSchwartz.
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