Birmingham Stallions vs. Philadelphia Stars Week 5 Pick
Birmingham Stallions (4-0 SU, 4-0 ATS) vs. Philadelphia Stars (2-2 SU, 2-2 ATS)
When: Sunday, May 15, Noon
Where: Protective Stadium, Birmingham, Ala.
Point Spread: BIR -6/PHI +6 (BetNow - 100% real cash bonus up to $500 when you use bonus code PREDICTEM)
Total: O/U 35.5
This really isn’t the matchup that Philadelphia needed right now, as the Stars are trying to keep pace in the weaker North Division and now have to face the USFL’s only undefeated team. The one saving grace for Philadelphia is that after this game, they’ll be past both New Orleans and Birmingham until the championship game, leaving them with ample opportunity to find a way into the playoffs by staying ahead of Michigan and Pittsburgh. But in order to keep their hold on second place in the North, the Stars have got to stop somebody.
Trying to bottle up the league’s best offense probably isn’t what coach Bart Andrus had in mind for his team. The Stallions slowed up a little in outlasting Tampa Bay last week, but Skip Holtz’s team has still cracked 25 points twice this season and is averaging just under that number per game this year. Not even a quarterback change has slowed down Birmingham this year, as the Stallions have fed off the fact that they do everything at least a little bit well and then put it all together when it matters most. With Philadelphia giving up points to everyone it plays, this could be another instance of Birmingham playing a lot better than the general public expects and putting up a fair amount of points in the process.
When Birmingham Has the Ball
So far, the Stallions have yet to miss a beat on offense, even with J’Mar Smith now replaced by Alex McGough after the former got injured in Week 3 and had to be replaced. McGough has done an adequate job at moving the football, which has been quite helpful to a side that doesn’t do all that well on the ground.
C.J. Marable does have 189 rushing yards to his name, but he’s had to play four games and get 56 carries to even get to that meager total. Put simply, when Smith is on the sidelines, Birmingham is a pure passing team. For this season, that’s meant tossing the ball in the general direction of Victor Bolden and letting him go and make a play. That didn’t work all that well against Tampa Bay, given that five of the ten targets to Bolden were incomplete passes. But as Birmingham gets more comfortable with McGough under center instead of Smith, the Stallions should play more effectively on offense. With what they’ve already shown, that’s a little worrisome for the rest of the league.
When Philadelphia Has the Ball
The Stallions aren’t the only ones dealing with quarterback concerns, as the Stars lost Bryan Scott to injury and have had to turn to reserve option Case Cookus. The one good thing about the way Bart Andrus set up his team is that the Stars have more continuity than anyone in the USFL because most of his players played for him in a previous spring league, leading to little confusion when they step on the field.
That showed in Cookus’ performance against Michigan, as the Stars lit up what had been a strong Panther defense for 26 points, and Cookus completed 73.3% of his passes in the win. Philadelphia is just fine with nickel and diming its way down the field with receivers Diondre Overton and Devin Gray, which worked for 190 yards through the air last week. However, that slow style of play is exactly why the total is as low as it is: Philadelphia only ran 51 plays last week against Michigan. The Stars know the defense is a liability, so their goal is to keep the offense on the field for as long as possible.
The books have started to get a read on the totals in this league, as the over went 3-1 last week. Of course, the over was dangerously close to going 1-3, as New Jersey and New Orleans pushed their games over the total by a mere half-point in both cases. The under is now 9-7 for the USFL’s four weeks of action so far, and if you’ve been blindly betting the total under, now might be the time to stop that.
The books also set the lines where they needed to be for the most part, as the underdogs were 2-2 ATS and 1-3 SU, with only Philadelphia’s escape of Michigan scoring a result for the underdogs. For the year, the favorites are now 12-4 SU and 10-6 ATS, which says that the books have figured out where to place these teams and you won’t have much luck blindly backing anyone.
Heat has gripped much of the center of the country, and Birmingham will be no exception. Temperatures will hit 86 degrees Saturday, and the six-mile-per-hour wind won’t be of much help to the players, which could lead to cramping and mistakes.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread
In the battle of the backups, I give the edge to Birmingham. Philadelphia might have the more cohesive unit on offense, but the Stars’ defense has been so ineffective this season that I don’t think it’s going to matter. I expect Birmingham to move the ball regularly no matter who it has at quarterback against this team, and I think the Stallions’ stingy pass defense won’t allow Cookus to get as comfortable as he did against Michigan. I’ll back Birmingham. Bet your USFL predictions for FREE this week by taking advantage of a 100% REAL CASH bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $300 at MyBookie Sportsbook! (Must use bonus code PREDICT100).