2024 UFL Week 1 Best Bets: Defenders Look for Fast Start

Jordan Ta'amu DC Defenders v Arlington Renegades
Jordan Ta’amu #10 of the DC Defenders at play against the Arlington Renegades during the first half of XFL Championship game. Ronald Cortes/Getty Images/AFP

The merger between the USFL and XFL has led to the UFL, and Week 1 action is this weekend with all 8 teams set to meet. You can find betting odds available at the top-rated sportsbooks for each game.

Perhaps the highlight of the weekend is the very first game in UFL history, as we’ll see the Arlington Renegades start their XFL title defense against the Birmingham Stallions, the back-to-back champions from the USFL.

We have our best bets for Week 1 below.

Picks Summary

  • Stallions-Renegades Over 41.5 (-110)
  • Defenders -6 (-110)
  • Showboats-Roughnecks Over 40.5 (-110)

*All odds from Caesars Sportsbook (check our Caesars Sportsbook Review)

Birmingham Stallions vs. Arlington Renegades

Saturday, March 30, 2024 – 01:00 PM ET at Choctaw Stadium

Let’s get things started with the battle of champions from each league. The Stallions are a 3.5-point road favorite as they have been the best team in either league in recent years. But we’ll see if the Renegades can get off to a good start after finishing strong in the postseason to win the XFL Championship.

The total is 41.5 points and that is the bet we are looking at here for your UFL picks.

Stallions: Best Offense in the USFL

The Stallions are the favorites to win the UFL championship this year, but we’ll see how they fare in a merged league where the next 3 teams behind them in the championship odds are from the XFL, suggesting that is the stronger league of the two.

The XFL was the slightly more offensive league based on 2023 averages for the leagues. But the Stallions can claim they had the best offense in the USFL under coach Skip Holtz, who is returning for his 3rd season with the team.

Here are some of the ranks in offensive categories in the USFL for the Stallions last season on their way to a 9-1 record:

  • No. 1 in points per game (28.7)
  • No. 1 in passing completion percentage (67.4%)
  • No. 1 in yards per pass attempt (7.7 – a full yard above the No. 2 offense)
  • No. 1 in touchdown passes (21)
  • No. 1 in lowest interception rate (2.13%)
  • No. 1 in passer rating (107.6)
  • No. 1 in 3rd down conversion rate (51.0%)
  • No. 1 in offensive yards per game (332.6)

That is impressive stuff from the Stallions. They even ranked No. 2 in rushing yards per carry (4.8), so they can run it too. But things could look different this year without MVP quarterback Alex McGough. However, the team will have J’Mar Smith, their 2022 starter and last year’s intended starter before he had a season-ending injury in Week 1. The team also could use Matt Corral, an NFL draft pick who did not pan out in the pros.

But the expectations are for Birmingham to be able to score frequently.

Renegades: Recapturing Lightning in a Bottle

The Renegades were only 4-6 in the regular season, but they still qualified for the playoffs and got hot at the right time, upsetting Houston and DC to win the championship. The defense stepped up for them, and so did new quarterback Luis Perez, who they traded for from Vegas late in the season.

Perez is now the full-time starter for Bob Stoops, but he’ll have to play more like the quarterback who threw 3 touchdown passes in both playoff games than the middling one who got through the regular season for Vegas and Arlington.

The Stallions were more impressive offensively than defensively, so it is very possible we could see a high-scoring game here if the quarterbacks show up for both teams.

The Pick

There might be some opening day nerves as these teams get used to the new league rules and playing with some new faces on the rosters. But the coaching staffs are experienced and back from last year, the quarterbacks have experience in these systems, and both teams have a more than fair shot at scoring at least 20 points as they look to start their title defenses in style.

Birmingham may very well win, but we’ll take the over 41.5 points as our best bet for this first game.

UFL Pick: Over 41.5 (-110) at Caesars Sportsbook

DC Defenders vs. San Antonio Brahmas

Sunday, March 31, 2024 – 12:00 PM ET at The Alamodome

This matchup has the best team in the XFL regular season last year (Defenders) against one of the worst (Brahmas). The Defenders were 9-1 and the top offense while the Brahmas were 3-7 and scored the 2nd-fewest points in the league.

But there are some big changes on the San Antonio side at coach and quarterback while the Defenders are bringing back the 2023 XFL Coach of the Year (Reggie Barlow) and 2023 XFL Offensive Player of the Year (quarterback Jordan Ta’amu).

The Defenders are a 6-point road favorite with a total of 44 points. We are looking at that spread.

Can the Defenders Win More Comfortably?

The Defenders had that fantastic 9-1 regular season, but a poor defense made so many games a nail biter. It’s not that surprising they were upset by Arlington in the title game after they only beat Arlington 28-26 in overtime in Week 9. The signs were there as teams that lean on offense and are this porous on defense almost never win championships in professional football.

But half of DC’s wins last year came by 1-to-6 points. In fact, they finished the regular season with wins of 34-33, 28-26, and 29-28. All games that could have easily gone the other way.

At the very least, offense is more consistent than defense, and there is hope the Defenders can field another formidable attack with Ta’amu back at quarterback. The defense may also regress to the mean and improve as it really couldn’t do worse than a year ago.

On a positive note, the Brahmas have a long way to improve on offense, so this could be one of the best opportunities for the Defenders to shine defensively all season. Getting one of the only 2 teams in the UFL with a new head coach and staff in Week 1 when everyone is trying to figure things out.

Wade Back in Texas

Wade Phillips has plenty of experience coaching football in Texas. His dad Bum was the coach of the Houston Oilers, he was on that staff, he’s been the interim coach of the Houston Texans, the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, and he was the head coach of the Houston Roughnecks in the XFL last year.

Now Phillips is replacing Hines Ward as the coach of the San Antonio Brahmas, who slumped to a 3-7 finish with bad quarterback play a main culprit. Not sure how much Phillips can help there, but the team did at least acquire Quinten Dormady, who had some solid efforts for Orlando in the XFL last year.

The main improvements could be on defense where Phillips is usually good at getting after the quarterback and having an instant impact on that unit. But he has a tough assignment this week as the Defenders were so good on offense last year.

The Pick

When Wade’s Roughnecks faced the Defenders last year, it was a 37-26 win for DC. They had no problem ripping through his defense. This game should be lower scoring since it is Week 1 and rust and mistakes could be high.

But one thing we do like to repeat from that score is for DC to cover and finally win a game comfortably, which would be a touchdown or better in this case.

UFL Pick: Defenders -6 (-110) at Caesars Sportsbook

Memphis Showboats vs. Houston Roughnecks

Sunday, March 31, 2024 – 03:00 PM ET at Rice Stadium

The final game to close Week 1 has the smallest spread as it is a virtual pick ‘em at sharp sportsbooks. The Memphis Showboats and Houston Roughnecks are a couple of USFL teams from last year despite the Houston team using the XFL’s team name.

The total is 40.5 points and that is going to be our focus in a game that otherwise may be too close to call for Week 1.

New Coach, New Name

The Memphis Showboats were 5-5 last year, unremarkable on both sides of the ball, and they replaced head coach Todd Haley with John DeFilippo, who was 7-3 with New Orleans and in the playoffs last year. They also have a new quarterback in Case Cookus, a social media sensation from his NFL preseason days.

The Houston Gamblers were also 5-5 last year. They could score but they also struggled to stop opponents from scoring. They have retained head coach Curtis Johnson, but they will go by the name of the Houston Roughnecks this year as they still compete in the USFL conference. They have a completely new quarterback room to figure out this year.

Big changes for both teams, but they are both in the bottom tier of contenders for the UFL championship based on the odds going into Week 1.

Last Year’s Meetings

These teams met twice last year and both games were close with both teams scoring at least 20 points each time.

The first meeting was in Houston in Week 3, a 30-26 win for Houston. That was the highest-scoring game of the season for the Showboats.

Memphis won the rematch in Week 7 at home by a 23-20 final. It was the fourth game in a 5-game winning streak for the Showboats.

The Pick

The teams do feel evenly matched with neither having a real edge at quarterback, head coach, or defense like you usually get with these other UFL matchups. These teams will just have to prove themselves in the newly merged league.

But our favorite pick is for the over to hit as we could see both teams again getting to 20 points, and someone has to win as there are no ties in the UFL. That should get the game over 40.5 points to end Week 1 action in the inaugural UFL season.

UFL Pick: Over 40.5 (-110) at Caesars Sportsbook

*21+ Seek help with a gambling addiction at 1-800-Gambler

*The line and/or odds referenced in this article might have changed since the content was published. For the latest information on line movements, visit OddsTrader’s free betting odds tool.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *