The end of Week 4 in the USFL was exactly why sports betting can be so invigorating and so frustrating at the same time.
The New Orleans Breakers had played a poor three quarters and allowed a mediocre Houston Gamblers team to hang around with them, leaving the game in a deadlock at 13 with the Breakers in field goal range. At that point, it didn’t matter whether you grabbed New Orleans on Friday when the line sat at -4.5, or if you waited until game day, which had jumped to -6.5. Either way, if the Breakers followed conventional strategy, the bet was toast.
And then the Breakers chose to completely abandon conventional strategy, instead throwing with under 15 seconds left for the end zone. And it worked, taking the game out of their kicker’s hands and turning it into a 20-13 victory that clinched the cover right along with the SU win.
Not only did the Breakers defy the odds and earn the cover, but all three picks in Week 4 cashed, as the Pittsburgh Maulers and New Jersey Generals came in just under the total at 34.5 and the Birmingham Stallions stayed perfect with a 16-10 win over the Tampa Bay Bandits. There might not be a lot of scoring in the USFL, but these teams are starting to figure out how to play as a unit.
Here are the odds and lines in Week 5.
USFL Week 4 Odds and Lines
Michigan Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Bandits
Spread: MICH +2.5 (-115) | TB -2.5 (-115)
Moneyline: MICH +120 | TB -140
Total: 34 (-115)
Panthers vs. Bandits Game Time: Friday, 8 p.m. EST
Panthers vs. Bandits Location: Protective Stadium, Birmingham, Ala.
New Orleans Breakers vs. New Jersey Generals
Spread: NO -3 (-115) | NJ +3 (-115)
Moneyline: NO -150 | NJ +130
Total: 36.5 (-115)
Breakers vs. Generals Game Time: Saturday, 3 p.m. EST
Breakers vs. Generals Location: Protective Stadium, Birmingham, Ala.
Birmingham Stallions vs. Philadelphia Stars
Spread: BIR -6 (-115) | PHI +6 (-115)
Moneyline: BIR -250| PHI +210
Total: 36 (-115)
Stallions vs. Stars Game Time: Sunday, Noon EST
Stallions vs. Stars Location: Protective Stadium, Birmingham, Ala.
Pittsburgh Maulers vs. Houston Gamblers
Spread: PIT +5.5 (-115) | HOU -5.5 (-115)
Moneyline: PIT +205 | HOU -250
Total: 33.5 (-115)
Maulers vs. Gamblers Game Time: Sunday, 4 p.m. EST
Maulers vs. Gamblers Location: Protective Stadium, Birmingham, Ala.
USFL Best Bets For Week 5
We’ve now hit five of our past six USFL plays, which means we’re starting to get a good idea of who these teams are and what they do well and don’t do well. Here are my USFL best bets for May 13 through 15.
USFL Best Bet May 13: Michigan Panthers-Tampa Bay Bandits Under 34 (-115), 8 p.m. EST, available at BetMGM
It’s a low total, but I’m confident here because these are the two weakest teams in the USFL when it comes to passing the football. Jordan Ta’amu doesn’t really take many chances with the football, which means that while he’s not likely to turn the ball over all that much, he’s also not going to do a heck of a lot on offense. The Bandits have just three passing touchdowns on the season and have only averaged 145.3 yards per game throwing the ball.
Michigan is even more impotent with the pass, as the Panthers average less than four yards per completion and less than 100 yards a game through the air. It hasn’t mattered whether Michigan has tried Shea Patterson or Paxton Lynch under center; the Panthers cannot move the ball through the air. Michigan does boast the best ground game in the USFL, but a strong rushing attack means you’re moving five yards at a time, and that lends itself to prime under territory.
USFL Best Bet May 14: New Orleans Breakers-New Jersey Generals Over 36.5, 3 p.m. EST, available at BetMGM
This total seems a bit low given how well these teams can move the ball. New Jersey struggled to score on Michigan in Week 2, but the Generals have since figured out how to move the football on the ground and usually chew up yardage pretty good via running quarterback De’Andre Johnson. New Orleans just barely snuck over the total against Houston, but Kyle Sloter isn’t likely to toss three interceptions or throw the ball 42 times the way he did against the Gamblers.
As long as New Orleans takes care of the football, it should do its share of the scoring. New Jersey is usually good for 20 points, so the Breakers don’t need to do a lot to hit this number. I think they’re the better team and should also be good for 20, so I’m comfortable with the over.
USFL Best Bet May 15: Houston Gamblers -5.5 (-115) vs. Pittsburgh Maulers, 4 p.m. EST, available at BetMGM
Ten points was pushing it a bit with fading the Maulers, but 5.5 should be a reasonable target. Houston’s biggest strength is its opportunistic defense, which can lead to a lot of points when things go wrong but a lot of turnovers against the right opponent. Pittsburgh is likely to be the right opponent. The Maulers aren’t getting much done on offense against anybody, having scored 13 or fewer against three of four opponents.
Houston has been fade-worthy itself through three defeats, but the Gamblers have played much tougher competition than the Maulers in the South Division. I think they can handle staying a touchdown ahead of Pittsburgh here.
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