Houston Roughnecks vs. Birmingham Stallions | Week 5 Preview

Houston Roughnecks vs. Birmingham Stallions | Week 5 Preview

The undefeated Birmingham Stallions (4-0) will travel to Rice Stadium on Saturday to face off against the Houston Roughnecks (1-3). The Stallions are coming off a last-second win against the DC Defenders thanks to a 46-yard game winning field goal by kicker Ramiz Ahmed. It is worth noting that Birmingham Stallions’ legend Scooby Wright announced his retirement this week. That’s a tough blow to the locker room and defense.

The Houston Roughnecks picked up their first win of the season over the winless Arlington Renegades at home and are now looking to knock off the back-to-back champs. The Roughnecks, who are the Gamblers with new threads, beat the Stallions in each of the last two years and are the only team to do so. They’ve surprisingly handed Birmingham two of their three losses since returning in 2022. Funny enough, the Stallions have had more wins in each of their previous two seasons than Houston has overall since returning in 2022. However, this is a huge spot for Houston, and they can turn their entire season around starting now.

Stallions’ Offense vs. Roughnecks’ Defense

The Stallions’ offense is as well-rounded as it gets and has been firing on all cylinders despite losing former-MVP Alex McGough this offseason. They lead the league in total yards, passing yards, rushing yards, and are second in the league in scoring. This is all while playing both quarterbacks Adrian Martinez and Matt Corral. Last week Corral started against DC and played a solid game. He went 19/29 for 240 yards and a touchdown. He also added 51 yards rushing on seven carries, nearly eclipsing 300 total yards. It was a sloppy game in the rain, but Corral fumbled twice near the goal line which took points off the board. Both fumbles were on handoffs and not totally on Corral, but ball security has been a bit of an issue for him this season. We still don’t know who will start against Houston, but I believe it will wind up being Martinez under center. Birmingham has the league’s best run game but will face a tough test against the Roughnecks’ stout front seven. However, they do have the advantage of going up against a shaky secondary with the UFL’s number one passing attack.

The Roughnecks’ defense had a bit of a hiccup in week three against the Panthers, but they have been a very solid unit for the most part this season. They rank second and forth against the run and pass respectively and are tied for the most forced fumbles and interceptions this year. They’re only allowing 18 points per game and have some big names along their front seven. Linebackers Reuben Foster and Gabriel Sewell Jr. have played well this year, and it helps that they have edge rushers like Chris Odom, Adam Rodriguez, and Ethan Westbrooks in front of them.

Houston will be without defensive tackle Toby Johnson for the second straight week which is a big loss and they’ll be looking to shut down a very dynamic rush attack. I do believe they can hold Birmingham under 100 yards rushing for the first time this season. On the backend, they’ll have to try and shut down a great group of weapons with a still-unproven secondary. Cornerback Kiondre Thomas had a big game for Houston last week in his first UFL action. He along with fellow cornerback Corn Elder will have to play their best game thus far on Saturday.

Roughnecks’ Offense vs. Stallions’ Defense

There is a much bigger discrepancy in this matchup compared to the other side of the ball. Houston is last in the league in scoring and has the worst run game in the UFL. One bright spot has been the emergence of Reid Sinnett at quarterback. Since coming in for an injured Jarrett Guarantano in week two, Sinnett is top five in the league in passing yards, yards per attempt, and QBR. All these metrics are good indicators of success, and Sinnett has been successful on tape as well, improving with each start. Houston also welcomes back reigning USFL Offensive Player of the Year Mark Thompson at running back. Thompson returned last week and scored a touchdown in limited action.

According to head coach CJ Johnson, Thompson should get 20-25 touches on Saturday. He’ll have his hands full against the league’s best run defense, but he did score three times in their first meeting last season. Wide receiver Justin Hall has been very effective out of the slot, and he should expect a significant number of targets in the quick game with such a good pass rush from Birmingham.

The Stallions’ defense has had just as much success as their offense this season. They’re allowing just 13.5 points per game and are only giving up 232 yards per game. They also lead the league in sacks with 17 and their defensive line has been extremely disruptive through four weeks. They should have a ton of success stopping the run against a poor run blocking team and Houston’s best chance of success is to attack the short and intermediate parts of the field in the pass game. If Birmingham’s secondary plays well again and holds up, Sinnett should face a ton of pressure and struggle against a great pass rush. I expect defensive linemen Carlos Davis, Taco Charleton, Jordan Thompson, and Dondrea Tillman to have big games.

Final Thoughts

The Birmingham Stallions are big road favorites betting-wise but that comes as no surprise. Looking past the records, the stats and eye test both show something clear – Birmingham is the best team in the league and Houston is near the bottom. If the Houston Roughnecks hope to pull off the upset at home, they’ll need to muddy this game up and control time of possession. They’ll certainly need to win the turnover battle, and they can’t allow the Stallion defensive line to dictate the game.

They’ll need to establish the run game with Mark Thompson early and often and will likely need a highly impactful takeaway to steal this one. For Birmingham, if they can stay balanced on offense and have their defense keep up the same level of play, they should win this one with ease. These two squads do have history, so it’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out on Saturday night.

What are your thoughts on this upcoming matchup between the Birmingham Stallions and Houston Roughnecks? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!