St. Louis Battlehawks vs. San Antonio Brahmas | Playoff Preview

St. Louis Battlehawks vs. San Antonio Brahmas | Playoff Preview

On Sunday, the St. Louis Battlehawks and San Antonio Brahmas will face each other for the third time this UFL season. This meeting is the most important of them all, as the winner of the XFL Conference Championship will advance to the final game of the season.

Heading into this affair, the St. Louis Battlehawks are on an up and down trajectory. They’ve lost two of their final four games to close out the season, but were able to get back on the right track with a crucial victory over these same Brahmas this past weekend. For St. Louis, now it’s a matter of putting two wins together once again.

For the San Antonio Brahmas, health is more of a factor than anything. The team has impressively won seven games this year, but have lost both matchups against the Battlehawks so far. They’ve come up just short in both outings, and feel to be on the precipice of getting over the hump.

Let’s take a look at what we can expect from this XFL Conference Championship, as it’s bound to be down to the wire.

Quarterback Play

Interestingly enough, both teams are dealing with injuries to their starting quarterbacks. A.J. McCarron just returned last week, after missing two games with an ankle injury. It’s clear that he is still dealing with some discomfort, as he didn’t look as confident as he usually is this past Saturday.

Despite the injury, McCarron knows how important it is for him to be out on the field for St. Louis. They are not the same team without him, which was made evident in week nine with Manny Wilkins tossing three picks to the Arlington Renegades. A.J. is the piece that truly puts the Battlehawks’ Championship aspirations in place.

On the other side, QB Chase Garbers went down in the first half, re-injuring the wrist that kept him sidelined for five weeks. He is currently day to day, according to HC Wade Phillips. Garbers has been very efficient for San Antonio when healthy, but is at risk of missing his sixth game of the year if he’s not a full go for Sunday.

If Quinten Dormady does end up getting the start, it’ll be intriguing to see how he responds to the pressure. This past weekend, Quinten had a decent performance, and put the Brahmas in a position to take the lead late. Unfortunately, a penalty ended up taking away their two point try, and the rest was history. Even then, Dormady remained composed – giving them another opportunity to win it with a late field goal.

The question that remains to be answered: What version of Dormady will we get on Sunday? Assuming he plays, that is. Heading into week ten, Quinten had thrown five touchdowns, while turning the ball over nine times. If he can cut down on the turnovers, San Antonio’s odds of picking up a win on the road go up drastically.

Standout Playmakers

At this point, we’ve all gotten accustomed to the difference makers on both of these teams. For the Battlehawks, their success begins in the backfield with Jacob Saylors proving himself to be a valuable weapon all year long. He was just named to the All-UFL list, and for good reason. St. Louis will need another big day out of him, especially with McCarron not at 100%.

Steven Mitchell has emerged as a go-to receiver for McCarron, as the two have worked with each other since 2023. However, it’d be a welcome sight to see Hakeem Butler – the UFL’s leading receiver – to get more involved this week. He’s been too quiet as of late. The same goes for Jahcour Pearson, who did show flashes this past weekend.

The message should be clear on San Antonio’s side: Feed 13. Jontre Kirklin has been on fire this year, and posted a ridiculous 127 yards on seven catches, including a score, last week against St. Louis. He also caught the go ahead two point conversion, but it was called back due to a penalty.

All year long, the Brahmas have had players step up. They’ll need the same story this week, as Cody Latimer is done for the year – and their star running back duo of Anthony McFarland and John Lovett – may not be healthy enough to play.

Comparing The Statistics

Considering these two teams are both in the playoffs, it makes sense to see them ranking highly in the UFL. Across the board, St. Louis and San Antonio are matched up relatively evenly:

  • Brahmas averaging 296.6 yards per game (4th), Battlehawks at 272.1 (6th)
  • Battlehawks posting 26 points per game (2nd), Brahmas at 19.3 (6th)
  • San Antonio allowing just 256.7 yards per game (1st), St. Louis at 259.8 (3rd)
  • Brahmas giving up only 15.3 points per game (1st), Battlehawks at 20.2 (4th)
  • The Brahmas’ pass rush is unreal, with 32 sacks this year (1st). The Battlehawks have 19 sacks (T-7th)
  • Battlehawks’ DB’s have gotten after the football this year, with 9 INT’s (2nd) – San Antonio only has 4 (8th)

Both the Battlehawks and Brahmas are two of the least penalized teams in the UFL. St. Louis is extremely clean, with only 39 penalties – which is by far the league’s best. San Antonio has 56, but there are five teams in front of them with more.

Takeaways From Week 10

When these two franchises faced off just a week ago, it was a sloppy affair for large portions of the game. In fact, some could argue that this was the ugliest football these teams have played all season. The defenses commanded most of the drives, and there were some questionable decisions made throughout as well.

On one hand, while the Brahmas lost the game, their defense was stellar. They held St. Louis to just 199 total yards of offense, with 110 of those yards coming on explosive plays. Defensive Coordinator Will Reed spoke about the success the team saw on that end, and what they have to do this week:

“We felt like we played very well this past weekend. We felt like we gave ourselves a chance to win on Saturday…I told the defense this morning, it’s not like they’re going to be able to put a whole new offense in. There will be some new wrinkles based off of what we did, so we’ll have to be prepared for some change. I’ve noticed during the season we’ll sometimes have a drive or two where we let ourselves down, but then we get going again. It’s all part of the game.”

Additionally, the St. Louis Battlehawks have been putrid in third down situations – which cannot continue. Heading into the game, they were a league-worst 36% on third downs. This past Saturday, the Battlehawks converted on just two of their 12 attempts in third down situations. Offensive Coordinator Bruce Gradkowski spoke to the media this week about looking to make improvements in these areas:

“We have to be putting ourselves in better situations on first and second downs, so we’re not third and seven to ten (yards). You know, dialing into the details of the execution of it. Being specific with our routes, our depths. A few of them, we have to catch the ball. A few of them, we have to make better reads. It’s a collective effort, and that’s what we’re telling our guys. We all make our mistakes, and it starts with me whether it’s a poor call…but we can’t all have our own mistakes at different times, because that’s when it snowballs into a 2-12 performance.”

Something else to keep on was the conservative play calling from St. Louis in week ten. Clearly, they didn’t want to give away all their secrets. In the first quarter alone, they ran the ball in two third down scenarios where one would typically expect a pass play. It’s worth noting: Jahcour Pearson was utilized in the backfield twice in this game, the first snaps of his professional career at the position.

Turnovers were also a huge part of this game to start. With another week of practice under each team’s belts, the carelessness with the football should be toned down this time around.

An area of concern for San Antonio: Ryan Santoso. He is now 2/7 across the last few games, with both of his attempts being blocked/tipped against St. Louis. This included the potential game winner from 51 yards out. Ryan is an excellent kicker, but desperately needs to regain his confidence. San Antonio needs it badly in order to make a Championship run.

Coaching Matchup

San Antonio Brahmas | Wade Phillips: Wade Phillips was a nominee for Coach Of the Year, and for good reason. Despite all of the injuries this team has faced: losing Anthony McFarland, Chase Garbers, Cody Latimer, and a multitude of defensive players, this team finds ways to win. With a 7-3 record, San Antonio completely flipped their record around from a season ago. Phillips has a chance to take his team to the Championship – something his Roughnecks fell just short of last year.

St. Louis Battlehawks | Anthony Becht: Becht has had an outstanding year with St. Louis, matching their 7-3 record from 2023. This time, though, they were able to clinch the playoffs – and, won their division by sweeping San Antonio. In his head coaching career, he is 3-0 against Wade Phillips dating back to the 2023 XFL season. They got exactly what they wanted: a playoff game in the Lou. Now, it’s time for Becht to get his team to the ultimate goal: a Championship.

Final Thoughts

Something to watch closely this week: the drama between Teez Tabor and A.J. McCarron. Last week, Tabor went low on a tackle against McCarron, and made it clear to Greg Luca of the San Antonio Express that it was his intention to do so. St. Louis wasn’t happy about it, obviously. The potential targeting of A.J. will be a storyline that could end up playing a major role in how this football game plays out.

With two of the UFL’s elite ready to battle it out at The Dome, this one could go either way. St. Louis has won both matchups this year by a small margin – and it feels like San Antonio could be due for a win. That said, the Battlehawks are undefeated this season at home, with a 5-0 record.

The St. Louis Battlehawks will host the San Antonio Brahmas this Sunday, at 7pm ET on FOX.

Full Roster Breakdowns: San Antonio, St. Louis

What are your expectations for this matchup between the San Antonio Brahmas and St. Louis Battlehawks? Which UFL players will need to impress for their teams to win? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!

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