United Football League (UFL) Debuts League Game Ball

UFL Week Seven: Jared Shuster’s Best Bets

This season’s record: 11-7

Week 7 Picks:
Renegades -5
Stallions -4
Defenders +1

Week six of the UFL was another good one that started out with two lopsided games on Saturday, as expected, and ended with a couple thrillers on Sunday. Those two included another Jake Bates game-winning field goal for Michigan and a must-needed home win for DC. This week’s slate is great on paper and is headlined by the big one: the Battlehawks up against the undefeated Stallions in Birmingham. I’m 5-1 over the last two weeks and I have a good feeling about this set of games. Let’s take a look at this week’s best bets.

Memphis Showboats @ Arlington Renegades (-5)

We start off on Saturday in a battle of two teams with a combined record of 1-11 this season. The Memphis Showboats (1-5) stay in Arlington with the Renegades (0-6) and will face off in Choctaw Stadium. Arlington is coming off another heartbreaking loss in week six, something that’s become far too common for head coach Bob Stoops’ team. They could very easily be 3-3 and in the playoff race, but here they are.

However, I do like the Renegades here. Arlington still has a good offense through the air led by quarterback Luis Perez. Their defense and lack of running game has been their issue this season. This is also matchup dependent. The Showboats have lost five straight and the last four have all been by 15 points or more. Defensive coordinator Carnell Lake’s defense has been very bad, giving up league-highs in points per game (26.5) and yards per game (339.8). Perez and his playmakers should be able to capitalize on that and I expect Arlington to move the ball with ease and put up points.

On offense, the Showboats haven’t run the ball well to begin with and I believe they’ll be forced to pass while playing from behind. The Renegade defense has also been bad, but they still should be able to get to quarterback Troy Williams, going against Memphis’ porous offensive line. I expect we may see quarterback Case Cookus at some point, as well. Arlington had three sacks and several pressures last week against Danny Etling and the Panthers. I think the Renegades win this by about a touchdown against Memphis and the trenches will play a big part in that.

St. Louis Battlehawks @ Birmingham Stallions (-4)

A likely championship game preview, as well as the game of the year. The St. Louis Battlehawks (5-1) travel into Birmingham on Saturday to face the Stallions (6-0). This is the polar opposite of game one having two teams with a combined record of 11-1. My main reason for picking the Stallions is because they’re the best team in spring football until someone actually beats them. St. Louis has as good a chance as any to get it done, but I don’t think they do.

The Stallions’ one truly close game this year was against the DC Defenders. That game had extreme weather conditions including a 90-minute delay that played in DC’s favor. Matt Corral also got the start at quarterback for Birmingham against the Defenders and as we’ve seen, they are a much more dynamic and explosive offense with Adrian Martinez at QB. They’ll be going against a very good St. Louis defense, but Birmingham can win in so many ways. On the ground or through the air, as well as with Martinez, who adds an extremely lethal running element to the offense from under center and is MVP-caliber from the pocket. The Stallions won’t go up and down the field like last week against the Showboats, but they’ll put up somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 points.

St. Louis was missing two starters from their offensive line last week against Houston and it showed. They still won handedly, but the run game was not the same, netting -5 yards. Quarterback AJ McCarron was also sacked twice and pressured a fair amount against a Houston defense that hasn’t rushed the passer well all year. Birmingham’s pass rush is elite and even with the Battlehawks nearly back at full strength along their offensive line, the Stallions will still put pressure on McCarron. I expect the Stallions #1 rush defense to stop the ground game again and force McCarron to drop back 35+ times. If that rings true, expect a few pressures and sacks. This is the best offense the Stallions have faced all year, so they won’t be quite as dominant as they have been in games against teams like Memphis or Houston.

Michigan Panthers @ DC Defenders (+1)

The Michigan Panthers (4-2) head into Audi Field on Sunday to take on the DC Defenders (3-3). Both teams are coming off exciting wins and looking to potentially better their playoff positioning with a win. DC appears to be hitting their stride in the second half of the season and may have found their new WR1. Kelvin Harmon played very well against the Brahmas and quarterback Jordan Ta’amu is beginning to look more comfortable again in this offense.

The running game also looks to be improving. Running backs Darius Hagans and Cam-Ron Harris looked good, combining for over 100 yards on the ground. We found out recently that Panthers’ linebacker Frank Ginda is out for the remainder of the season with an injury. That’s going to hurt the Michigan defense, especially against the run, where they’ve excelled. The Panthers have been susceptible to the pass though, ranking sixth in the league against. Ta’amu and Harmon should be able to take advantage of that. Overall, the Defenders should have a balanced attack and as long as they don’t lose the game with turnovers, the offense will produce.

The Michigan offense has been very good as of late, averaging 26.5 points per game over their last four. Danny Etling has been solid at quarterback, but he is not expected to start on Sunday due to a hand injury. He’s done a good job taking care of the ball, but defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and his defense have evolved. They played a ton of cover-2 this past week and it seems the DC defense is going keep things in front of them and win with their front four. That’s an area Michigan has struggled with at times this year. They’ll have to face that challenge with recently signed free agent Bryce Perkins or quarterback Brian Lewerke under center. Perkins was a great signing and I expect him to perform well in the UFL. However, he’s only been with the team for a little over two weeks so it may be too soon.

On top of all this, Michigan is 4-2, but two of those wins came on game-winning field goals by kicker Bates. Bates has kicked outside once this season, and he missed his only two kicks of the year. He’ll be outside again this weekend and I don’t think he’ll be the same weapon he has been all year. Even if it’s close at the end, I expect DC to pull out the win. Only getting one point is essentially a pick ‘em and I expect both of these teams will be 4-3 at the conclusion of week seven.

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