San Antonio Brahmas vs. St. Louis Battlehawks | Week 3 Preview

San Antonio Brahmas vs. St. Louis Battlehawks | Week 3 Preview

Week three of the UFL will wrap up with a battle between two giants in the XFL conference. The San Antonio Brahmas host the St. Louis Battlehawks, playing each other for the first time since week one of the XFL’s 2023 season.

Since then, a lot has changed, at least for San Antonio. They’re a completely new team, with Wade Phillips at the helm. So far, the Brahmas have won their first two games. In week two, they put together a remarkable comeback effort to top Memphis. OC A.J. Smith got them on the right track at the last moment, and they scored the go ahead touchdown with three seconds left to play.

For the Battlehawks, they were able to make their home debut last week – setting a modern spring football record with 40,317 fans in attendance. It was a magical night, with a magical walk off winner from kicker Andre Szmyt. St. Louis will now have to come down from that high, and focus on picking up a massive road win that could push them to first place in the XFL Conference.

Let’s take a look at the key factors ahead of this UFL matchup.

Quarterback Play

The San Antonio Brahmas love to throw the football. Chase Garbers attempted 40 passes in their win over Memphis, and ended up compiling almost 300 passing yards on the day. When Garbers is hot, he’s one of the best quarterbacks in this league. He can make throws at almost every angle, and has excellent touch on the ball.

According to PFF, Garbers currently has a 74.3 offensive grade on the season, which is above average. His play has been relatively inconsistent from quarter to quarter, but these are the growing pains we’d expect from a young quarterback making his first professional starts.

We know what to expect when it comes to A.J. McCarron. The St. Louis Legend absolutely lit it up on Saturday night, throwing for 248 yards and two touchdowns as the Battlehawks came away with a big-time divisional win.

This week, McCarron is going to have to focus on getting the ball out of his hands efficiently. San Antonio’s pass rush is one of the fiercest in the UFL, doing an excellent job of getting to the quarterback quickly. This is something that OC Bruce Gradkowski will have to keep in mind, no doubt.

Standout Playmakers

Where do we even start? Both of these franchises are stacked with unbelievable talent. Looking at the St. Louis Battlehawks, their receivers have been playing impressive football. Marcell Ateman, in particular, has taken over as the clear WR1 in this offense. He posted 114 receiving yards and two touchdowns on Saturday, completely controlling Arlington’s defense from start to finish.

Mataeo Durant was a revelation this week. He was a healthy scratch in week one, but ended up jumping into action this week – totaling over 100 rushing yards, including the run that set up the game winning kick. Durant should be RB1 heading into this slate of games.

San Antonio’s offense is electrifying when it’s humming. Marquez Stevenson, Jontre Kirklin, Justin Smith, and Cody Latimer have all made plays when necessary over the past two weeks. Stevenson is separating himself as one of the top wideouts in the league, and is bound to continue as this offense generates stronger chemistry from week to week.

For the Brahmas, can their running backs get going this week? Anthony McFarland was nowhere to be found on Saturday. Granted, A.J. Smith mentioned that some run plays they had called ended up not seeing the light of day due to penalties. Speaking of which, the Brahmas committed 14 penalties for over 140 yards. That cannot happen again.

Defensive Matchup

The aforementioned Brahmas pass rush will be tough for St. Louis to slow down. In just two games, San Antonio has notched seven sacks, making opposing quarterback lives miserable. Tim Ward, Wyatt Ray, Caeveon Patton, Jordan Williams, etc. – they have all been having excellent seasons.

In the secondary, San Antonio has implemented what DC Will Reed calls a “bend don’t break” strategy. This was evident in week two, where they held Memphis to four field goals in the red zone. Jordan Mosley has been having an outstanding year so far at safety, and led the team with ten tackles last week.

For St. Louis, Pita Taumoepenu has been a much needed addition to their front seven. The XFL’s defensive player of the year was on a mission against Arlington, sacking Perez twice and racking up three TFL’s. Generally speaking, though, the Battlehawks line has some work to do – their run defense hasn’t been ideal the last two weeks.

Across the board, the Battlehawks defense is “middle of the pack”. It is a much stronger unit than last year, though, so as the new pieces continue to build chemistry with one another, those numbers should improve.

Special Teams

San Antonio has a major shakeup heading into this game. Their starting Kicker, Donald De La Haye Jr. (Deestroying) fractured his neck making a tackle. This has led to him being placed on IR. In turn, Ryan Santoso has signed with the Brahmas. This will be a challenge for San Antonio, as they have yet to attempt a field goal this year – and now, might have to do so with a brand new piece.

Andre Szmyt is building confidence from week to week with the Battlehawks. Meanwhile, Sterling Hofrichter and Alex Matheson have been two of the best at their respective positions this year, and are making a case to be on the All-UFL team at the end of the season.

Coaching Matchup

San Antonio Brahmas | Wade Phillips: Wade has done an impressive job of bringing his winning attitude to San Antonio – a team that desperately needed a change after what was an underwhelming 2023 season. Phillips has one of the top staffs in the entire UFL, and his team is 2-0, on track with Houston a year ago.

Wade Phillips gave some thoughts on this upcoming game, and his expectations for San Antonio:

“The good teams are the ones that can perform under pressure, and I thought we did that last week. I look at us, and see how we can improve. Then we evaluate St. Louis and try to get the matchups we want. Take advantage of people we think aren’t strong enough on their team. The technical stuff with what coverages they run, and what fronts we need to run against them. They’ve got some good pass rushers that we have to be aware of. AJ is a good quarterback, did really well last year. And, they have almost the same team. We’re trying to get everything together as a team right now, so it’s a little bit different for us.”

St. Louis Battlehawks | Anthony Becht: Becht, the players coach himself, got St. Louis back on track this week. Something that is evident in his day to day operations is that he will take responsibility for mistakes made by the team. Anthony has very high expectations for this Battlehawks team, especially after missing the playoffs last year. That’s behind them – and a playoff berth is now in their sights.

Final Thoughts

Truthfully speaking, this is a game that could go either way. Neither team feels like the true “favorite”, with San Antonio’s main advantage being that they will be playing at home this week.

With Mataeo Durant’s resurgence in Gradkowski’s offense, though, St. Louis could ride that high if these trends don’t change. McFarland has to have a big game to match Mataeo’s production.

Regardless of the outcome, one would expect this game to come down to the wire in San Antonio, the same way pretty much every UFL game has so far. Fans, grab your popcorn, as this showdown kicks off at 3pm ET on Sunday, aired on ABC.

Full roster breakdowns: San Antonio, St. Louis

What are your thoughts on this upcoming matchup between the St. Louis Battlehawks and San Antonio Brahmas? Which UFL players will you be watching out for? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!