This was probably the worst 2-2 ATS week I've had. Not only did Philadelphia Stars backup quarterback Case Cookus outduel No. 1 overall pick Shea Patterson of the Michigan Panthers, but the Panthers missed a 21-yard field goal for the win. Then, the New Jersey Generals failed to score a point in the fourth quarter during their matchup against the Pittsburgh Maulers, who booted a field goal to cover the large spread. Thankfully, the rest of the week went in my favor, but we were close to going 4-0.
We are getting a better feel on all eight teams. The undefeated Birmingham Stallions are still the favorites to win the championship, and the Maulers are still winless. However, Kyle Lauletta looks like a better quarterback for Pittsburgh than Josh Love, who was released this week. Can the Maulers cover the spread again in Week 5? Let's jump into the picks.
USFL ATS record: 8-8
USFL straight up record: 8-8
All odds are via Caesars Sportsbook
Michigan Panthers at Tampa Bay Bandits (-2.5)
Friday, 8 p.m. ET (USA Network)
ATS: Panthers (1-3), Bandits (1-3)
The Panthers have covered the spread just one time all season, and that was against the worst team in the league. After failing to beat a backup quarterback and convert on a 21-yard field goal, it's hard to have faith in this team or put money on them. As for the Bandits, they are not the most consistent USFL team. They got completely destroyed by the New Orleans Breakers a few weeks ago, didn't cover the spread as favorites against the Houston Gamblers two weeks ago and then lost to the Stallions this past weekend. Still, they actually held a halftime lead over hometown Birmingham.
Tampa Bay is at least a solid team, which is more than we can say about Michigan. Give me the Bandits.
The pick: Bandits -2.5
Projected score: Bandits 24-14
New Orleans Breakers (-2) at New Jersey Generals
Saturday, 3 p.m. ET (Fox)
ATS: Breakers (3-1), Generals (2-2)
It came down to the final seconds, but the Breakers found a way to down the Gamblers with a very late touchdown. It was a pretty tough outing for the offense, as it turned the ball over four times. But, a win is a win. As for the Generals, they won their third straight last week, but didn't cover the spread.
Something to note here is that the Breakers and Generals have the top two run defenses in the league. New Jersey allows just 67 rushing yards per game, while New Orleans allows 88 rushing yards per game. However, the Breakers have the overall No. 1 defense in the league, allowing an average of 226.3 yards of total offense per game.
The Generals rely on the ground game, and have the No. 2 rushing offense in the league. If that's shut down, it spells a loss for New Jersey. New Orleans held former USFL leading rusher Mark Thompson to just 10 yards on 14 carries last week, and held the Gamblers to just 28 total rushing yards on 20 carries! That's enough for me to lay the points with the Breakers this Saturday.
The pick: Breakers -2
Projected score: Breakers 17-13
Birmingham Stallions (-6.5) at Philadelphia Stars
Sunday, 12 p.m. ET (NBC)
ATS: Stallions (4-0), Stars (2-2)
The Stars gave us one of the best games of the year last Friday night, as Cookus led Philly to a 26-25 win over Michigan. If we are being honest, the Panthers should have won with a chip-shot field goal, but that shouldn't take away from Cookus' performance, as he outplayed Patterson. As for the Stallions, they are undefeated straight up AND against the spread. I can't say I love this number, but I'll take Birmingham moneyline and parlay it with something else.
The pick: Stallions -6.5
Projected score: Stallions 27-20
Pittsburgh Maulers at Houston Gamblers (-5.5)
Sunday, 4 p.m. ET (Fox)
ATS: Maulers (1-3), Gamblers (2-2)
If you want to ignore this pick, I'm completely fine with that. But I'm taking the Maulers to make it two straight weeks of covering the spread. The Generals may be No. 2 in our, but the Maulers kept it close with them last week. They are moving forward with Lauletta under center now, and he appears to be an upgrade.
The Gamblers on the other hand lost last week despite going +4 in the turnover battle! They gave up a touchdown with 16 seconds left to lose, making it the second game in a row they have lost in the closing seconds. Call me crazy, but it doesn't seem too smart to gamble on the Gamblers.
The pick: Maulers +5.5
Projected score: Gamblers 24-20