The last weekend of April is here, and football fans know what that means. This weekend, thousands of NFL fans converge on Kansas City for this year’s NFL Draft, three days of hope for their teams’ new season, coupled with overreactions of despair when a club inevitably chooses a guy that they hate.
However, while general managers fester over which prospects to pick in the fourth through seventh rounds on Saturday afternoon, Birmingham plays host to the first game of a doubleheader day to kick off week three in the USFL.
Unlike the first two weekends of the season, Birmingham’s Protective Stadium will play host to just one game this coming week. The venue is the setting for what might be the best game of week three.
A Battle of Undefeated Teams Kicks Off Week Three on Saturday
Both Birmingham hub teams square off against one another to begin the week’s schedule. The New Orleans Breakers (2-0) and Birmingham Stallions (2-0) battle on Saturday afternoon in a 12:30 pm ET/ 11:30 am CT kickoff.
Saturday’s game will be seen on NBCUniversal-owned USA Network. As usual with NBC-aired USFL games, this one will be live-streamed on its subscription-based platform, Peacock. For the second weekend in a row, the USA’s coverage of the league will immediately follow the 10 am ET (3 pm UK time) window of futbol in the Premier League.
Sunshine in the Forecast for New Orleans/ Birmingham
Saturday’s weather forecast for the Birmingham area sees a bright, sun-splashed afternoon for the ballgame. With a late-morning kickoff at Protective Stadium again this weekend, temperatures will start in the low-70s before topping out around 80 degrees late in the afternoon.
A minimal threat of rain is expected along with a slight breeze coming out of the southeast between five and 10 MPH. Thunderstorm chances will not increase until after the game that night.
New Orleans Breakers vs. Birmingham Stallions Betting Odds
As of Thursday afternoon, the oddsmakers have the Birmingham Stallions installed as a -6-point favorite on the points spread and a -250 favorite on the money line. New Orleans counters as a +190 underdog on the money line.
The over-under for this game is set at 48 1/2 points. If you plan on betting on this or any other game happening in the USFL over the weekend, please wager responsibly.
Breakers Played it Close vs. Gamblers Last Week, Hills Had Banner Day
A recurring theme in the USFL last season was the fact that a majority of the games played in the singular Birmingham hub were close and exciting. That proved accurate again last week when New Orleans met the Houston Gamblers in the most exciting game so far this season.
Breakers quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson had to sweat it out on the sidelines, but New Orleans got it done in the first game of week two, a 38-31 triumph. The squad was buoyed by Slippery Rock University product Wes Hills.
Much like McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Hills has also spent time in the CFL in the past. Upon being waived by the Arizona Cardinals before the 2019 NFL season, he spent two stints on the Detroit Lions in 2019 and 2020 before going to the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats in its shortened 2021 season, playing in seven games over the next two years.
Last Saturday, he had the best game of his professional career as a halfback, scoring three touchdowns while gaining 118 yards. Birmingham’s key on defense: Wrap up Wes Hills, because if he can make the first tackler-elect miss, it’ll be another trip to the end zone.
Can Breakers Force Alex McGough to Make Ill-Advised Passes?
One plus that the New Orleans Breakers had on defense last weekend in their win against the Houston Gamblers was the fact that they forced quarterback Kenji Bahar into throwing three interceptions. Anytime that the opposing defense can force a quarterback to throw multiple picks in a game, they’ve got a decent chance to win the ballgame.
Then again, Alex McGough has proven himself to be the best quarterback in the league during the first two weeks of the season. Making him throw bad passes is easier said than done.
Birmingham Stallions: USFL’s Top Dogs
When you look up the word “gladiator” in the dictionary, there should be a picture in there, too. No, not one of Laser or Nitro, the Birmingham Stallions logo. Their defense of last year’s USFL championship has proven to be a successful one heading into week three.
Birmingham’s won two games this season while surrendering just 12 points all told, first in that category. If they can keep this pace up, there’s no reason to believe that it’ll be any team other than the Stallions hoisting the championship trophy on the first Sunday night in July.
While McGough passed for four touchdowns in last Saturday night’s 42-2 drubbing of the Memphis Showboats, the running game had a big day at the office, gaining 173 yards on 30 attempts. If their offensive line remains stout this week, expect another banner afternoon.
Stallions Remain Strong on Defense
The USFL power rankings heading into this weekend’s games show that Birmingham is first in the league. While three significant cogs from last year’s defense were missing in action during week two, the Stallions recorded three quarterback sacks against Brady White of Memphis.
If the Birmingham defensive line can create pressure and force McLeod Bethel-Thompson into throwing picks, they’ll have a good day.
At the core, this game will be predicated on which of these starting quarterbacks has the better day under center. The first quarterback to throw for at least 250 yards will be the one whose team wins the game.
However, the battle in the trenches is equally important here. Saturday’s contest will be a test of strength for both offensive lines. A good quarterback won’t be any decent without great blocking up front. Whose O-line will be better?
Tune into USA Network on Saturday and find out.
Prediction: Birmingham 35, New Orleans 31.
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