One would think that just because the XFL is on a universal bye week ahead of its championship game next Saturday night, there’s no gridiron action to watch. They’d be wrong.
Saturday, the USFL satiates your football need with the beginning of week four of its 10-week season. Much like the games last Sunday, Detroit’s Ford Field will play host to both halves of the doubleheader on the day of the Kentucky Derby.
As the crowds gather for the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs, fans of the pigskin will congregate in the Motor City for hard-hitting action. It starts with a matinee featuring teams vying for a .500 beginning to the regular season after four weeks of play.
Houston Meets Philly Saturday Afternoon in Detroit
The day game of this day/night doubleheader finds the Houston Gamblers (1-2), who collected their first win of the season last Saturday night versus the Memphis Showboats, battling the Philadelphia Stars (1-2), who were defeated at the selfsame Ford Field on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Maulers.
Live coverage of the game begins Saturday at 1 pm ET/ noon CT on the USFL’s primary broadcast network, FOX Sports. Secondary broadcast rightsholder NBC Sports will air the second game of the doubleheader matching the Showboats with the Michigan Panthers in primetime after Derby coverage concludes.
We've got your Saturday plans booked! 📆 🏈 pic.twitter.com/wZaMWSptyx
— USFL (@USFL) May 4, 2023
Warmer Weather Outside for Drive to Ford Field
Unlike the crisp temperatures that those fans with tickets to last Sunday’s doubleheader encountered, a warming trend will greet spectators who plan on driving to Ford Field on Saturday. Current weather forecasts indicate that sunny skies will be the featured attraction for the first half of the weekend.
High temperatures are projected to top out near 70 degrees on Saturday, but if you’re making that morning drive for game one of the doubleheader, temperatures are going to be in the upper 50s, so you’ll need a light jacket.
Houston Gamblers vs. Philadelphia Stars Betting Odds
As of late Thursday afternoon, the oddsmakers have the Philadelphia Stars installed as a -2 1/2-point favorite on the spread and a -154 favorite on the money line. Houston counters as a +120 underdog on the money line. If you plan on betting on this or any other game in the USFL this weekend, please wager responsibly.
Can Kenji Bahar Come Through in the Clutch Again?
Through the first two weeks of the USFL’s regular season, it looked as though the Houston Gamblers would be en route to finishing at the bottom of the league’s Southern Division once again this year. An 0-2 start wasn’t what the team needed.
Two weeks ago, the Gamblers tied the game at 31-31 and were driving toward a go-ahead score until quarterback Kenji Bahar threw an interception to set up the eventual winning touchdown from New Orleans Breakers halfback Wes Hills. Last week, however, Bahar turned it around.
Inside the game’s final two minutes, Bahar found tight end, Josh Pederson, to put the Gamblers in the red zone. Doug Pederson‘s son set up the touchdown by receiver Justin Hall to give Houston its first victory of 2023.
It was Hall’s fourth touchdown of the season. Ideally, the Gamblers would want to avoid playing it close going forward, but if Bahar can gain some consistency, Houston is in good shape.
Houston Needs to Limit Philadelphia’s Red Zone Offense
As is the case with any football game, red zone offensive production, much like third down conversions, is a key stat. If you watched the Houston/Memphis contest last weekend, you know that the Gamblers limited the Showboats to a 1-for-3 success rate inside the 20-yard line.
A week ago, the Stars failed to score a touchdown once they got to the red zone against Pittsburgh, going 0-for-2. If Philadelphia gets near the Gamblers’ 20, look for Houston to try to put the clamps on them.
Better yet, the defensive line would be served just as well to bring the pressure to try and force a turnover before the Stars get that far. This is a Gamblers team that has a chance to get on the right track, but the defense has to take it one snap at a time.
Stars Have to Get Coleman Open
While Philadelphia had their troubles on offense last weekend, the Stars looked to wide receiver Corey Coleman as their impact player. Coleman, a first-round NFL Draft selection by the Cleveland Browns in 2016, most recently played in the NFL in the 2020 season for the New York Giants.
Coleman made eight receptions against the Maulers in Sunday afternoon’s game for 86 yards and a touchdown, despite the loss. Look for him to be called upon once again.
Quarterback Case Cookus will need protection up front, however. Cookus can’t afford to be sacked three times in this week’s game like last week vs. Pittsburgh.
Adam Rodriguez Has to Create Pressure on Defense
As far as the Philadelphia D-line is concerned, defensive end Adam Rodriguez must have another big day on Saturday afternoon against the Gamblers. Rodriguez never found traction in the NFL upon the end of his senior season at Weber State.
After playing for the Blues in The Spring League in 2021, Rodriguez was drafted by the Stars ahead of last season, where he finished with nine sacks. A week ago, he recorded four solo tackles along with two quarterback sacks and a forced fumble. If he has a good day this Saturday, the Stars have a decent shot at coming away with the win.
This is an important game for both teams. A loss for either team will make the road to the playoffs in a month and a half that much longer.
Prediction: Houston 27, Philadelphia 10.