Although the playoff spots were getting clinched left, right, and center at this time last year in the league, nothing of the sort has happened this year up to now. Pending the results on Sunday, three of the four playoff spots could be spoken for by the close of week nine.
Birmingham In with Win vs. Houston on Sunday
Another doubleheader day in the USFL begins Sunday afternoon with an anticipated battle in the league’s South Division. Last year’s defending champions, the Birmingham Stallions (6-2) take on the Houston Gamblers (5-3) with the easiest playoff scenario imaginable (potentially) playing out:
The Stallions will clinch a playoff scenario if they are to win this weekend. Birmingham is the only ballclub in the division that can assure itself of a berth in postseason play with a victory, according to the playoff picture.
Live coverage of the game begins at 2 pm ET/ 1 pm CT on NBC Sports. Like all NBCUniversal-aired games in the USFL, Sunday’s game will be streamed live on Peacock.
Thus far in the season, the referees have not yet had to send players back to the change room because of lightning in the area of an outdoor stadium. This could change on Sunday afternoon.
Current weather forecasts for the Memphis area indicate that scattered thunderstorms are expected on Sunday, including during the window of the game. Chances of precipitation are at 60 percent with highs in the mid-80s. Some of these storms could be severe.
Birmingham Stallions vs. Houston Gamblers Betting Odds
As of Friday afternoon, the oddsmakers have the Stallions installed as a -3 1/2-point favorite on the spread and a -182 favorite on the money line. Houston counters as a +140 underdog on the money line.
The over-under for Sunday afternoon’s game is set at 45 1/2 points. If you plan on betting on this or any other game this week in the USFL, please wager responsibly.
When Last They Met…
Much like the firsttwo games in week nine, the Stallions/Gamblers contest is a rematch from earlier on in the regular season. Back in week five, the Gamblers bested the Stallions 27-20.
Houston running back Mark Thompson starred in the victory, scoring three touchdowns on the day. How will the rematch play out?
Look for Davion Davis to Have a Good Day
It was a successful afternoon last Saturday for Birmingham wideout Davion Davis.The alum of Sam Houston State went over the century mark with 120 yards on four catches and his first touchdown in three games.
The Stallions are on the cusp of a playoff berth. With Birmingham potentially 60 minutes away from going to the postseason for the second year in succession, it would be in quarterback Alex McGough’sbest interest to look Davis’ way if he’s open.
Should Davion Davis get the ball, the Stallions will be victory bound and playoff bound by the final whistle on Sunday. Look for him to eclipse 100 receiving yards again this week.
Can Nate Brooks Grab Interception No. 2?
Defensively speaking, Birmingham was buoyed by cornerback Nate Brooks. He notched six total tackles in the win (two solo) and picked off his first pass of the year.
Brooks hadn’t intercepted an opposing quarterback since his senior year at North Texas until last year. Counting his entire four years at the school, he picked off 10 passes.
Now that he’s picked off a pass in the pros, can he do it again this week?
Houston’s Key: Get the Ball to Justin Hall
While Mark Thompson gets the majority of the headlines, Gamblers quarterback Kenji Baharhas some good wide receivers to throw the football to. One of those wideouts is Ball State productJustin Hall.
Last week, he led the charge for receivers with three catches for 40 yards, but was held out of the end zone. It was his fifth straight game without a touchdown.
In order to find the last time that he scored, you’d have to go back to week three of the regular season against the Memphis Showboats. That night, he got into the end zone twice.
When you’re without a touchdown for over a month, as Justin Hall is, it’s a frustrating time. Can he turn it around this week?
Look for Tolson to Create Pressure
On the other side of the football, Houston linebacker Khalan Tolson turned in a great performance. He’s in his first season in the USFL out of Illinois.
The onetime member of the Carolina Panthersmade nine tackles last week. To a man, he’s itching to get back into the NFL.
With NFL scouts watching the USFL this spring, Tolson has to be on the radar of at least some of the teams in the league. Another performance like what he had last week would make his stock rise.
This should be a brilliant game on Sunday. Both teams have worked their hardest to get here.
For the winner, it could be one of the defining moments of the season.
Drew Zuhosky has been writing about combat sports since May of 2018. A graduate of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, Drew enjoys a good game and a better fight. When he's not writing, you can find him playing video games and listening to music.