The start of the NFL preseason is less than four months away. The XFL is wrapping up a successful reboot, featuring NFL-caliber talent on (quite possibly) every team. And now, the relaunched USFL is returning for a second consecutive season. The USFL’s regular season will begin this weekend, wrapping up in mid-June. Then, on July 1, a two-round playoff will crown a champion.
What are the USFL title odds for each team, and which team is the best bet to win this summer? The following are based on DraftKings Sportsbook.
2023 USFL Season Predictions
In larger recurring leagues, odds generally are much more disparate than what you’ll find below. But with only eight teams competing in the USFL’s second season, there are many unknowns — and with it, a more condensed pack of contenders.
The following is a breakdown of odds, and our prediction for which team has the best shot at winning the USFL title.
Birmingham Stallions (+275)
Why do the Stallions have the best preseason odds? For starters, they’re the defending champions. But not just any defending champions. They finished 9-1 in the 2022 regular season, losing only to the 1-7 Houston Gamblers by two points.
Three of Birmingham’s players earned Offensive Player of the Week honors last year. Three others won one or more Defensive Player of the Week awards.
And many of the Stallions’ core guys are back, including their starting and backup QBs, fearsome RB duo, near-elite WR threat, and several key defenders. They also recently signed the son of Randy Moss, TE Thaddeus Moss. The younger Moss was classified as one of the most athletic tight ends at the 2020 NFL Combine.
I have two favorites to win the USFL title, and I’d feel like a fool if Birmingham weren’t one of them. They possess the skill and depth to compete and win every week.
New Jersey Generals (+300)
There’s clearly a lot to love about the Generals, as suggested by their favorable odds. Like Birmingham, they finished 9-1 in last year’s regular season. Unfortunately, New Jersey fell in the semifinals to a team they defeated only a week earlier.
It wasn’t just any playoff loss, either. Leading by a point, New Jersey punted the ball deep into Philly territory with just over two minutes left. The Stars’ Maurice Alexander returned it 87 yards for the game-winning score. A valiant last-minute drive ended in a Generals interception to seal their fate.
The Generals still have the goods entering 2023, but I don’t see them winning it all. The key for me lies with their aging backfield.
Yes, Darius Victor and Trey Williams are among the league’s best backs. And for much of the year, I think they’ll play at very high levels. But Victor is 29, while Williams is 30.
Granted, they don’t have the wear and tear of typical NFL starters their ages. But Philadelphia beat them in the playoffs last year, in part, because they were able to contain Victor and Williams. So while New Jersey should continue to shine, they’re also at greater risk of regression than teams like Birmingham and Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Stars (+500)
Speaking of Philadelphia, they’re my other preseason favorite to win the title — and not because they reached last year’s finals. The Stars are an ascending franchise, plain and simple.
They started last season 2-3, largely because their three defeats were against the three other eventual playoff teams. I believe that made them tougher, as evidenced by their sterling execution against a Generals team that already had beaten them twice.
The Stars boast one of the league’s top quarterbacks and top running backs, as well as a superb receiving corps. In fact, they comfortably led all teams in scoring last season, and we should expect more of the same.
Interestingly, Philadelphia’s first three picks in this year’s draft were on offensive linemen. I had expected them to work on bolstering their (arguably) league-worst defense. But what do I know? Clearly, they have a plan, and protecting Case Cookus and opening up more running lanes can only help a team that might realistically average 30+ points per game.
New Orleans Breakers (+550)
Should we be surprised? Not really. The four teams with the best championship odds happen to be the same teams that reached last year’s postseason. The Breakers’ claim to fame was holding opposing teams to the fewest points. Vontae Diggs and Adonis Alexander helped anchor this elite unit, and their return is critically important to this team’s success.
New Orleans also has one of the top QBs and WRs. My big question concerns their first-round draft pick, WR Tyler Scott, who profiles as an impending NFL Draft selection. Yes, Scott is that good. Will he try to elevate his NFL stock (and likely upcoming contract) by competing in the USFL? Or will he play it safe and wait out the news?
The Breakers are a couple of great playmakers away from being a strong title contender. Scott could help put them over the top. As it stands, I’m shying away from New Orleans at these odds.
Michigan Panthers (+600)
Now we’re turning our attention to the four teams that didn’t make the 2022 playoffs. Interestingly, Michigan has the best odds among this group. Why? Didn’t they finish 2-8?
Ah, but they were much better than their record, with most of their losses coming by a touchdown or less. In fact, the Panthers scored the fourth-most points while producing a respectable net -25 point differential. Not bad for a 2-8 squad.
Michigan enters the 2023 campaign with several question marks, including at quarterback, where conceivably three guys could get their shot. But in the backfield, Reggie Corbin might be the most important RB to any USFL team. He dominated last season despite starting only six games. A full slate of work for Corbin should help open up the passing game for a team that realistically could finish 5-5.
Memphis Showboats (+700)
The first franchise relocation featured the Tampa Bay Bandits moving to Memphis. The newly minted Showboats are coming off a 4-6 season in which they tallied the second-fewest points while yielding the fourth-fewest.
In a clear sign of the stark delineation among USFL teams, the team formerly known as the Bandits were 4-0 against non-playoff teams and 0-6 versus playoff teams. Yes, in this league — at least last year — it was fairly evident which teams were strong title contenders and which ones weren’t.
Memphis will lean heavily on former NFL starting RB Alex Collins, and they have to hope Ryan Willis can develop into a top-four USFL QB. The loss of TE Cheyenne O’Grady (their No. 2 receiver in 2022) won’t help. Also keep in mind that current XFL star Jordan Ta’amu was their starting QB last year.
Yes, they have big holes to fill.
Houston Gamblers (+950)
Speaking of missing pieces, WR Isaiah Zuber was one of this league’s most productive receivers in 2022. Needing to step up in Zuber’s absence will be 28-year-old Teo Redding and perhaps Deontez Alexander.
MORE: Who Owns the USFL?
QB Kenji Bahar will have his work cut out for him. In a more balanced league, Houston might have the luxury of transitioning into a solid squad. But four of their first six games are against last year’s playoff teams. The Gamblers will face an uphill battle to even match last year’s 3-7 record.
Pittsburgh Maulers (+1200)
Finally, the Maulers. What can be said that hasn’t already been said by USFL aficionados around the globe? Pittsburgh scored the fewest points in 2022 and tied for the most points surrendered. They have a lot of catching up to do and not enough personnel at their disposal to do it.
The Maulers are hoping No. 2 overall draft pick Lindsey Scott Jr. can be their QB of the future. But I expect it will be tough sledding for him and the rest of this team for most of the season. Realistically, Pittsburgh might secure two or three wins by beating up on the league’s other least-talented squads.