Saturday, August 20, 2022

USFL championship staff picks: Who we’ve got as Philadelphia Stars, Birmingham Stallions battle for crown

The 2022 USFL Championship is upon us, and the final matchup of the year will feature one team that was the favorite all season, and another that rode a late surge all the way to the “Spring League Super Bowl.” It’s the Philadelphia Stars vs. the Birmingham Stallions.

The Stars upset the New Jersey Generals in the first round of the playoffs thanks to a Maurice Alexander Jr. punt return touchdown late in the fourth quarter, which handed Mike Reilly’s team their first loss since Week 1 of the regular season. As for the Stallions, they ended a four-game, against-the-spread losing streak to down the New Orleans Breakers, 31-17.

The Stars and Stallions last faced off in Week 5 back on May 15. The Stallions escaped with a 30-17 victory, but it was a one-score game entering the final quarter. In fact, the Stars actually held a three-point lead at halftime! The contest was very even. Both offenses averaged about five yards per play, both scored two red zone touchdowns and both turned the ball over two times. Should we expect another close game on Sunday?

Congrats to the USFL for completing a successful season. Below, our CBS Sports staff will give their picks for Sunday’s matchup. Before we jump in, here’s everything you need to know about the final game of the 2022 USFL season. For a full breakdown of this matchup, check out Tyler Sullivan’s piece, here.

All odds are via Caesars Sportsbook

Birmingham Stallions (-4.5) vs. Philadelphia Stars

Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET (Fox)

Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium (Canton, Ohio)

ATS records: Stallions (7-4), Stars (6-5)

Over/Under 45.5 (-110)

Jared Dubin: Stallions -4.5

“Stallions is a cooler name than Stars and that’s all I know about either team.”

John Breech: Stallions -4.5

“I watched two USFL games all year, so I don’t think I qualify as an expert here. However, I am an expert in marital relations and my wife is from Birmingham, so I’ll be going with the Stallions to win and cover.”

Patrik Walker: Stars +4.5

“This one’s for all the marbles, folks. It’s been an intriguing maiden voyage for the USFL, to say the least, but it all comes down to who wants it more — to be the first-ever champion of the league. On one side, you have a talented team from Philadelphia who has shown an ability to win in multiple ways, but they’re up against a gritty, hard-nosed squad from Birmingham who often looks to impose its will on opponents. This could go to the wire, but I don’t expect a high-scoring game, and if that prediction holds true, I believe the Stallions ride off into the sunset with the victory after having used their punishing run game to set up the critical big play downfield. 21-17, Stallions.”

Tyler Sullivan: Stallions -4.5

“Birmingham has been the team to beat all season and for good reason. They can put up points in all three phases, which was on full display last week against the Breakers when the offense, defense, and special teams all scored touchdowns during a 21-point second quarter. The Stallions defense has arguably the best pass rush in the USFL, which could pose similar problems to what Stars QB Case Cookus faced last time out against the Generals. In that win, he only completed 50% of his throws. If Birmingham forces him into similar production, Philadelphia won’t have a shot. While a lot of the attention will be on Birmingham’s stout defense vs. the high-flying Philadelphia offense, the Stars defense could be their demise. During the regular season, they were tied for the most points allowed per game. Birmingham is the more well-rounded club and should be able to win the title by a touchdown.”

Brett Anderson: Stars +4.5

“The Stallions were the best team in the regular season, but here’s the thing — they were the ONLY HOME TEAM. I’m not saying the 15,000 or so Birmingham fans that came to cheer them on (at least early on) swayed things tremendously, but that was still 15,000 or so more than any other team had. In Canton the Stallions don’t have that advantage, and now they’re playing the red-hot Stars, who have won five of their last six and have scored the most points in the USFL. Birmingham was the only team to beat Philly by more than one score all season, but in the title game the Stars should not only keep it within 4.5, they could win outright.”

Jordan Dajani: Stars +4.5

“Last week was a trip. With 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter and the Generals up four points on the Stars, I was feeling pretty good about our chances of covering 4.5 points. Then, Alexander returned a punt 87 yards for a touchdown right after the two minute warning. Luis Perez was unable to engineer a game-winning drive, and that was that.

We also missed on the Breakers-Stallions game. New Orleans was down just four points entering the fourth quarter, but Birmingham scored 10 unanswered in the final stanza to put the game away. Bottom line, it was the worst week of USFL betting for me this season. Looking forward to this week, don’t the Stars have a bit of “team of destiny” feel to them? This is a club that went through some ups and downs, and even had to replace their starting quarterback early in the season. I was very impressed that Philly jumped out to a double-digit lead last week, and then scored what was the game-winning play on special teams. This team is hungry in all three facets of the game. 

For my Super Bowl pick earlier this year, I took the Los Angeles Rams to win, but the Cincinnati Bengals — the supposed team of destiny — to cover 3.5 points. I’m going to do the same thing here. Give me the points with the Stars, who are very much live to win this game.”

Score prediction: 28-24, Stallions

Dajani USFL ATS record: 23-19

Dajani USFL straight up record: 29-13

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