The Birmingham Stallions sit with the last unblemished record in the UFL at 6-0 after six weeks. They may be facing their biggest challenge this season with the St. Louis Battlehawks coming to town. This could wind up being a preview of the championship game with St. Louis looking like the best team in the XFL division so far. This has been one of a few anticipated match-ups between USFL and XFL teams following the merge. 

How to Watch

The game will be broadcast on FOX and FOX Sports on Sirius Radio at 4:00 pm Eastern Time. It is located in Birmingham and will be played at Protective Stadium. Tickets are still available and are available for purchase here for as little as $10 per ticket. 

Keys to Victory for Birmingham

Limit scoring opportunities

The St. Louis Battlehawks are the only team in the UFL that has scored more points than the Stallions. They have averaged 28.8 points per game so far, while Birmingham has averaged 28.5 points per game both of which could place them in the top three most points scored in the XFL/USFL. However, the Battlehawks haven’t faced a defense like the Stallions’ yet. Currently, they are the league’s stingiest defense, allowing 14.8 points per game or 89 total points through 6 games. 

This defense could be the best unit equipped to defeat the Battlehawks, Aj McCarron is a mobile enough quarterback, but he isn’t the type of Houdini that Adrian Martinez or Jordan Ta’amu are for the UFL. He wants to defeat you with his arm, and not his feet. Limiting his opportunities to throw from a clean pocket is the best way to slow down this high-flying Battlehawks offense. 

There are two ways to do this; control the tempo of the game, and create pressure on McCarron. The Stallions already have the highest time of possession in the league thanks to their dedication to the run, and using the short passing game as an extension of the run game. They have also managed a league-leading 21 sacks for 123 yards lost, and have produced 6 interceptions, 7 forced fumbles, and 29 pass break-ups all of which lead the league. If the Stallions defense can keep this up against St. Louis they should keep their undefeated streak intact. 

Create Mismatches

Offensively, the Stallions will need to be able to identify and exploit mismatches for the Battlehawks. Something tells me this will result in a big day for Jace Sternberger. Five players on the Battlehawks defense were limited in practice this week, including linebackers Mike Rose, and Pita Taumoepenu, as well as defensive back Tim Harris who are all nursing ankle injuries. St. Louis has a total of 9 players on the injured list, including three offensive linemen.

The Stallions have a few concerns injury-wise with DeMarquis Gates, Lorenzo Burns, and Mark Milton all banged up. They also have Amari Rodgers working to get through concussion protocol, and Derwin Gray rehabbing a knee injury. The injuries at linebacker could create some one-on-one match-ups with backup linebackers on the roster for Sternberger. If this happens, the Stallions will have to exploit these mismatches every chance they get. 

While on defense the mismatches will need to come against their offensive line. This unit has given up 13 sacks on McCarron, tied for second most in the league taken by any one quarterback, behind only Case Cookus. The defense will certainly get its opportunities to get after McCarron. He currently leads the league in pass attempts by any quarterback. Only three teams as a whole have attempted more passes than McCarron this season. 

With that in mind, I wouldn’t be upset to see Chavis lean toward stopping the run and focus on making St. Louis even more one-dimensional than they already are. The Stallions have the most productive defensive line this season averaging over 3 sacks per game as is. If you face a pass-happy offense like St. Louis, and let these guys pin their ears back and get after the passer we could see another 7 sack day. 

Special Teams

The Battlehawks have one of the best return units in the league. Averaging 29.6 yards per kick return, and 13.6 yards per punt return. On the flip side of this the Stallions have the least punts pinned inside the 20-yard line, and the lowest yards per punt average in the league. This could prove to be a large challenge for the Stallions in week 7 as they attempt to prevent big plays in the return game. One or two big returns could entirely change this game for either team. 

Betting Odds

DraftKings has this game at a 3.5-point spread in favor of Birmingham at home. The over/under is 47.5 total points. The money line is +160 for STL and -192 for the Stallions. 

Predictions

I believe the Stallions will win this game 31-27. Firmly hitting the over, and covering the spread just barely. The Battlehawks will put up a fight but will fall short in this game. 

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Sam Just

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