The UFL Playoffs -A Division Round Preview

The inaugural 2024 UFL regular season has ended and only the four best teams remain. These teams will go head-to-head against their division rivals in the opening round of the playoffs this weekend.

The UFL Playoffs -A Division Round Preview

Saturday, June 8th 

3:00 pm EDT-ABC

On Saturday afternoon, the 7-3 Michigan Panthers play the 9-1 Birmingham Stallions to decide the USFL Division winner. Sunday evening the 7-3 San Antonio Brahmas take on the 7-3 St. Louis Battlehawks for the XFL Division title. The winner of these games will advance to the League Championship and play for the title on Sunday, June 16th.

The Birmingham Stallions

With the best record in the league and the 2023 USFL League Championship title on their resume, the Birmingham Stallions are the odds-on favorite to win the UFL League Championship. But first, they have to get past the Michigan Panthers.

The key to the Stallions’ success has been their superb quarterback Adrian Martinez. The most likely winner of the league’s MVP title, Martinez has consistently led the UFL in rushing this season with 528 yards on 54 carries with three touchdowns. In addition, he passed for 1,749 yards (134/229) with 15 touchdowns and three interceptions.

Head Coach Skip Holtz appears to have found the Blue Ribbon recipe with the Stallions that dates back to last season when they won the 2023 USFL League crown. This team has loads of talent but the Stallions’ ground game is their real strength. In addition to Martinez, the Stallions have quite a dynamic duo in their talented running backs, Ricky Person Jr. and C.J. Marable.

Martinez, Marable, and Person can break free of tackles while eating up huge chunks of yardage on their way to the end zone. Together, the trio has accounted for 13 rushing touchdowns this season. In the passing attack, Martinez’s favorite receiving partner has been the Stallions’ All-UFL Team tight end, Jace Sternberger with 25 receptions for 454 yards and four touchdowns.

The Michigan Panthers

As talented as they are, the Stallions will need a strong effort to get past the Michigan Panthers on Saturday. Whether you view them as a Cinderella team given their 4-7 record last year, or an underrated sleeper, the Panthers may just be the season’s biggest surprise. Last week, when the Stallions mounted a late fourth-quarter rally, the Panthers were down by a single point and lost the game when Jake Bates missed a last-second field goal.

On Thursday, June 6th, the Panthers’ Head Coach Mike Nolan was awarded the 2024 “Coach of the Year” honors. He deserved the award. Coach Nolan has done a brilliant job this season, scripting a winning strategy to cover for injured team players, while assembling a stellar lineup of talent. When starting quarterback E.J. Perry went down with an injury, Nolan substituted quarterback Danny Etling. When Etling was injured, Nolan didn’t miss a beat and immediately signed Bryce Perkins and elevated 3rd-string quarterback Brian Lewerke to fill the gap.

Despite the changes at quarterback, the team continued to stack up consecutive wins. One of the most complete teams this season, the Panthers are equally strong on offense and defense and lead the league with seven players named to the All-UFL team this week. Each week, it seemed as though a different player stepped up to take the lead. Gifted wide receivers Marcus Simms and Siaosi Mariner had record days along with along with the dual rushing threat of Wes Hills and Matthew Coburn.  

The Panthers’ rushing defense has been outstanding all year and shut down the Stallions’ ground game in last week’s regular-season finale. Four of the Panthers’ superior defensive team members, Breeland Speaks, Nate Brooks, Kai Nacua, and Daniel Wise have been named to the ALL UFL Team, and Speaks with his smothering, everywhere all-at-once presence, will likely be a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.

One of the best stories coming out of the Panthers camp this season has been the emergence of their superstar young kicker, Jake Bates. Destined to be an NFL kicker, Bates has kicked more 60-yard field goals than anyone else this year, with his longest a stunning 64-yard boot. 

Sunday, June 9th

7:00 PM EDT on FOX

On Sunday, the St. Louis Battlehawks will host the San Antonio Brahmas at the fan-friendly Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis.  

The St. Louis Battlehawks

Throughout the season, the Battlehawks fans have led the league in attendance, far surpassing the crowd numbers at every other stadium.  Their “kaw crazy” fan support has undoubtedly been one of the key reasons for the Battlehawks’ success this year. The Battlehawks have given their fans plenty to cheer about with the outstanding play of quarterback A.J. McCarron, running back Jacob Saylors, and wide receiver Hakeem Butler. Both Saylors and Butler have been named to the All-UFL team and in only nine games, McCarron has passed for close to 1,600 yards with 15 touchdowns.     

Saylors is number two in the UFL behind only Martinez and has been the top running back in the league with five rushing touchdowns and three receiving touchdowns. Hakeem Butler has led all UFL wide receivers with 45 catches for 652 yards with five touchdowns. Butler’s longest reception was a thrilling 80-yard scoring play.  

But as much fun as the offense is to watch, the Battlehawks defense has been exceptionally strong as well. Led by the outstanding play of Willie Harvey, the Battlehawks pro boasts a league-leading 78 tackles with four sacks, six broken-up passes, and two forced fumbles.  

The San Antonio Brahmas

Known for their celebrated defense, the Brahmas were the only team this season that emerged with a victory over the Stallions. The Brahmas’ defense, led by the fearsome trio of Tavante Beckett (All-UFL Team honors), Jordan Mosley, and Jordan Williams, held Adrian Martinez and the Stallions to a mere nine points, effectively shutting down this seemingly unstoppable offense. Throughout the season, this trio accounted for 211 tackles, four sacks, three forced fumbles, and one interception.   

On offense, the Brahmas have two very capable quarterbacks in Chase Garbers and Quinten Dormady. Despite playing in only seven games this season, after taking over for the injured Garbers, Dormady has 1,206 passing yards with six touchdowns. Before going out early in the season with a wrist injury, Garbers was on his way to an outstanding season and was just cleared to play again last weekend.  

Adding to their offensive threat, the Brahmas have one of the best wide receivers in the league in Jontre’ Kirklin. In addition to being a terrific receiver, he showed his talent for throwing the ball as well in Week 9, when he successfully launched a 36-yard touchdown pass to fellow wide receiver Justin Smith.

The Brahmas have an exceptionally strong ground game with their talented running backs, Anthony McFarland and Morgan Ellison, both of whom are capable of multiple scores in a single game and 100-yard outings.

Both of these teams are pretty evenly matched and this game could be quite the battle.  Last week’s season finale ended in a low-scoring 13-12 slugfest that was won by the Battlehawks. Can they do it again or will the Brahmas triumph?

You can catch all the action this weekend.  


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