UFL 2024: Five things to watch for in Week 8


by Eric Williams | FOXSports.com

UFL 2024: Five things to watch for in Week 8

San Antonio Brahmas head coach Wade Phillips has seen a thing or two in his 54 years of coaching.

With his team sitting at 5-2 and tied for the top spot in the XFL Conference with three games remaining in the 2024 UFL season, Phillips has enjoyed the uniqueness of the spring league’s rules that has twice allowed his team to overcome fourth-quarter deficits and turn them into comeback wins.

"It [has] been fun," Phillip said. "We’ve won some close games, but that’s all part of it. You have to win close games in this league because everybody’s pretty close. Even the teams that haven’t won many games have been pretty close."

The Brahmas get an opportunity to stay atop their conference standings when they take on the defending XFL champion Arlington Renegades (1-6) at the Alamodome on Sunday (4 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app). A win this weekend — along with a loss by the DC Defenders — will clinch a spot in the postseason for the Brahmas.

The Renegades earned their first victory of the season last week on the back of the league's leading passer, Luis Perez, in a double-digit victory over the Memphis Showboats (1-6).

Earlier Sunday, the St. Louis Battlehawks (5-2), which are tied for first with the Brahmas in the XFL Conference, host the Defenders (3-4) at noon ET.

In Saturday's doubleheader, the Michigan Panthers (5-2) face the Showboats at Ford Field at 1 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app, while the Houston Roughnecks (1-6) visit the undefeated Birmingham Stallions at 5 p.m. ET.

Here’s a closer look at five things to watch for in Week 8:

1. QB Quinten Dormady remains Brahmas' starter

Despite backup Kevin Hogan taking over Dormady last week and leading the Brahmas to a comeback win over Houston, Phillips said that Dormady would remain the team’s starter this week.

"Dormady is still our quarterback," Phillips told reporters. "He and (Chase) Garbers fought it out, it was very close. And then once Chase went down, he’s our quarterback. So, we have a lot of confidence in him."

While San Antonio’s offense has struggled to score points of late, its defense has picked up the slack by holding teams to 15 points a contest over the past three games.

Three defenders in particular have been key for San Antonio defensively: safety Jordan Mosley (58 combined tackles), along with linebackers Tavante Beckett (55) and Jordan Williams (53), which are three of the top four defenders in combined tackles in the UFL through seven games. Wyatt Ray leads San Antonio with 4.5 sacks.

"I feel good about our team," Phillips said. "It’s one of those situations where you control your own destiny. If you win, you get into the playoffs. If you win the next three, you play at home in the playoffs. So, that’s a good spot."

2. Kickers show accuracy from distance

UFL kickers continue to be a main storyline this season, showing a consistency in hitting field goals from deep.

Through seven games, UFL kickers have made 25 of 33 field goals (76%) from 50-plus yards and five field goals from 60-plus yards. It’s not just Panthers star Jake Bates, who has made three kicks from 60-plus yards this season, either.

JJ Molson of the Roughnecks has a 62-yarder under his belt, and Andre Szmyt of the Battlehawks drilled a 61-yarder in a loss to the Stallions.

Last season, NFL kickers made 69.5% of field goals from 50-plus yards during the regular season.

3. Can St. Louis rebound after a tough loss vs. Birmingham?

Battlehawks head coach Anthony Becht is quickly putting last week’s narrow loss to the undefeated Stallions behind him, as St. Louis makes a late push to ensure it reaches the postseason for another shot at Birmingham in the UFL title game.

For Becht and the Battlehawks, it begins this weekend with a game against the Defenders, who reached the XFL title game last season. Even though the Battlehawks easily handled the Defenders on the road in Week 5, 45-12, Becht isn’t taking anything for granted. He expects another big crowd at The Dome at America’s Center to watch the game. With a win, the Battlehawks would clinch a spot in the UFL Championship Game.

"It was a tough game last week, there’s no question about it," Becht said. "That’s a good team, but for us, we’ve got to bounce back and be hungry and really show that that’s not who we are."

4. Battlehawks QB AJ McCarron could be out

The Battlehawks could be without their starting QB when they host the Defenders. McCarron suffered an ankle injury against Birmingham last week.

"We’re going to take it day-to-day and just see how it works and looks and try to make a decision when we feel certain about it," Becht told reporters. "So, we’re not going to rule anything until we get all the things we need to know."

Brandon Silvers would make the start if McCarron can’t go, with Manny Wilkins serving as backup. St. Louis also signed Ball State product quarterback Drew Plitt this week.

The Defenders placed the team’s leading receiver Kelvin Harmon on IR with a hamstring issue, ending his season.

Meanwhile, Michigan will be missing one of its top defensive performers when it faces Memphis this weekend. UFL interception leader and Panthers breakout star Kai Nacua was listed as inactive this week due to a concussion.

Memphis QB Troy Williams is nursing a rib injury, so Case Cookus will return to the starting lineup. Houston placed linebacker Gabe Sewell Jr. on IR, and linebacker Reuben Foster will be inactive for Houston.

Needing depth at linebacker, Houston signed Christian Sam and former USFL linebacker D’Juan Hines this week. Hines was one of the defensive leaders for the New Jersey Generals in the USFL last season.

With a spot in the postseason already clinched, the Stallions are getting some of their frontline players healthy. Running back CJ Marable, cornerback Mark Gilbert and defensive lineman Carlos Davis are inactive this week.

5. Stat of the week

St. Louis big-bodied receiver Hakeem Butler has asserted himself as one of the top pass catchers in the UFL, leading the league in receiving yards (567) and receiving touchdowns (five) through seven games this season.

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him at @eric_d_williams.


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