United Football League
UFL 2024: Five things to watch for in Week 3
United Football League

UFL 2024: Five things to watch for in Week 3

Published Apr. 12, 2024 3:27 p.m. ET

St. Louis Battlehawks receiver Marcell Ateman has been the best pass catcher in the UFL through the first two weeks of the season. Ateman tops the league in receiving yards (174) and receiving touchdowns (three), as St. Louis (1-1) heads into a Week 3 road matchup against the undefeated San Antonio Brahmas on Sunday (3 p.m. ET). 

The 29-year-old Ateman points to a good rapport with St. Louis quarterback A.J. McCarron for his fast start. A seventh-round selection by the Raiders in the 2018 NFL Draft, Ateman played with McCarron in Oakland. Ateman finished with 29 receptions for 270 yards and one touchdown in his NFL career.

"We have that chemistry, and AJ is a great leader," Ateman said. "He has expectations for not just myself, but for all the receivers. He holds us to a standard, and we just go out there and put the work in."

Ateman’s efforts have helped the Battlehawks off to a hot start — second in passing yards (216.5 per game) and third in scoring (21.5 points per game) — this season. They created balance on offense with the addition of running back Mataeo Durant. Inactive for Week 1, the Duke product rushed for 104 yards in last week’s win.


"I’m happy for him," St. Louis head coach Anthony Becht said about Durant. "He took advantage of his opportunity. That’s what this league is all about when you get your chance. You may not dress every week, but when you are there and you get your shot, you have to take advantage of it."

The Michigan Panthers (1-1) face the Houston Roughnecks (0-2) in Sunday's first game at noon ET.

On Saturday, the winless Arlington Renegades host the DC Defenders  (1-1) at 1 p.m. ET, followed by the Birmingham Stallions' (2-0) first home game against the Memphis Showboats (1-1) at 7 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app.

Here are five things to watch for in Week 3's slate of games: 

1. Renegades, Defenders meet in XFL title rematch

The Renegades host the Defenders in a rematch of last year’s XFL title game in which Arlington came out on top. However, the defending XFL champions are off to a slow start at 0-2, while the Defenders earned their first win of the season last week with a 23-18 victory at home over the Roughnecks. 

The Renegades are giving up a league-worst 27 points per contest and have forced two turnovers through two games. Arlington also is allowing teams to convert a league-worst 50% on third down.

"Our third down defense, we were not able to come up with enough stops," Arlington head coach Bob Stoops said last week. "In particular, on third-and-long we haven’t been near good enough, which normally people get off the field." 

2. Stallions celebrate 2023 USFL title in home opener

Birmingham will play at home for the first time since the team notched its second consecutive USFL title in a win over the Pittsburgh Maulers last season.

Last year’s USFL MVP Alex McGough, now with the Green Bay Packers, is expected to be on hand to help commemorate last year’s victory. The Stallions will be presented their championship rings at a team gathering this weekend.

Even without McGough, the Stallions continue to roll, having won nine straight game dating back to last season. Head coach Skip Holtz continues to use a two-quarterback system with Matt Corral and Adrian Martinez. Those two and the Birmingham offense should get a good test from a Memphis defense that has held opponents to 16 points per contest. 

3. YouTube star ‘Deestroying’ out with neck issue 

San Antonio placed kicker Donald De La Haye, also known as the YouTube star "Deestroying," on the injured list after he suffered a neck injury making a tackle last week.  

De La Haye did not attempt a field goal during his time with the team and will be out a minimum of five weeks, per UFL rules. The Brahmas signed Ryan Santoso, who went to training camp with the New York Giants in 2022, to replace him.

San Antonio also placed center Alex Mollette (leg) on IR after he suffered an injury last week against Memphis. Showboats running back Darius Victor (ankle) also missed practice this week, putting his availability this weekend in question.

The Roughnecks also lost two key players in Week 2. Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano (chest) and running back Kirk Merritt (wrist) were both placed on IR. Reid Sinnett is expected to start at quarterback in place of Guarantano. Houston also brought back Kenji Baher as depth in the quarterback room. 

Former NFL defensive back Cameron Dantzler signed with the Brahmas, and former CFL edge rusher Anree Saint-Amour signed with Arlington.

4. What can Jake Bates do for an encore?

The Panthers' kicker has been one of the main storylines for the UFL this season, making back-to-back field goals from beyond 60 yards after never attempting a field goal since high school.

Can Bates make another kick from 60-plus yards for a third straight week? If Bates accomplishes that impressive feat, he would be the first to do so in professional football. The only other kicker to make two, 60-plus field goals in back-to-back weeks was Brett Maher for the Dallas Cowboys in Weeks 6 and 7 of the 2019 NFL season.

Bates has made field goals of 64, 62 and 52 yards this year, and when the UFL season is over, he’ll likely be in an NFL training camp come July. But for now, Bates is focused on helping the Panthers win games. 

"Looking at … getting into the league (the NFL) … he’s just going to have to continue to show consistency," head coach Mike Nolan said. "I know there's a lot of people right now looking at him because of his leg strength — both on his kickoffs, as well as the field goals — but more importantly the field goals because if you can get points from far out, obviously you’re very valuable to the team."

5. Stat of the week

Michigan linebacker Frank Ginda, last year’s leading tackler in the USFL, has eclipsed 200 combined tackles in spring professional football. The San Jose State product is tied with San Antonio’s Jordan Mosley for the league lead with 19 combined tackles so far this season. Ginda finished with a league-high 14 total tackles in a loss to Birmingham last week.

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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