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St. Louis Battlehawks Look to Clinch Playoff Spot in Week 8 Against D.C. Defenders

The St. Louis Battlehawks are in the season's homestretch, with just three games remaining and a chance to clinch a spot in the playoffs this weekend. The D.C. Defenders will travel to St. Louis this Sunday to try to become the first team to escape The Dome with a win this season.

The St. Louis offense might face a significant roadblock this week. Star quarterback A.J. McCarron suffered an ankle injury last weekend against the Birmingham Stallions and was limited during practice Wednesday.

If McCarron cannot go, Brandon Silvers or Manny Wilkins will get the starting nod.

Silvers is a veteran of spring leagues, starting eight out of 10 games for the Houston Roughnecks last season. Silvers threw for 1,551 yards, 13 touchdowns, and nine interceptions in his eight starts last year.

Wilkins has been with the Battlehawks since last season and was on the Green Bay Packers practice squad in 2019. If he were to start, it would be his first since his senior season at Arizona State in 2018.

The Battlehawks also signed quarterback Drew Plitt this week. Plitt started three games for the Arlington Renegades in 2023 and was on the Cincinnati Bengals' practice squad with McCarron in 2023.

The Battlehawks' offense was also hampered last time out against the Defenders, with receiver/returner Darrius Shepherd, running back Mataeo Durant, and starting offensive tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty missing the game with an injury.

Despite the injuries, the Battlehawks still thrashed the Defenders 45-12 in Week 5, the largest margin of victory in the league this season.

While the St. Louis offense exploded in the fourth quarter, the main highlight of the win was the St. Louis defense and special teams, which generated four turnovers and two blocked punts. 25 of St. Louis' points came off of turnovers.

McCarron threw for just 14 completions for 213 yards and two touchdowns, one of his less impressive stat lines of the season. Receiver Hakeem Butler received both of McCarron's touchdowns and also had 147 receiving yards on the day.

If McCarron is out or limited for Sunday's game, the outcome will obviously depend on the St. Louis run game or defense.

Although inside linebacker Mike Rose is missing his second straight game with an injury, the St. Louis defense is mostly healthy and has been on a tear over the past few weeks. The group struggled last week against the explosive Stallions' offense, but they are allowing the second-lowest number of points and yards per game.

The St. Louis run game is led by the duo of Jacob Saylors and Durant. Saylors is currently fifth in the league with 280 yards, and Durant is 13th with 134. The group struggled against the Defenders in week 5, only rushing for 83 yards total, due to injuries to both Durant and two starters on the offensive line.

Even with McCarron's questionable status, the Battlehawks are -7.5 point favorites this weekend on DraftKings. If they win Sunday and next week against Arlington, the Battlehawks could clinch the first seed in the UFL conference next week, with San Antonio losing the next two weekends. St. Louis is set to host San Antonio the final week of the regular season, but that could become a rest week for St. Louis depending on the outcome of the next two weekends.

For the Battlehawks though, they'll have to avoid counting their eggs before their hatch and take care of business this week against the Defenders.

Cover Image via: Scott Taetsch/UFL/Getty Images

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