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The Battlehawks and Brahmas Are Set to Fight for Home Field Advantage in an XFL Conference Championship Preview

The playoffs might as well start this weekend for the St. Louis Battlehawks. In the regular season finale, the Battlehawks must fight to claim home-field advantage in the XFL Conference Championship game next week. Their opponent in both games will be the 7-2 San Antonio Brahmas. 

With the league championship game set to be played at The Dome in St. Louis, the Battlehawks could have three straight home games en route to claiming the first UFL Championship.

The most crucial storyline in the leadup to the game was the status of St. Louis quarterback A.J. McCarron. The NFL veteran has missed the last two weeks due to an ankle injury he suffered in Week 7 against the Birmingham Stallions. His absence was felt last week when backup Manny Wilkins threw for three interceptions in the final quarter of St. Louis’ 36-22 loss to Arlington.

The answer came Thursday night, with McCarron’s name removed from the inactive list. The reigning XFL MVP will have a chance to be the hero for his team in his return.

Even with the biggest concern being health, the Battlehawks are still banged up. Starters, including receiver Marcell Ateman, safety Qwynterrio Cole, and guard Abdul Beechum, will all miss Saturday’s game with injuries. Additionally, this week, receiver Ja’Marcus Bradley was placed on the injured reserve list.

The Brahmas are dealing with injuries, too, especially in the running backs room. John Lovett, the league’s second-leading rusher, and Anthony McFarland, No. 14, will both be inactive.

Lovett was also inactive last week against the Stallions, while McFarland rushed for 82 yards. The only other running back listed on the San Antonio roster is Morgan Ellison, who played in college at Indiana and Southeastern Louisiana. The 6-foot-1, 230-pound back has appeared in six games this season, rushing for 163 yards on 35 attempts. 

This season, the Brahmas’ quarterback situation has been far from a smooth ride. This week, Chase Garbers will be getting the start. The former California quarterback was placed on injured reserve due to a wrist injury after starting in the season's first three games. Quentin Dormady took over for Garbers since then. According to the Thursday UFL depth chart, Garbers will return as the starter this week. 

Despite only appearing in four games, Garbers is eighth in the league in passing yards with 725 and No. 6 in touchdowns with six scores. 

In St. Louis’ matchup with San Antonio in week 3, Garbers had an impressive day, going 27-for-41 for 143 yards and one touchdown in a 31-24 loss. The St. Louis secondary did an impressive job covering a talented wide receiver corps headlined by deep threat Jontre Kirklin.

The St. Louis defense must perform similarly this Saturday to secure the win. Although McCarron will be the main storyline, the Battlehawks' winning formula has hinged on their defense so far this season.

The Brahmas have one of the toughest defenses in the league. Last week, they held the explosive Stallions to just nine points. 

The Battlehawk defense will have to take advantage of a Brahmas offense dealing with a paltry running back room and a possibly rusty Garbers.

The Battlehawks are listed as a mere -2.5 point favorite over the Brahmas on DraftKings. A win will be crucial to build momentum for the playoffs and secure home-field advantage in next week's rematch in the conference championship game.  

Cover Image via: Brien Aho/UFL/Getty Images

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