For the last three weeks, we’ve known that the Birmingham Stallions, Michigan Panthers, St. Louis Battlehawks and San Antonio Brahmas are the four best teams in the UFL.

With Week 10 behind us, they’ve all had the chance to measure each other ahead of the postseason, as only the best teams from the USFL and XFL Conferences remain. These four teams are suiting up this weekend not only for the chance to play for the belt but to earn the right to represent the legacy of the pro spring league that birthed them.

Make no mistake: the UFL has been an excellent business merger, but there’s ongoing debate about which conference is better. Only the Stallions have shown they know how to walk ‘into a stadium and walk out clutching the belt. They’re the only champions remaining in this tournament. They’ll say everyone should check their postseason résumé. They find away. That’s how champions are made. The rest are just renting a room at Hotel Postseason. They own the building.

St. Louis will say that’s fine, dandy even. But everyone will have to come through their city, where 34,000 fans will be ready to get rowdy this postseason. San Antonio, the opponent in the XFL title game, fell short in that environment just last week.

The Brahmas will say they beat the Stallions — and were the only team all season to do it. They’ll say St. Louis beat them but didn’t knock them out, and now they’re going to run it back in front of Battlehawks fans in their own house.

Michigan will say there’s no protection at Protective Stadium for the Stallions. The Panthers will say that they had them on the ropes and were a missed field goal away from the regular-season title over this so-called dynasty. It’s Detroit vs. Everybody, and on Saturday, Birmingham will have the unfortunate luck of being everybody.

Postseason football is what football is all about: Talk your talk. Bring your passion. Bring your love. Two games to become the champion and clutch a dream fulfilled. One more game to leave no doubt about who you are as a player.

That said, let’s get to my final edition of the 2024 UFL power rankings.

1. Birmingham Stallions (9-1)

After suffering their first loss in 379 days and seeing a 15-game winning streak snapped, Skip Holtz’s Stallions were determined not to lose two in a row — and they didn’t. In the process, they ended the Panthers’ five-game winning streak.

Birmingham came back from 10 points down against Michigan and finished the season at 9-1. The Stallions have not lost two in a row in the Holtz era and are now 30-4 dating back to 2022 in the USFL.

The USFL Conference Championship Game was already slated to be played at Protective Stadium in Birmingham, but the Stallions won home-field advantage by finishing atop the USFL Conference standings with a win against the team they’ll face Saturday for the right to represent their conference in the inaugural UFL Championship Game on Father’s Day (11 a.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app).

Following a change at defensive coordinator after Week 7, the Stallions defense has seemed a bit out of rhythm with Corey Chamblin as the new playcaller; Chamblin replaced John Chavis, who has been unavailable due to an ongoing health issue. Still, the Stallions should feel good about finding a way to win an ugly game that featured MVP favorite Adrian Martinez‘s worst performance all season (14-for-28 for 163 yards and one touchdown).

2. Michigan Panthers (7-3)

The Panthers became the latest team to find out just how hard it is to vanquish the Stallions — even with a 16-6 lead at the start of the third quarter and what felt like a stranglehold on the game after each team’s respective opening drive.

The Panthers held the ball for seven more minutes than the Stallions, outgained them by 101 total yards and rushed for 135 yards. Michigan knows it can beat Birmingham in Saturday’s USFL title game (9 a.m. ET) because it should have done it in Week 10.

Panthers QB Danny Etling looked great with over 200 total yards and two scores. However, there’s some cause for concern for kicker Jake Bates, who missed what would’ve been the game-winner from 53 yards out. Bates, who has multiple makes from 60 yards or further this season, might be losing form at precisely the wrong time for the Panthers.

3. St. Louis Battlehawks (7-3)

Even with the return of starting QB AJ McCarron, the Battlehawks struggled to move the ball through the air. McCarron completed just 10 of 24 passes for 115 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

The Battlehawks’ solid run-game — 105 yards on 23 rushes — and outstanding defensive play led to a gritty 13-12 win in their most important game of the season. St. Louis not only won home-field advantage for the conference title game, but it now has the chance to play its last three games and entire postseason at home — an unheard-of benefit in pro football.

St. Louis averages more than 34,000 fans in attendance since spring football returned to the city, and there’s reason to believe that number will go well over 40,000 for Sunday’s championship game (1 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app).

4. San Antonio Brahmas (7-3)

For the second week in a row, the Brahmas defense performed like the league’s best, holding the XFL regular-season champion Battlehawks to just 13 points and nearly spoiling McCarron’s return.

After surrendering 10 points in the second quarter, San Antonio’s defense held St. Louis to just three points in the second half in front of the most intimidating away environment in the UFL. The Brahmas just needed a bit more from an offense that began the game with Week 1 starter Chase Garber behind center but finished with mid-season starter Quinten Dormady, who was taking snaps without helmet communication for most of the game. Dormady played well enough, completing 15 of 27 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown.

It was the run game that was the Brahmas’ kryptonite. San Antonio rushed for 126 yards on 33 rushes against USFL regular-season champion Birmingham in Week 9 but managed just 56 yards on 17 rushes against St. Louis. The Brahmas will look to have their two best tailbacks, John Lovett and Anthony McFarland, fire on all cylinders in Sunday’s XFL Conference Championship Game for what they hope is a two-game sprint to the UFL title game.

5. Arlington Renegades (3-7)

Head coach Bob Stoops must feel good about his team finishing the season with three wins in its last four games. In Week 10, the Renegades avenged their one-point loss to the Defenders earlier this season with a one-point win at Audi Field against last year’s XFL regular-season champions.

Despite throwing two interceptions, QB Luis Perez threw two touchdown passes — both to wideout Tyler Vaughns — in a game where the Renegades defense came up with just enough to help secure the 32-31 win. 

Perez finished the regular season as the league’s passing champion with 2,309 yards and led the league in passing touchdowns with 17. He’s the only player in the UFL to pass for 2,000-plus yards this season.

Linebacker Donald Payne looked like the kind of player he has shown himself to be in the legacy USFL when he led the league with 100-plus tackles. Payne accounted for four tackles, including a sack and a forced fumble, in Week 10.

6. DC Defenders (4-6)

Plays like Chris Rowland’s kickoff return for a touchdown have been rare this season — so rare that it was the first of the season and didn’t come until Week 10.

QB Jordan Ta’amu outdueled Perez in the Defenders’ final game of the season, completing 18 of 34 passes for 218 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also finished the season second in both passing yards (1,845) and total touchdowns (16). 

However, struggling to keep Ta’amu upright and an inconsistent run game was the Defenders’ undoing this season. Ta’amu was sacked a league-high 19 times this season, including three times in their loss to Arlington. The Defenders also finished in the bottom half of the league in rushing yards (850), average yards per rush (3.8) and rushing scores (eight).

Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams didn’t do a great job of stopping opponents from scoring either. The Defenders finished with the league’s second-worst scoring defense (251, or 25 points per game), just two points behind Arlington.

7. Memphis Showboats (2-8)

The Showboats secured the first overall pick and the first pick in every round of next year’s draft with their win against the Roughnecks. Running back Darius Victor, the 2022 USFL Offensive Player of the Year, enjoyed his first game with multiple rushing touchdowns this season.

Offensive coordinator Doug Martin, who was calling plays for the first time this season in place of John DeFilippo, seemed to simplify the offense into one that QB Josh Love might be able to operate. In his first start of the season, Love came up with enough plays to lead Memphis to its first win since Week 1, when it beat Houston.

8. Houston Roughnecks (1-9)

The Roughnecks finished the season with four consecutive losses by single digits. QB Nolan Henderson played his best game of the season (255 total yards), while wideout Justin Hall contributed 77 yards on eight catches.

Houston lost five consecutive games to finish the season. Head coach C.J. Johnson struggled to find consistency at quarterback and didn’t get much out of 2023 USFL Offensive Player of the Year Mark Thompson.

RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast “The Number One College Football Show.” Follow him at @RJ_Young and subscribe to “The RJ Young Show” on YouTube.

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