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How’s your USFL Pool working out? We were perfect with our Week 2 picks to improve to 7-1 (.875) on the season. The Week 3 slate of USFL games includes a showdown of the top two teams in each division. Let’s get to the picks.
New Orleans Breakers (2-0) at Birmingham Stallions (2-0) | APR 29 | 12:30 p.m. | USA
The weekend kicks off with this key matchup of unbeatens in the South Division. QB Mcleod Bethel-Thompson (554 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs) is the league’s top passer so far, with TE Sage Surratt (16/206/1TD) the USFL’s top pass catcher entering Week 3. RB Wes Hills is coming off a big game, having rushed 18 times for 110 and 3 TDs against Houston in Week 2. That said, the Breakers’ defense is middling in most aspects, with no player having recorded more than 1 sack or TO this season.
Meanwhile, BHAM QB Alex McGough (369 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INTs) has the league’s highest pass completion percentage (71.8%) to go along with 83 yards rushing and 1 TD on the ground, while former NFL’er, TE Jace Sternberger (10/189/2TDs), ranks as the second-leading receiver in the USFL. The Stallions also boast the best overall defense in the league, have the best third-down efficiency on offense, and are by far the least penalized team in the league. Expect points to be put up by both teams but count on the defending champs to stand tall.
Straight-up pick: Birmingham Stallions to win
Memphis Showboats (0-2) at Houston Gamblers (0-2) | APR 29 | 7:00 p.m. | FOX
The Gamblers, who are actually a pretty good 0-2 to start the season, will face the ShowBoats, who are a pretty bad 0-2. What’s the difference? To start 2023, Houston has taken the unbeaten Panthers and Stallions to the fourth quarter before losing each game. Memphis, on the other hand, was demolished by the Stallions in Week 2 and got lit up by the 1-1 Philadelphia Stars offense in Week 1. In short, the Gamblers have faced stiffer competition and have looked better doing it.
The QBR nod goes to Brady White of Memphis (71.8, 8th in the league), but that’s not much better than HOU QB Kenji Bahar, who, as a full-time starter, ranks 10th at QBR in a league with only 8 teams. HOU RB T.J. Pledger and WR Justin Hall have combined for 301 yards and 5 TDs this season. MEM RB Alex Collins and WR Rashard Davis counter with 226 yards and 2 TDs of their own. Statistically, these are the two worst defenses in the USFL (again, factor in that both have faced BHAM already). Give an edge to HOU in the kicking and return game. At the end of the day, the better team will get off the schneid.
Straight-up pick: Houston Gamblers to win
Pittsburgh Maulers (0-2) at Philadelphia Stars (1-1) | APR 30 | 12:00 p.m. | NBC
Neither the Maulers nor the Stars can be satisfied with their start. Pittsburgh has dropped both games to begin the 2023 season, showing game defense, but little offensive production with zero offensive TDs in losses to NJ 20-3, and NO 22-15. The Maulers rotating QB pairing of James Morgan and Troy Williams are not helped by the poor play of Pittsburgh’s offensive line, which, IMO, is the league’s worst. WR Isiah Hennie is more of a threat as a returner, and no PIT RB has contributed more than 71 yards of total offense so far this season.
In Philadelphia, fans are waiting for the real 2023 Stars to please stand up. After opening Week 1 with offensive fireworks against Memphis, the Stars fell back to earth in Week 2 against Michigan, posting just 10 points off 45 yards rushing and 4 TOs, including two picks by QB Cake Cookus, who also failed to throw a TD. Stars RB Matt Colburn II has been quiet so far, averaging just 2.6 yards per carry vs. the Panthers and 3.0 on the season in limited action. The Stars’ defense has allowed better than 306 yards and 23 PPG so far while generating zero sacks and 3 INTs. It’s not great, but it’s enough for Philadelphia to get the job done against the Maulers.
Straight-up pick: Philadelphia Stars to win
New Jersey Generals (1-1) at Michigan Panthers (2-0) | APR 30 | 7:00 p.m. | FOX
This key Week 3 matchup in the North Division has Game of the Week written all over it. The 2-0 Panthers will play their first home of the season as the 1-1 New Jersey Generals bring their league-leading rushing game to town. The Panthers will respond with a solid rushing attack of their own and a superior passing offense. Michigan and New Jersey both play quality defense, though the Generals’ special teams are a bit stronger.
This sets up as a close game with the Generals trying to catch Michigan at the top of the North, just as the Panthers will look to widen the gap against New Jersey atop the standings early in the season. I like the way QB Josh Love is leading this Panthers team and the juice they have played with two weeks in a row. In my mind, it’s the Generals who will be on their back foot coming into Ford Field against a very tough Panthers D, and I’m not sure this is the type of game that New Jersey is built to win.
Straight-up pick: Michigan Panthers to win
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