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    How’s your USFL Pool working out? I got humbled in Week 3 after a hot start, falling to 8-4 (.667) on the season. The Week 4 slate of games is a mixed bag. Let’s get to the picks.

    HOUSTON GAMBLERS (1-2) VS. PHILADELPHIA STARS  (1-2) | MAY 6 | 1:00 P.M. | FOX

    I didn’t get much right in Week 3, but I did tell you about the Houston Gamblers, didn’t I? This is a growing team. The Gamblers have a middling passing game, a solid running game, a lackluster defense, and the weirdest special teams in the USFL. WR Justin Hall, from mighty, mighty Ball State, has 16 catches and 4 TDs on the season, good for the league lead in each category. 

    They are matched against the Stars whose QB is pretty good, the running game is poor, the defense is vulnerable, and the return game is non-existent. QB Case Cookus (4 TDs, 4 INTs) will raise your hopes and break your heart in equal measure. RB Matt Colburn II’s rushing performance (22 carries, 69 yards, 1 TD) this season can only be classed as disappointing (again the milquetoast O-line doesn’t help). The Stars have a decent KR, but no PR with valuable reps, because their D gets scored on.

    Straight-up pick: Houston because they look like they want it more.

    MEMPHIS SHOWBOATS (0-3) VS MICHIGAN PANTHERS (2-1) | MAY 6 | 7:30 P.M. | PEACOCK

    This season, the Michigan Panthers have transformed themselves into a competitive team in the USFL’s North division. The Showboats, meanwhile, have become an afterthought in the South. Memphis will likely march out the lumbering Cole Kelley at QB after a just OK outing in Week 3; he’s not going to change the flow of the game, nor will any of PHI’s current RB options. The Stars’ so-so defensive ranking hides from the fact the club has not yet played a top USFL offense this season.

    Last week, I broke a cardinal rule of Detroit-area sports fans in that I gambled on a Michigan football team straight up. It is a crippling emotional burden we locals carry. I freakin’ love this defense, particularly the pass rush, but the Panthers need to get better on O in the passing game and attack the deep part of the field. Michigan’s return game stinks and the PK never gets a chance to score because the O’s first down efficiency is poor.

    Straight-up pick: Michigan because I am a glutton for punishment.

    NEW ORLEAN BREAKERS (3-0) VS. NEW JERSEY GENERALS (2-1) | MAY 7 | 3:00 P.M. | PEACOCK

    At +550 to win it all at the start of the season, the New Orleans Breakers look pretty good right now. By yardage, the Breakers boast the league’s top passer, top rusher, and top receiver, as well as the league’s top-scoring kicker after three weeks of football. That and a positive 3:1 turnover ratio have been enough to propel the Breakers to a perfect start, though Week 4 will present another difficult test.

    The New Jersey Generals are a competitive and well-established force in the USFL’s North Division. The league’s leading rushing team at 169 yards per game, the Generals QB combo of Johnson and Prukop has combined for 8 TDs, 2 INTs, and a league-leading team QBR of 122.2. The Generals’ defense is #1 overall and #1 against the pass, but the KR/PR game is pretty average. On paper, this should be a pretty good game.

    Straight-up pick: New Orleans because I wanna believe they are the 2009 Saints.

    BIRMINGHAM STALLIONS (2-1) VS. PITTSBURGH MAULERS (1-2) | MAY 7 | 6:30 P.M. | FS1

    To D or not to D? That is the question. That better be the answer, too, or the Maulers are probably screwed in Week 4. This defense is glorious; like watching the Steel Curtain. Seriously, Joe Greene would be proud. After an abysmal start to the season, the running game even found some legs behind this fawn-like offensive line. QB Trey Williams is learning to do his best Trent Dilfer impersonation. Is that enough to beat defending champs Birmingham who are often coming off a stinging Week 3 loss?

    The Stallions are a veteran team producing more than 340 yards of offense per game so far this season against some of the USFL’s stiffer competition. QB Alex McGough (Mc-goo) leads the league with seven passing TDs, with TE Jace Sternberger and WR Davion Davis the leading beneficiaries. The Stallions are a bend, don’t-break team on defense, giving up a lot of yards (342/game), but not many points (18.3/game). The BHAM kicking game is reliable, and KR Deon Cain is the only man with a KR tuddie in 2023.

    Straight-up pick: Birmingham because Pittsburgh is not a complete team yet.  

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