Table of Contents
Pittsburgh Maulers (1-3) vs. Michigan Panthers (2-2) | May 13 | 12:30 P.M. | USA
The Maulers almost pulled off a major upset in Week 4, taking Birmingham late into the fourth quarter before losing 20-24. The Maulers’ running game (87 attempts, 389 yards, 4.5 YPC) is improving, though QB Troy Williams will not be winning any passer of the year awards. PITT’s special teams are excellent and have recorded the only PR touchdown so far this year. Ultimately, this team will go as far as their very active defense can take them.
The Panthers are a suspect 2-2 to start the season. They are the #6 rushing and #4 passing offense in the league, and lay claim to the #3 overall defense, but have yet to show much consistency overall. QB Josh Love (58/96/548 yards) has thrown 5 TDs against 4 INTs so far, tied for second most picks in the league. RB Reggie Corbin (42/251/2TDs) came to life in Week 4 but is questionable with an injury heading into the showdown against the Maulers. Joe Walker (19/225/2TDs) is the team’s leading receiver, while the kicking and return game are middling.
Straight-up pick: Pittsburgh because Michigan screwed me two weeks in a row
Houston Gamblers (2-2) vs. Birmingham Stallions (3-1) | May 13 | 4:00 P.M. | FOX
I told you once, I told you twice, the Gamblers are legit. With two wins in a row against the Showboats and Stars, the Gamblers are finding their legs in the USFL’s South Division. HOU has the #3 passing attack (207 YPG), #2 rushing attack (126 YPG), and the league’s best 3rd down% on offense, but the team is highly penalized. RB Michael Thompson averages better than 6 yards per rush and has 5 TDs on the ground this season, while WR Justin Hall (19/250) leads the league with 4 receiving TDs. The Gamblers are ranked #7 on D but that’s a bit of a Straw Man — they gave up points and passing yards to good NO and Stars Os early on, but have stood stronger since, and now rank #1 vs the run overall (70 ypg). There’s not a big-time pass defender in the secondary and STs are just OK.
Take away the loss to New Orleans in Week 3 and the Stallions have looked every inch the defending champs this season. The Stallions field the league’s #2 ranked passing game (220 YPG), #5 ranked rushing game (107 YPG), #3 ranked overall defense (18.3 ppg), and a quality return game. QB Alex McGough (62/94/764) leads the league with 8 TDs vs. 3 INTs while being sacked 8 times. There’s no lead rusher on this team per se; WR Davion Davis leads the way with 19 catches 268 yards and 3 receiving TDs. The defensive front 7 is a bunch of guys, while Deon Cain is the best KR in the league, and Brandon Aubrey is a dependable PK from all ranges.
Straight-up pick: Birmingham because they are still the better team
New Jersey Generals (2-2) vs. Philadelphia Stars (1-3) | May 14 | 12:00 P.M. | NBC
I’m calling BS on the 2023 Philadelphia Stars. QB Case Cookus only plays well against a lower level of competition. The O-line blocks like a bunch of kickers (19 sacks on the season), so the rushing game sucks (dead last at 50 YPG), but the kicking game ranks #2 for points overall because the O’s TD% is so poor in the red zone. The Stars have the #6 ranked overall defense along with the league’s worst rushing defense (149 YPG), and are -4 in turnovers (second last). PHI beat the Panthers last week but I am chalking that up to bad Detroit-area football mojo and an uninspired Michigan squad. I don’t like the way the Stars play football, I don’t like their uniforms, and I don’t like cheesesteaks.
The Generals, on the other hand, are a legit team and a force to be reckoned with in the North Division. Don’t let the record fool you. NJ’s losses this season have come from the defending champs Birmingham in Week 1, and the 4-0 Breakers in Week 3. Against weaker competition, the Generals have averaged 24 points per game vs. just 8 allowed, and the Stars are definitely a weaker team. The Generals have the league’s top defense, top rushing attack, and an efficient if unspectacular passing game, to go along with decent kicking and returning. This is a veteran squad looking to secure first place atop their division — expect NJ to run wild.
Straight-up pick: New Jersey because Philadelphia is fraudulent
Memphis Showboats (1-3) vs. New Orleans Breakers (4-0) | May 14 | 3:00 P.M. | FOX
I don’t know where to start with the Showboats. 6’7” QB Cole Kelley looks like an O-lineman out there and has the worst QBR among all starters, but he is a beast to bring down when he gets moving forward (10 rushers, 43 yards, 2 TDs). No Memphis RB or receiver ranks in the Top 12 at their position. The Showboats’ defense ranks dead last, allowing 339 yards and 27 ppg, and the kicking game isn’t any better. The Showboats will be hard-pressed to replicate their success vs. Michigan in Week 4 against New Orleans, the best team in the league, in Week 5.
The Breakers proved their mettle last week in a tough game against New Jersey that New Orleans had to win on a field goal late in the fourth quarter. QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson (1,116 yards, 6 TDs, 2 INTs) is the league’s leading passer despite taking 9 sacks on the season. RB Wes Hills (78 carries, 389 yards, 8 TDs) is the league’s top rusher, and TE Sage Surratt (26 receptions, 351 yards, 1 TD) is the top receiver. If the offensive triplets aren’t enough, New Orleans also has a kicker that hasn’t missed yet, the best KR unit in the league, and a +2 turnover margin — second best in the league. Easy pick here.
Straight-up pick: New Orleans because of basic football logic
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