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How’s your USFL Pool working out? We were 4-0 last week to rise to 63% on the season. With just two weeks left before playoffs, it’s all on the line, with intra-divisional rivalry games across the board. All these teams see each other twice a year, and this is the second tilt in each case, so we have a good basis for this week’s analysis. Let’s get into it.
MICHIGAN PANTHERS (3-5) vs. PITTSBURGH MAULERS (2-6) | JUN 10 | 12:00 P.M. | FOX
In their first clash in Week 5, the Maulers came out on top 23-7 by playing dominating defense (allowing just 18 yards rushing on 18 attempts), and being efficient on offense (5.8 Yards per play, 15/19 passing for 2 TD/1 INT, 75% Red Zone TD).
Heading into Week 9, Pittsburgh has lost three in a row, including a close one to Houston in Week 8 by the score of 20-19. Michigan, meanwhile, is 1-2 over the last three weeks, with their last win coming in Week 7 over the struggling New Jersey Generals.
Neither the Maulers nor the Panthers have been eliminated from playoff contention yet, so there is something to play for here. From what I’ve seen over the last few weeks, Pittsburgh is clearly the better team at this point in the season, and I expect their defense to dominate Michigan once again.
Straight-up pick: Pittsburgh Maulers
NEW ORLEANS BREAKERS (5-3) vs. MEMPHIS SHOWBOATS (5-3) | JUN 10 | 3:00 P.M. | NBC
The first tilt between these teams was a defensive affair with Memphis coming out on top 17-10. Neither team could run the ball well (85 total yards rushing), or push the ball downfield (5.5 yards per pass attempt). The difference on the day was three turnovers committed by New Orleans QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, all of which came in the first half.
Since then, the Breakers have gone 1-2, getting off the schneid last week against Michigan. Memphis, on the other hand, is the hottest team in the league with an active four-game win streak, largely fueled by winning the turnover battle, controlling time of possession, and playing quality special teams.
Earlier this season, I wasn’t too high on the Showboats. But what I have seen over the last few weeks has convinced me that this team is a legit challenger for both the South Division and the USFL Championship. I think this will be a good game but I like Memphis to pull it out in the fourth quarter.
Straight-up pick: Memphis Showboats
BIRMINGHAM STALLIONS (6-2) vs. HOUSTON GAMBLERS (5-3) | JUN 11 | 2:00 P.M. | NBC
Houston won the first contest between these teams 27-20. The difference on that day was the work of RB Mark Thompson (13/78/3TDs), and a 50-yard strike to WR Anthony Ratliff-Williams to open the fourth quarter, starting a run of 20 points to close the match (the Stallions usually allow less than 20 points in an entire game).
In weeks six through eight, the Gamblers went 2-1, with their only loss to Memphis by a field goal. The Stallions are 3-0 over the same stretch with quality wins against PHI and NO to their credit. These are both pretty efficient teams on offense, though give a slight edge to BHAM on turnover margin.
I think this one has Game of the Week written all over it. The Gamblers must win this contest to capture a share of the South Division lead going into week 10; lose, and Houston will fall to 5-4, making a playoff run more difficult in any scenario. That said, Birmingham are defending champs for a reason.
Straight-up pick: Birmingham Stallions
PHILADELPHIA STARS (4-4) vs. NEW JERSEY GENERALS (2-6) | JUN 4 | 7:00 P.M. | FOX
The Philadelphia Stars won the first matchup in a squeaker, 24-21, when PK Luis Aguilar went a stunning 8 for 8 on field goal attempts, recording every Stars point for the day, including a walk-off with 0:01 left on the clock. The Generals helped them out with a couple of key turnovers along the way.
The Stars found their offense again after that, going 2-1 over the last three weeks while putting up an average of 25.7 points per game. The Generals, meanwhile, are struggling mightily with now four straight losses. That said, New Jersey is still in the playoff hunt in the North, and when the running game and defense are on this team is still dangerous.
I think the New Jersey Generals are playing for their soul this week — this is a proud franchise with a long history of success in the USFL and they will want badly to win this game and stay in the hunt. If QB Dakota Prukop can stay on the field, this one could be another very close game. I like the underdog.
Straight-up pick: New Jersey Generals
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