In the inaugural season of the new USFL, the North Division Championship featured the Philadelphia Stars and New Jersey Generals. This year, we have the two teams that missed the 2022 playoffs in this game, as the Michigan Panthers will face the Pittsburgh Maulers. The teams went a combined 3-1 in the final two weeks of the season to reach this point.
This game will be played on Saturday night in Canton, OH, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Pittsburgh won both regular season matchups by a combined score of 43-14. They met just two weeks ago in this same venue, and it ended in a 19-7 Maulers victory.
After a 3-1 record last week on picks, I finished 24-16 on the regular season.
Check out my USFL picks and predictions for Maulers vs. Panthers on June 24.
Pittsburgh Maulers vs Michigan Panthers
Saturday, June 24, 8 p.m. ET, NBC
|Pittsburgh Maulers||Michigan Panthers|
|+3 (-110)||Spread||+3 (-110)|
|Over 38 (-110)||Total||Under 38 (-110)|
Odds courtesy of DraftKings as of June 22.
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Maulers vs Panthers predictions
These two teams have a combined record of 8-12, yet here they are one game away from the USFL Championship. Fortunately, the North division had plenty of issues and both teams were able to survive long losing streaks in the middle of the regular season. Now they will meet for a third time this season, as Pittsburgh looks to complete the sweep.
The game is being played in legendary Canton, OH, where the Maulers have played six of their 10 regular season games. Michigan has only played here three times, including the Week 9 loss to Pittsburgh. The Panthers offense will be looking for revenge from that poor showing against this stellar Maulers defense.
The Panthers were held to single-digit scoring twice this season, and both times came against this defense. They averaged seven points per game against the Maulers and 19.6 points per game against the rest of the league. However, don’t sleep on the Michigan defense with their ability to rush the quarterback.
Breeland Speaks was the league leader with 9.0 sacks and also added six tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. Frank Ginda was the league leader in tackles with 104. He also added three tackles for loss, three interceptions, and two forced fumbles. That star power on defense has saved them a few times this season.
On the other end though, the Maulers led the league in several defensive categories. They allowed the fewest total yards per game at 257.4, fewest passing yards at 174.1, forced the most interceptions at 13, and had the most pass deflections at 53. They also dominated the league in turnover differential at +8 — the next-best mark was the New Orleans Breakers at +3.
The Maulers and Panthers were the two lowest scoring teams in the USFL. Pittsburgh averaged 17.7 points per game, and Michigan averaged 17.1 points per contest. Panthers quarterback Josh Love was inactive last week for an undisclosed reason, so he may not even play in this game. The Under is the best bet here, and I feel confident in that regardless of who is playing quarterback for Michigan.
Pick: Under 38 (-110 at DraftKings)
Maulers vs Panthers spread analysis
The spread in this game is surprisingly only three points with Pittsburgh as the favorite. The Maulers won the two regular season matchups by 12 in Week 9, and 16 in Week 5. In the first matchup, Pittsburgh won the turnover battle 4-2 and won the total yardage battle 299-152. In the second matchup, Pittsburgh lost the total yardage battle 245-226, but won the turnover battle 4-0.
Quarterback Troy Williams fought through some early season struggles to find a groove late in the year. That has resulted in a more trusting gameplan, allowing him to attempt more passes. Williams has attempted 25.8 passes per game over the final four weeks after only averaging 19.5 pass attempts in the first six weeks.
Michigan has been extremely inconsistent all season, and you just never know when they are going to show up. That is not a good trait for a playoff team, especially since they tied for the league lead in giveaways this season. If they bring back Love for this game, it is worth noting he went a combined 27 of 45 passing for 301 yards, two touchdowns, and five interceptions in the two games against Pittsburgh.
I think regardless of who is behind center for Michigan, Pittsburgh is the safer play here. The team with the most giveaways is playing against the team with the most takeaways, and one team is way more consistent. I see Pittsburgh winning this game with their defense.
Maulers vs Panthers total analysis
As mentioned earlier, the Under is my best bet in this game.
These are the two lowest-scoring offenses and two of the best defenses in the USFL. Maulers games average 35.5 points per contest, and Panthers games average 38.6. The two matchups this season totaled 30 and 26 points each. This game will likely be no different.
The Maulers have the worst third down percentage in the league, converting only 29.7% on third down. The Panthers are not great themselves, converting only 38.3%. Both teams are also heavily penalized, as only two non-playoff teams averaged more penalties and penalty yards per game than these two.
On top of that, both kickers have had their fair share of struggles this season. Pittsburgh’s Chris Blewitt went 21 of 25 on field goals and 10 of 13 on extra points. Michigan’s Cole Murphy went 14-for-18 on field goals and 13-for-17 on extra points. There are just so many strong data points to lean on towards taking the Under here.