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Pittsburgh Maulers vs. New Orleans Breakers Breakdown

The opening weekend of the rebooted USFL’s sophomore season concludes with the second half of a day/night doubleheader Sunday evening. Protective Stadium in Birmingham, AL, the home venue of the defending USFL Champions, the Birmingham Stallions, opens its doors to football fans for the second straight night.

Live coverage of the final game of the week begins at 6:30 pm ET/ 5:30 pm CT. For the first time this season, a USFL game will air on a cable network. FS1 will broadcast the first game of a scheduled seven on Sunday, tying the network with NBCUniversal-owned USA for the fewest of all four broadcast networks airing the league.

To close out the first week of a 10-week slate, the Birmingham hub serves as the setting of a game pitting two teams that went in opposite directions a year ago.

Pittsburgh Meets New Orleans to Wrap Up Week One

The Pittsburgh Maulers (1-9 in 2022) looks to improve on the worst record in the league from last season when they travel to Alabama to play Protective Stadium’s other lodger, the New Orleans Breakers (6-4 in 2022), last season’s runner-up in the Southern Division of the league.

Interestingly, Pittsburgh missed out on securing the No. 1 pick in this past February’s USFL College Draft with their defeat to the Michigan Panthers on the last day of the regular season in 2022. This rule was put in place by the league before Week 10 last year as a means of halting Pittsburgh and Michigan, who entered the final game tied for the worst record in the USFL at 1-8, from losing the game purposely.

Rainy Weather Expected to Move Out of Birmingham Well Before Game

The weather gods appear to have smiled on the USFL across the board this weekend, which was exactly what didn’t happen for the league at this time a year ago. 2022’s opening Sunday was slated to have featured three games, but because of a lightning delay in the first contest of the afternoon, the rest of the day’s schedule was pushed back by an hour.

Pittsburgh saw its scheduled ballgame versus the Tampa Bay Bandits get postponed in week one last year by an unfavorable weather forecast just a few minutes before the game’s rescheduled kickoff was to happen. The game was rescheduled for the next evening.

Thankfully, nothing of the sort will happen to the Maulers and Breakers this week. Rain is forecast to hit the Birmingham area in the morning with the passage of a cool front, giving way to a sunny evening. Temperatures are expected to bottom out near 60 degrees by the final whistle.

Pittsburgh Maulers vs. New Orleans Breakers Betting Odds

As of late Friday, the oddsmakers have the New Orleans Breakers installed as the second-biggest favorite on the points spread (-4 1/2) and a -180 favorite on the money line. If you plan on betting on this or any other game over the weekend, please wager responsibly.

It Can Only Get Better For the Maulers

By now, you know the story of the 2022 Pittsburgh Maulers season cover-to-cover if you watched all of the games. None of the team’s four different starting quarterbacks in 2022 have returned for the sophomore season, with Josh Love now suiting up under center for the Panthers.

Currently, there’s no clear-cut winner in the quarterback derby for Pittsburgh, which will share the Canton hub with the New Jersey Generals. New Maulers head coach Ray Horton told The Canton Repository that this is a good problem to have.

“What I like about our quarterbacks is that they are all winners,” Horton mentioned. “They compete hard. What we have is three winners, and they are all going to play for us.”

Ray Horton Finally Gets First Head-Coaching Gig with Pittsburgh

Speaking of Ray Horton, the 2023 USFL season marks the first stint for him as head coach. A Super Bowl-winning cornerback with the Dallas Cowboys, he secured two rings as a defensive coordinator for Pittsburgh’s other football team.

Moreover, Horton has also coached in Northeastern Ohio, near the USFL’s Canton hub, serving as the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns in two separate one-year stints during 2013 and 2016, respectively. The latter stint was marred by an abysmal 1-15 record, with the only win happening on Christmas Eve against the then-San Diego Chargers at home.

Much like Travis Kelce on April 7, the Maulers’ head coach also threw a ceremonial first pitch at Progressive Field during the Guardians’ opening homestand last week. Can the Maulers turn it around with Horton’s leadership?

Breakers’ Strong Defense Mostly Intact for Year Two

New Orleans finished 6-4 last year, clinching the No. 2 seed in the South Division in the process. The Breakers faltered in the South Division Championship, however, with the eventual champion Stallions eliminating them from the playoffs, 31-17.

Thankfully for Breakers fans, the core of the team’s defense did not depart in the offseason. Defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta is back, as well as cornerback Adonis Alexander.

Last season, Alexander, a supplemental draft selection by the Washington Commanders in 2018, picked off two passes, including a key interception to lock up a playoff spot in week nine last season.

Grey Cup-Winning QB Heads Down South

American-based CFL fans are already familiar with the name McLeod Bethel-Thompson, the former starting quarterback of the Toronto Argonauts. An alum of the NCAA Division I FCS program Sacramento State, Bethel-Thompson had his best season ever in the CFL in 2022.

While under center for the Argos, he threw for a career-high 4,731 yards and 23 touchdowns against 15 interceptions last year in 17 starts. Bethel-Thompson guided the Argos to a Grey Cup title last November.

As someone who has seen all or part of every Toronto Argonauts game in the CFL since 2012, the Breakers are getting an amazing quarterback this season. How will his skillset transition back to American football, though?

Final Thoughts

Given that the USFL has no preseason and only a 10-week regular season, although this is week one, it’s a critical game for both Pittsburgh and New Orleans on Sunday evening.

Prediction: New Orleans 24, Pittsburgh 6.

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