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Pittsburgh Maulers vs. Memphis Showboats Breakdown

131 days ago


Five weeks are in the books in the 2023 USFL season and it’s gotten a little crazy in the standings, particularly in the league’s North Division. Every team has a 2-3 record.

Under USFL tiebreaking procedures, the No. 1 tiebreaker as it relates to playoff seeding with three or more teams tied for the lead is head-to-head results. Thus, in this case, the New Jersey Generals would stake claim to the division championship if the season were to end today.

With five weeks still left to play in this season of spring football, one thing is for certain: This year in the USFL has become topsy-turvy. What will the second half hold? It starts this Saturday afternoon.

Maulers Battle Showboats Saturday in Memphis

The second half of the USFL season begins in the same ballpark where the schedule began proper. Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, the venue of college football’s Liberty Bowl every December, serves as the setting for the opening game of week six.

Ray Horton’s Pittsburgh Maulers (2-3) travel down to Tennessee when they meet up with the homestanding Memphis Showboats (2-3). Pittsburgh trekked to Detroit last week and bested the Michigan Panthers in a Saturday matinee, while the Showboats knocked the New Orleans Breakers from the ranks of the unbeaten last Sunday.

Kickoff time of this Saturday’s contest is set for just past 12:30 pm ET/ 11:30 am CT from Memphis and the game will be seen on USA Network. This is the final time this season that a USFL game will be the leadout program of a Premier League match on USA.

Early-Morning Rain Gives Way to Bright Afternoon for Football

Through the opening five weekends of action, the league has had great luck in the weather department. Not once has a ballgame taking place in an outdoor stadium had to be suspended due to lightning in the area.

This is expected to continue through Saturday’s doubleheader. Current weather forecasts for Memphis indicate that showery activity will cross the region on Saturday morning but should clear the area ahead of the opening kickoff.

Early chances of precipitation stand at 56 percent. The teams will have to contend with a northern breeze of 10 to 15 MPH. Temperatures will rise to the upper-70s by the final whistle.

Pittsburgh Maulers vs. Memphis Showboats Betting Odds

As of Thursday afternoon, the oddsmakers have the visiting Pittsburgh Maulers installed as a -2 1/2-point favorite on the spread for Saturday’s game and a -149 favorite on the money line. Memphis counters as a +115 underdog on the line.

The over-under for this game is currently set at 41 1/2 points. If you plan on betting on this or any other game happening in the USFL this weekend, please wager responsibly.

Maulers Greatly Improved Heading into Week Six

It’s been an up-and-down season for the Pittsburgh Maulers. Last week was one of the ups.

Ray Horton said in an interview coming out of halftime two weeks ago that his team needed to put on their big-boy pants. It happened last Saturday.

Offensively, the Maulers were led by dual-threat quarterback Troy Williams. The Utah alumnus by way of Washington and Santa Monica College accounted for 243 of the team’s 299 yards a week ago, including 59 rushing yards, scoring three touchdowns, netting him the USFL Offensive Player of the Week honors for week five.

When you have a quarterback that gains more than 200 offensive yards and can both run and throw the football, your team is in good shape.

Going into the game against Memphis, the Maulers are clicking offensively. This is a team that can beat any other ballclub in the league when it’s running on all cylinders. As long as the Maulers’ offensive line can provide good blocking, the sky is the limit.

Can Pittsburgh’s Defense Remain Stout?

Last Saturday afternoon, Pittsburgh clicked in all facets of the game, especially defense. The Maulers effectively shut the Panthers down on the ground, allowing just 18 yards in 60 minutes of action.

More impressively, the 18 rushing yards gained by Michigan were on 18 carries all told, averaging one yard per attempt. When Pittsburgh was on the prowl, there were no lanes for the Panthers to run through.

Aside from the running game, the Maulers neutralized both quarterback Josh Love and his teammate Carson Strong, recording two interceptions last Saturday afternoon, including safety Arnold Tarpley III‘s first interception of the season in the fourth quarter.

It all begins with pressure up front. If Pittsburgh can force Memphis quarterback Cole Kelley into throwing some ill-advised passes, it’s game on.

Memphis Has to Get Vinny Papale Open

Last Sunday, Showboats wideout Vinny Papale finished second in receiving with 62 yards on six catches and no touchdowns. The former Delaware Blue Hen is in his second season with the Bandits/Showboats organization and is due for a big game.

This is a young man who hasn’t caught a pass for a touchdown in approximately two years. During the final season of The Spring League in 2021, Papale was a receiver for the Conquerors.

That year, he ranked fifth in receiving for the team, catching two touchdowns on nine receptions during the six-game slate. He’s hungry for six points and he’s gotten the ball with regularity of late.

When the Showboats get Papale open this week, will it result in a trip to the end zone? Tune in and find out.

Can Showboats Sack Troy Williams?

The Showboats stunned the Breakers on Mother’s Day thanks to four quarterback sacks of McLeod Bethel-Thompson. As we’ve mentioned throughout the season in the USFL, any time that a defense can sack an opposing quarterback a minimum of four times in a football game, that will result in a win more often than not.

Showboats defensive end Jeremiah Valoaga brought the lunch pail with him to work in last Sunday’s ballgame, finishing with 1 1/2 sacks on the afternoon. Despite allowing 23 points, the Michigan Panthers managed to record three sacks against Pittsburgh last week.

Memphis’ key on the defensive line will be creating pressure to try and force Troy Williams to get to the turf. It’ll be a tall order, especially if Williams plays like he did last Saturday at Ford Field.

Final Thoughts

We’ve reached the point in the season where teams are starting to evaluate their playoff chances. With both Pittsburgh and Memphis sporting 2-3 records through the first half of the season, the winner of the game will have better footing in the postseason picture going into week seven.

The loser will drop to 2-4 with their hopes of playing in the last weekend of June hanging by a thread. Who’s got more firepower?

Prediction: Pittsburgh 31, Memphis 24.

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