The second half of 2022 USFL As the season progresses, the nightcap of the Week 7 doubleheader features a matchup between two teams going in opposite directions. The New Orleans Breakers (4-2), who clinched a 10-point win over Pittsburgh, will take on a Michigan Panthers (1-5) roster that was recently rolled over by the freight train of the undefeated Birmingham Stallions.
Related: Week 7 picks for each USFL game
The Breakers have won two of their last three games to grab the driver’s seat for a playoff berth, while the Panthers have lost three games in a row. New Orleans looks to continue its drive into the postseason, while Michigan hopes to thwart those plans.
New Orleans (4-2) vs. Michigan (1-5)
Kicking off: Saturday, May 28 at 9pm ET
Where: Protection Stadium (Birmingham, Alabama)
Spread: Breakers -5.5
Three things to see
1. Can’t stop the Breakers
Aside from their two losses, the Breakers are still one of the more complete USFL teams on either side of the ball. They currently rank second in overall offense (346.0 ypg), lead in passing offense (215.0 ypg), fourth in running the ball (131.0 ypg) and third in the score (22.7 ppg). The breakers are just as effective against the opponent’s offense.
New Orleans is second on both the pass (159.2 ypg) and run (103.8 ypg), making the Breakers third in overall defense (263.0 ypg). They are also the stingiest defense, giving up 17 points per game.
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The offense is led by the league’s best passer (quarterback Kyle Sloter, 1,318 yards) and rusher (running back Jordan Ellis, 436 yards). On the other hand, defensive end Davin Bellamy has made an impact with 4.5 sacks (third).
These are the reasons the Breakers control their own playoff destiny. It will take a lot of improvement and a whole team effort from Michigan to try and slow this team down.
2. What Went Wrong at the Panthers
Since beating Pittsburgh in Week 3 for his only win of the season, Michigan has gone 0-3 and has been outplayed 86-62 in those games. The Panthers have been a run-heavy team this season, but that part of their offense has been lacking during this losing streak, keeping them under 100 rushing yards in two of their three losses. The defense became worn, giving up 947 yards during that stretch despite the unit collecting six sacks during that stretch.
Michigan still owns the USFL’s No. 2 rushing offense (155.8 ypg), but they really need more production from their passing attack. Shea Patterson, the first quarterback drafted in February, was fired by the Panthers (and ironically claimed by New Orleans) earlier this week, so now it’s Josh Love’s offense that’s moving forward. Love completes 55 percent of his passes for 440 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Overall, Michigan is bottom in the league with 152.8 passing yards per game with more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (five).
Though things have been tough lately, the Panthers are still No. 1 in passing (146.7 ypg) and second in total defense (259.5 ypg). They also give up less than 19 points per game. It’s pretty clear at this point that offense really needs to step things up if Michigan is to win any more games this season.
3. What a win means for both teams
New Orleans needs a win to maintain their place in the playoffs while staying within striking distance of undefeated Birmingham in the South Division standings. Michigan wants to end this losing streak and try to escape from the basement in the north.
If the Panthers’ offense doesn’t hit all cylinders early in the game, the Breakers will take the easy win.
Prognosis: Breakers 20, Panthers 14
— Written by Gabe Salgado who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He has also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated, and Complex. He can also be heard on WGN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.