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Michigan Panthers vs. Pittsburgh Maulers Prediction and Preview (USFL Football)

Michigan Panthers vs. Pittsburgh Maulers Prediction and Preview (USFL Football)

Panthers, Maulers wrap up their seasons with the winner escaping the cellar of the North Division

We've finally reached the end of the 2022 USFL regular season. And the Week 10 slate will wrap up with two teams that won't be in the playoffs but still have something to play for. The Michigan Panthers and the Pittsburgh Maulers are locked at 1-8 and have a chance to get out of the North Division's basement. They had a chance to do that last week, but their combined losing streak reached 10 games. 

Related: Week 10 Picks for Every USFL Game

Michigan gave up a late fourth-quarter touchdown and threw an interception on their final possession as they collapsed against New Jersey. As far as Pittsburgh goes, it blew leads of six and seven points in the Keystone State clash with Philadelphia. Now these teams must challenge one another in order to end the season on a winning note.

Michigan (1-8) at Pittsburgh (1-8)

Kickoff: Sunday, June 19 at 4 p.m. ET
Where: Legion Field (Birmingham, Ala.)
TV: USA Network
Spread: Panthers -2.5

Three Things to Watch

1. The revolving door continues at quarterback
Neither team got much consistency or clarity at QB in Week 9. Vad Lee was back under center for the Maulers against Philadelphia after he was benched for Roland Rivers nearly three weeks ago. Lee had a mixed back as he completed 60 percent of his pass attempts (17 of 28) for 146 yards and a touchdown but threw two picks. Perhaps getting benched was a good thing since that was an improvement over his 53.8 percent completion rate entering the game. Rivers got some reps as well, albeit with far less success (0-for-3).

Against Philadelphia last week, the Panthers continued their shuffle under center as well. Josh Love saw the field for the first time since Week 7 and threw for 168 yards and two scores. We also got a look at former Eastern Washington standout Eric Barriere, who's a new addition to the roster. He added 118 passing yards and a touchdown of his own. 

The Panthers also still have Paxton Lynch on the roster. So at this point, it's anybody's guess as to which signal-callers these teams will start on Sunday.

2. Positives to take from last week
Neither the Panthers nor the Maulers are close to the playoffs, but they did nearly derail the postseason hopes of last week's respective opponents, who must now play each other in back-to-back games in order to help crown the first USFL champion. Love gave the Panthers brass something to think about heading into next year, especially since Michigan struggled to run the ball against New Jersey (53 rushing yards, 3.1 ypc), which had been their bread and butter all year. Thanks in part to Love, Panthers wideout Joe Walker was named Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts (129 receiving yards, 2 TD catches). And Lee showed that he deserves an opportunity somewhere if the Maulers don't bring him back.

3. Moving forward
Both teams' seasons are done after this game, so there are only two goals to focus on. One of which will be to end extended losing streaks, as Michigan owns a league-worst six-game skid compared to four in a row for Pittsburgh. They'll also be evaluating talent as they prepare for 2023 (if the USFL returns), so expect to see a lot of players rotating.

Final Analysis

The Panthers won the first meeting between these teams 24-0 in Week 3. It was Michigan's lone win of the year, but it also illustrated the differences between the teams. The Panthers (-37 point differential) have been competitive in many of their games this year despite their record, while Pittsburgh (league-worst -84) has been the opposite. The Panthers close out the year with a win in a close game.

Prediction: Panthers 17, Maulers 14

— Written by Gabe Salgado, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's 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.