The second half of the 2022 USFL season marches on, and the nightcap of the Week 7 doubleheader features a matchup of two teams heading in different directions. The New Orleans Breakers (4-2), coming off a 10-point win over Pittsburgh, will take on a Michigan Panthers (1-5) squad that became the latest to get run over by the freight train that is the undefeated Birmingham Stallions.
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The Breakers have won two of their last three games to put them in the driver's seat for a playoff spot while the Panthers have lost three in a row. New Orleans looks to continue its drive to the postseason, while Michigan hopes to put a dent in those plans.
New Orleans (4-2) vs. Michigan (1-5)
Kickoff: Saturday, May 28 at 9 p.m. ET
Where: Protective Stadium (Birmingham, Ala.)
Spread: Breakers -5.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Can't stop the Breakers
Their two losses aside, the Breakers are still one of the more complete USFL teams on both sides of the ball. They currently rank second in total offense (346.0 ypg), lead the way in passing offense (215.0 ypg), are fourth when it comes to running the ball (131.0 ypg), and third in scoring (22.7 ppg). The Breakers are just as effective against the opposition's offense as well.
New Orleans is second against both the pass (159.2 ypg), and the run (103.8 ypg), which lands the Breakers third in total defense (263.0 ypg). They also are the stingiest defense, giving up 17 points per game.
The offense is led by the league's top passer (quarterback Kyle Sloter, 1,318 yards) and rusher (running back Jordan Ellis, 436 yards). On the other side, defensive end Davin Bellamy has made his presence felt with 4.5 sacks (third).
These are the reasons why the Breakers control their own playoff destiny. It'll take a great deal of improvement, and a whole team effort from Michigan to try and slow down this team down.
2. What's gone wrong for the Panthers
Since beating Pittsburgh in Week 3 for its only win of the season, Michigan has gone 0-3 and been outscored 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 as they've been held under 100 rushing yards in two of the three losses. The defense has been worn down, giving up 947 yards during this stretch, although the unit has collected six sacks during this stretch.
Michigan still owns the USFL's No. 2 rushing offense (155.8 ypg) but it really needs more production from its passing attack. Shea Patterson, who was the first quarterback taken in the draft back in February, was released by the Panthers earlier this week (and ironically, claimed by New Orleans), so it's now Josh Love's offense moving forward. Love is completing 55 percent of his passes for 440 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Overall, Michigan is last in the league at 152.8 passing yards per game with more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (five).
While it's been a rough go recently, the Panthers still rank No. 1 against the pass (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 the offense needs to really step things up if Michigan is going to win any more games this season.
3. What a win means for both teams
New Orleans needs a win to maintain its hold on a playoff spot while keeping within striking distance of undefeated Birmingham in the South Division standings. Michigan wants to put an end to this losing streak and try and escape the basement in the North.
Unless the Panthers' offense is hitting on all cylinders by the time this game kicks off, the Breakers pick up the easy win.
Prediction: Breakers 20, Panthers 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.