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Pittsburgh Maulers vs. Houston Gamblers Prediction and Preview (USFL Football)

Pittsburgh Maulers vs. Houston Gamblers Prediction and Preview (USFL Football)

Maulers, Gamblers put a bow on Week 5 with both teams looking to snap extended losing streaks

Week 5 of the USFL season will wrap up with two teams desperately needing a win, as the Pittsburgh Maulers meet the Houston Gamblers. The Maulers (0-4) are still looking for that elusive win after dropping a 21-13 decision to New Jersey last weekend while Houston (1-3) saw a three-point lead at halftime disappear in a 23-16 loss to New Orleans. So it's back to the drawing board for the two teams that currently reside in last place in their respective divisions.

Related: Week 5 Picks for Every USFL Game

Pittsburgh (0-4) at Houston (1-3)

Kickoff: Sunday, May 15 at 4 p.m. ET
Where: Protective Stadium (Birmingham, Ala.)
Spread: Gamblers -5.5

Three Things to Watch

1. What the Maulers have done well
When you lose four games in a row that typically means not much is going right. There have been a few bright spots for Pittsburgh though. Running back Garrett Groshek ranks among the top 10 in the league in rushing yards (197, seventh) and attempts (58, third). Wide receiver Tre Walker is fourth in receptions (17) and fifth in receiving yards (195).

Moving forward, it appears that Kyle Lauletta will be the starter at quarterback after the Maulers put Josh Love on waivers (he was picked up by Michigan). Lauletta is completing less than half of his pass attempts (47.3 percent), which is one of the reasons why Pittsburgh ranks at or near the bottom in every major offensive category.

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The defense hasn't been horrible. The unit ranks fourth in both total defense (292.2 ypg) and against the run (116.5 ypg). Linebacker Kyahva Tezino is third in the league with 35 tackles and also has one of his team's three interceptions. Carlo Kemp has accounted for nearly half (2.5) of his team's six sacks. Despite these positive performances, the offensive shortcomings are a big reason why the Maulers are giving up the second-most points per game (20.8) and still looking for their first win.

2. Gamblers have produced mixed results on offense and defense
Quarterback Clayton Thorson leads the league with six touchdown passes and is third in passing yards (581). Part of the reason for his success is he has been sacked just once. Running back Mark Thompson is second in rushing with 320 yards on 67 carries (also second). The top receiver thus far is Isaiah Zuber, whose three touchdown catches have him tied for the league lead. Overall, Houston is seventh in total offense (255.3 ypg) but a respectable fourth in scoring (87 total points) through four games.

On defense, linebacker Donald Payne is the league's top tackler (50), defensive end Chris Odom is tops in sacks (5.5), and Will Likely is second with three interceptions. The issue has been consistently stopping the opposition as the Gamblers are dead last in both yards (410.8) and points (22.3) allowed per game.

3. What's at stake
Together, Pittsburgh and Houston have combined to go 1-7, with the Gamblers' lone win coming back in Week 1. Sunday presents an opportunity for both teams to put an end to their extended losing streak and hopefully build a little momentum as we reach the halfway point of the regular season. The challenge is for either team to put together a well-rounded effort on both sides of the ball. For the Maulers, that means putting together some extended drives that help the offense and especially Lauletta gain some confidence. Houston's defense could use a strong effort that doesn't rely on coming up with a sack or turnover while the offense needs to consistently move the chains.

Final Analysis

Four games into the season and Pittsburgh has clearly looked like the worst team in the league, although Houston is right behind the Maulers in terms of overall record. But Pittsburgh's issues seem a little more extensive so unless the offense picks things up significantly look for the Gamblers to be the team that breaks its lengthy losing streak.

Prediction: Gamblers 20, 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.