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Pittsburgh Maulers vs. New Orleans Breakers Prediction and Preview (USFL Football)

Pittsburgh Maulers vs. New Orleans Breakers Prediction and Preview (USFL Football)

With a new quarterback in tow, the Maulers look for back-to-back wins when they take on the Breakers

Day two of the Week 6 USFL schedule begins with what could be the most interesting matchup of the week, as the Pittsburgh Maulers take on the New Orleans Breakers. The Maulers (1-4) finally got their first victory of the year, as a change at quarterback guided them to a comeback win over Houston. The Breakers (3-2) on the other hand, had no answer for New Jersey's offense in their 10-point loss to the Generals. Pittsburgh wants to prove that last week's win was no fluke, while the Breakers want to show that last week was just a bump in the road.

Related: Week 6 Picks for Every USFL Game

Pittsburgh (1-4) vs. New Orleans (3-2)

Kickoff: Sunday, May, 22 at 12 p.m. ET
Where: Protective Stadium (Birmingham, Ala.)
TV: FS1
Spread: Breakers -7.5

Three Things to Watch

1. The Vad Lee Show
He was signed during the middle of last week after Josh Love was claimed by Michigan off waivers. Kyle Lauletta started for Pittsburgh last week against Houston but was pulled after completing just 5-of-9 passes for 51 yards. That's when Lee came in and solidified his spot on the Maulers. In addition to going 19-for-32 for 170 yards and two touchdowns, Lee also rose to the occasion when his team needed him the most.

He engineered a 15-play, 71-yard drive, that chewed up the final 3:34 of the game clock. Lee capped off that possession with a nine-yard, game-winning touchdown pass to wide receiver Bailey Gaither. Who, by the way, would go on to lead all pass catchers in that game with eight receptions for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Tre Walker was right behind him with 10 catches for 92 yards. As a result, Walker now leads the league in receiving yards (287), while Gaither is third in that category (267).

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While the Gamblers' defense recorded a pair of sacks and an interception, Lee didn't let it rattle him. He used his mobility to evade most of the pressure and made the big throws when defenders got to him, all while keeping his poise and confidence intact. There's no question that Lee turned Pittsburgh's fortunes around last week, and the former James Madison and Georgia Tech signal-caller should get the start on Sunday afternoon.

2. A much tougher challenge lies ahead
While the Maulers were able to overcome the pass rush and turnover machine that is the Houston Gamblers, they'll now be facing one of the more complete teams in New Orleans. The Breakers are second in the USFL in total offense (362.0 ypg), their attack powered by the No. 1 passing offense (239.4 ypg) and supported by the fourth-ranked running game (122.6 ypg). So it should come as no surprise that New Orleans is second in scoring (22.0 ppg).

The other side of the ball has been solid as well, ranking third in total defense (261.2 ypg), second against the pass (153.2 ypg), third against the run (108.0 ypg), and the Breakers have given up the second-fewest points per game (17.0). Quarterback Kyle Sloter leads the USFL in passing yards (1,226), running back Jordan Ellis has had the most carries  (95), and wide receiver Jonathan Adams is second in receiving yards (273). Davin Bellamy also has been a nightmare for offensive linemen to block as he's second with 4.5 sacks. It will be a tough task for Pittsburgh to handle a New Orleans team that has enjoyed success on both offense and defense.

3. Why both teams need this win
Despite the statistical evidence, the Breakers are two games behind undefeated Birmingham for first in the South Division. More importantly, New Orleans is currently tied with Tampa Bay for second. A win over Pittsburgh would provide a huge jolt of confidence and at worst, allow the Breakers to keep pace with the Stallions and keep the Bandits at bay (no pun intended). On the other side, the Maulers are three games out of first place in the North just a game behind second-place Philadelphia. So despite a really rough start, Pittsburgh can still be a factor in the playoff race if it can build on last week's breakthrough win.

Final Analysis

While I see Vad Lee putting on another solid performance, the Breakers have too much talent and skill on both sides of the ball to lose this game.

Prediction: Breakers 21, 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.