After an inspiring victory led by the heroics of E.J. Perry, Marcus Simms, and the Panthers Defense, the Michigan Panthers have found themselves in the 2023 USFL playoffs taking on the reinvented Pittsburgh Maulers. Michigan whose Offense is now leaning on the young Ivy-League Quarterback E.J. Perry will look to expand the playbook as he gets a bit more comfortable in Eric Marty’s offense. While it may no surprise to some, the Panthers will continue to look to All-USFL, Defensive Stars Frank Ginda and Breeland Speaks to set Michigan up in favorable matchups against a tenacious Pittsburgh team.
Line: Panthers +2.5, O/U, 38.5 per Odds by FOXBET -154 Maulers, +120 Panthers
Date/Location: Saturday, June 24th, 2023, at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium
Kickoff Time: 8:00PM EST
Weather Forecast: Cloudy with a few showers. High 78F. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 40%.
TV/Streaming: NBC/Peacock App
Not much changes for Michigan during playoff week on the depth chart. The Panthers elevated Corrion Ballard while deactivating Ethan Westbrooks, opting for more depth in the secondary. The train of thought could be used on the offensive side of the ball, with WR D.J. Montgomery getting activated for the first time this season, and TE/FB Josh Babicz being reverted to the inactive list.
Keys to the Game:
Keep Being Special:
Between Marcus Simms’ big performance or Kai Nacua making a big play on a fake punt, the Michigan Panthers had the “stars” align in their victory vs Philadelphia in Week 10. The Panthers playmakers were doing a lot of dirty work on kick returns, punt coverage and everything in between. With the Panthers offense still getting situated to a new Quarterback under center, look for Simms and company to pick off were they left off in Week 10.
Contain, Contain, Contain:
Maulers QB Troy Williams is one of the USFL’s most athletic Quarterback’s and outside of Isiah Hennie could be the Pittsburgh’s most dangerous option on Offense. While Michigan’s Defensive Line is among the best in the business, the shifty playmaking ability of Williams could combat the effectiveness of Breeland Speaks and Levi Bell. Look for Defensive Coordinator Steven Brown to have his linebackers prepared to make sure Williams doesn’t hurt the Panthers with his legs this Saturday.
While E.J. Perry was a nice spark for Michigan in week 10, there are definitely some questions about his play. Perry looked a bit uncomfortable after only being with the Panthers for about 3 weeks, however what he did bring to the table was his athleticism often times making something out of nothing, despite fumbling 3 times (none lost). Hopefully against the Maulers Perry shows a bit more consistency in the passing game, and opens up another facet of Panthers Offense.
It’s a coin flip for me this week in the Northern Division Championship. The Maulers have had the Panthers number this year earning victories in both Week 5 and Week 9, with Michigan trotting out Josh Love as their Quarterback in both matchups. While the Maulers are a completely different team in 2023, in 2022 the Maulers players did have a bit of a study sheet on the Panthers QB as Defensive Coordinator Jarren Horton and multiple returning members of the Maulers Defense all had a lot of reps against the former San Jose State QB. With Perry now under center, the Maulers are faced with a new face to gameplan for with not much film to review at the pro-level.
While the Maulers matchup better on the Offensive Side of the ball both teams can be viewed as pretty even on Defense and Special Teams. While it might not be the most profound analysis, Saturday’s game ultimately comes down to each teams Quarterback as both team’s signal callers showcase plenty of athleticism at the position. However, due to Williams experience I give the nod to Pittsburgh in this game edging out Michigan 17-10 but at this point we should know to not sleep on the Panthers when it comes to big games.