The USFL has returned, and the Michigan Panthers are set to begin week 1 against the Houston Gamblers, in a rematch of last year’s opening kickoff between the two teams. While the Gamblers did best the Panthers 17-12 last year, both teams come into 2023 with a new set of faces and new Head Coaches to bring each team into the 2nd season of the rebooted league.
Line: Gamblers -1, O/U 37.5
Date/Location: Sunday, April 16th, 2023, at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee
Kickoff Time: 12:00 PM EST
Weather Forecast: Partly Cloudy, 57 Degrees, Humidity 49%, Wind 16 mph
Per the Michigan Panthers Twitter on Friday night the Panthers are seemingly without former CFL veteran KiAnte Hardin. The team also listed an additional ten players on the report with six being listed as probable and four being listed as “Full Go”.
Keys To the Game:
Who is QB1?
While other teams announced who their Starting Quarterback is the Panthers have yet to make an official announcement. Sources close to the team indicate that the Quarterback competition is coming down to end, with Josh Love and Carson Strong both battling it out valiantly. Personally, I believe Josh Love gets the nod over Strong due to familiarity in the system, in addition to his experience playing with several teams in the NFL and USFL.
Can Reggie Corbin Repeat his Dominance from the 2022 Season?
Corbin earned All-USFL honors in 2022 despite not playing in a full season for Michigan. The former Illinois Running Back, was aided by Cameron Scarlett, and Stevie Scott however the Panthers go into 2023 with only two Running Backs on the roster in week 1. With expectations high for Corbin in the Panthers, week 1 serves as a great indicator to see if he can continue to dominate in his USFL career.
Can The Front Seven Live Up to the Hype?
The Panthers attacked this offseason by improving on an underwhelming Defensive Line and a getting more athletic at the Linebacker position. The additions of Paddy Fisher, Breeland Speaks and Garrett Marino, give the Panthers the potential to have one of the more vicious and disruptive units in the USFL, giving Michigan added element the team did not have in 2022.
Game Preview and Prediction
The Panthers seem to have a bit of momentum going into week 1 vs the Gamblers. Houston whose team dominate defense was decimated by players leaving for the XFL and NFL. The Gamblers saw Micah Abernathy, Domenique Davis, and Chris Odom all depart for the NFL, while Donald Payne, Reggie Northrup, Tegray Scales, and Will Likely darted for the XFL. To make matters worse week 1 standout Ahmad Gooden opted to stay in Birmingham, by joining the New Orleans Breakers.
The Gamblers also face the challenge of breaking in Kenji Bahar who did have success in 2022 earning a 2-1 record, still is extremely raw at the professional level. The Panthers offense is leaps and bounds ahead of where they were in 2022. Joe Walker and Ish Hyman go into the 2023 as top receiving options with possession WRs Devin Ross and Trey Quinn able to provide a nice security blanket for whoever is playing Quarterback for the Panthers. Even if the Panthers Defense comes out flat the Gamblers Offense may not have enough firepower to keep up with Eric Marty’s play calling.
Because of how weak the Gamblers have gotten on Defense, I think whether it be Carson Strong or Josh Love at the helm the Panthers take their revenge on the Gamblers in a 27-13 Victory to begin the 2023 season on a positive note.