Week six of the USFL kicks off this Saturday afternoon, with the Memphis Showboats hosting the Pittsburgh Maulers. Both of these teams are in similar positions, surging at the right time in the USFL season.
Memphis has won two straight, putting themselves right back in the thick of things in the South. In fact, they handed the New Orleans Breakers their first loss of the season, which is an impressive feat.
Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Maulers have won two of their last three, most recently dominating Michigan on their home turf. Interestingly enough, both of Pittsburgh’s wins have come at Ford Field this USFL season.
Let’s take a look at the key factors ahead of this game, and what to expect from each team.
The quarterbacks are one of the main reasons why these teams are getting on the right track. In Pittsburgh, Troy Williams has started the past few games, which has proven to be a major boost to their offense.
Williams brings a mobile play-style to Ray Horton’s scheme, which is exactly what the team needed. He’s already shown growth as a passer as well, showcasing that he has the full package. Dual threat quarterbacks typically do well in spring football, and Troy is no exception.
On the other hand, Cole Kelley doesn’t dazzle with his legs – but, he’s got one heck of an arm. His passing has elevated the Memphis Showboats to a whole new level, tossing it at an efficient rate through three weeks.
Kelley looks more and more comfortable in the pocket with each and every game. He’s the perfect QB for Todd Haley, as the two have developed chemistry quickly. Once Cole starts to consistently connect with receivers on their deep routes, it’s going to get even scarier in Memphis.
Both of these USFL franchises have talent that has begun to develop nicely as the season has gone on. Pittsburgh’s backfield isn’t anything to write home about, but Mason Stokke has proven to be an excellent addition – doing quite a bit for the team in the red zone.
Wide receivers Isiah Hennie, Tre Walker, and Bailey Gaither have been sensational this season. Hennie, in particular, has been a jack of all trades for the Maulers, returning kicks and punts as well. In addition, Bailey’s one-handed catch last week was one of the highlights of the year:
On top of O’Grady, the WR room is stacked. Osirus Mitchell, John Franklin, Ryan McDaniel, Vinny Papale – the list goes on. Now, something to note is the addition of RB Kerrith Whyte, who’s been playing quite well in Alex Collins’ absence. His continued growth in the offense is crucial, with Memphis missing one of the league’s top backs.
Defenses: Scorching Hot
The Pittsburgh Maulers have the best defense in the USFL. This unit has been playing outstanding football, guided by DC Jarren Horton. Michigan couldn’t even score in double digits against the Maulers on Saturday, as Pittsburgh forced multiple turnovers on the day.
– Allowing only 17.2PPG (league best)
– Allowing 249.6YPG (league best)
– 6 interceptions (most in USFL by any team)
It’s been a remarkable outing through five weeks for the Pittsburgh Maulers defensively, and one can only expect this team to get even better down the stretch.
On the other hand, the Memphis Showboats have been stellar. After a horrific first few weeks, they’ve held Michigan and New Orleans to just 20 combined points. During that stretch, the team has gone 2-0.
It’s no coincidence that the Showboats are playing better team football, now that the defense is making a legitimate impact. Jermaine Kelly, T.J. Neal, Kyree Woods, and plenty of others have stepped up, forcing turnovers and making game-winning plays.
The Memphis Showboats will have their work cut out for them, though. Pittsburgh has hit their stride. Slowing down the Maulers ground game will be pivotal on Saturday. If they can contain Troy Williams effectively, and force him to throw, it certainly gives them the advantage.
Pittsburgh Maulers | Ray Horton: Horton has done an impressive job so far in his USFL debut. His team is playing with heart, energy, and passion. Clearly, everyone is united behind his vision for the group. Through five weeks, Pittsburgh has already doubled the amount of wins they had a season ago.
Memphis Showboats | Todd Haley: After a rocky start to the 2023 season, Todd Haley has found something special with his team. They’re extremely resilient, which is an attribute that has glowed bright the last two weeks. Haley has displayed solid leadership, and after last week’s win, showcased some…well, we’ll let the video speak for itself.
Meanwhile, Memphis is clawing their way out of last place. If they can put together another complete outing, they’ll finally be at the .500 mark, despite beginning the season with an 0-3 record.
The two will face off this Saturday, at 12:30pm ET on USA Network.
What are your thoughts on this upcoming USFL matchup between the Pittsburgh Maulers and Memphis Showboats? Which USFL players do you expect to perform well? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!