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USFL Play-off Primer

The USFL playoffs kick off this weekend, as the top two teams in the North, the Pittsburgh Maulers and Michigan Panthers square off Saturday night at 8 pm at Tom Benson Stadium in Canton, Ohio. The South divisional round features the Birmingham Stallions, last season's Champion, and the New Orleans Breakers. Those two will face off in Birmingham Sunday evening at 7 pm.

As for the North, which will be covered by Believeland Media this weekend, the regular season match-ups were both won by the Ray Horton-led Maulers, giving them the tie-breaker for the North Division crown. The Maulers defeated the Panthers in week 5 action, heading to the Detroit Hub and returning victorious thanks to a 23-7 thrashing of the Panthers. Later in the season, in a home matchup for the Maulers from the Canton Hub, the Maulers were once again victorious on the backs of their defense and special teams in a 19-7 victory. Both the Maulers and Panthers accounted for the least amount of points accumulated during the season, with the Maulers scoring 177 and the Panthers amassing 171. For comparison sake, the Stallions scored 287 while the Breakers collected 237.

If regular-season trends continue as the teams transition into the playoffs, look for the North match-up to be decided on turnovers and special teams. In terms of individual efforts, the Panthers are led by linebacker Matt Glinda, who led the league with 104 tackles, while hauling in 3 interceptions. The Panthers defense also features the sack leader in Breeland Speaks, who got to the QB 9 times. The Maulers feature the interception leader in defensive back Mark Gilbert, who picked off the QB 4 times, while Kyahva Tezino amassed 94 tackles from the linebacker position for the Maulers, good for 2nd overall in the USFL for the 2023 regular season.

The Special Teams edge favors the Maulers, as Josh Simmons paced all kick-off returners with 862 yards and Isaiah Hennie led all punt returners in yards with 297. The kicking game is rather even, with Pittsburgh kicker Chris Blewitt connecting on 21-25 FG attempts with a long of 54 while Michigan kicker Cole Murphy connected on 14-18 with a long of 51.

As previously noted, the two South Division representatives feature the best offenses and should feature fireworks in their bout Sunday evening. As for their regular season match-ups, the Breakers took the first bout 45-31, while the Stallions got their revenge with a week 7 victory, 24-20. Both teams feature superb QB play, with the Breakers McLeod Bethel-Thompson leading the league with 2,433 yards and the Stallions Alex McGough leading the league in touchdown passes with 20. Wes Hills of the Breakers led all rushers with 679 yards and Stallions tight end Jace Sternberger led all receivers in touchdown receptions with 7.

The winners of this weekend's divisional match-ups square off at Tom Benson Stadium on July 1 at 8:00 pm for all the marbles in the USFL Championship game.


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