The Michigan Panthers will play at home for the third straight week as they search for an elusive win on their own turf. Detroit has yet to see their hometown team claim victory at Ford Field, but against a struggling Pittsburgh team (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET), Week 5 could be the week.
The Panthers sit at the bottom of FOX Sports’ USFL Power Rankings, and after starting the season strong, need to find their groove again. While Pittsburgh is also coming off a loss, it was by a more narrow margin, and the Maulers have shown flashes of potential.
Here are the biggest storylines headed into Week 5:
Can Pittsburgh punch it in?
The Maulers hung tough with the defending USFL champs last week but ultimately ended up losing, 24-20, to the Birmingham Stallions in Canton. Pittsburgh’s main issue seems to be an inability to turn red zone trips into touchdowns. The Maulers have scored just one touchdown in 12 chances in the red zone, for a dismal 8% conversion rate.
Pittsburgh has lost three of its first four games, but there’s a bright spot under center in Troy Williams. He’s become the Maulers' entire offense, completing 20 of 32 passes for 210 yards last week. He added 64 rushing yards for good measure. The former Utah quarterback has passed for 406 yards and a touchdown while adding 148 yards and another score on the ground this season. If he can get a little bit of help from the rest of Pittsburgh’s skill players, the Maulers might be able to turn more of their red zone trips into points and get back into the win column. That could start against a Panthers team that gave up nearly 30 points to the Memphis Showboats last weekend.
Panthers still searching for first win at home
Spring football is back in Detroit, but the Michigan Panthers, set to play their third game at Ford Field this season, have yet to capture their first win on home turf. They lost 29-10 to the Showboats, who secured their first win for coach Todd Haley this season. The Panthers are still searching for consistency under center between Josh Love and Carson Strong.
Head coach Mike Nolan told FOX Sports last week that the plan is to continue to get Strong reps, regardless of how Love plays. Against the Showboats on Saturday, the Panthers suffered four turnovers, with each quarterback throwing an interception. Love ended the day completing 10 of 15 passes for 58 yards and a touchdown, while Strong went 9-for-12 for 76 yards, giving Strong a completion rate of 75%. The quarterback carousel hasn’t paid off quite yet, but it could against a Maulers team that has struggled for much of the season.
Michigan could also use a little more help on the ground. The Panthers increased their rushing total over Week 3 (which was just 16 yards) with all Panthers rushers combining for a total of 127 yards on the ground. Stevie Scott was the team’s leading rusher with 66 yards on 12 carries. A more balanced offense could help boost Michigan enough to get their first win at home in Week 5 and get out of the basement of this week’s power rankings.
Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added the title of Super Bowl Champion (and boat-parade participant) to her résumé. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.