The NFL schedule was released on Thursday for the 2022 season. There are loads of games to look forward to but considering we are still in May, we’ll have to wait awhile. I have a sign in my office that reads, “There are two times of year, football season and waiting for football season.” It couldn’t be more spot on. For now, there is Week 5 of the USFL.
Here’s a wager that backs the league's best defense … as an underdog.
Michigan Panthers (+115) at Tampa Bay Bandits (-2.5, O/U 33.5)
The Panthers are 1-3 on the season despite having the No. 1 defense in points allowed. In four games, they have held three opponents to 17 points or less, including a 24-0 shutout against the Pittsburgh Maulers. Michigan is first in passing defense and third in rushing defense, while Tampa is last in league in total offense, averaging just 14 points per game.
The Panthers' offense might have found something as well, scoring 24 and 25 points in back-to-back games after scoring just 12 and six in the first two contests of the season. Michigan does boast the No. 1 rushing offense and has four players in the top 25 in rushing yards, led by Reggie Corbin, who's averaging 102 yards per game on the ground. The scoring has been coming from rushing TDs, so the Panthers could be relying on the rushing game once again.
The two losses for the Bandits came against two of the three top teams, while their two wins came against the two worst teams. But Michigan may have the weapons to be the better team and possibly find its form with its offense. Combine the defensive strength with a ground game that can control the tempo and an offense that leads the league in third-down conversions against a team that is minus-six in turnover margin, and I see a live dog opportunity.
The pick: Panthers (+115)
Betting +2.5 is the more conservative play but with only 10 weeks in the season, I’m opting for max value. I contemplated the under, considering the defensive strength of the Panthers and the lack of offense from the Bandits, but 33.5 is really low. And when facing a team ranked in the bottom in turnovers, it’s those turnovers that could lead to more points than expected.