21 Jan

2023 USFL picks, Week 1 best bets by proven expert

Teams looking to improve on sub-par seasons a year ago clash when the Houston Gamblers battle the Michigan Panthers at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium in Memphis on Sunday. This matchup will be the first of a doubleheader on Sunday. The Gamblers, 3-7 a year ago, were 1-3 against North Division foes in 2022. The Panthers, 2-8 last season, went 0-4 against the South Division. Despite its record, Michigan was the fourth-highest scoring team at 21.1 points per game, while the Gamblers averaged 19.6.

Caesars Sportsbook lists Michigan as the 1-point favorite for this noon ET kickoff. The total number of points Vegas thinks will be scored, or the over/under, is 38.5 in the latest Panthers vs. Gamblers odds. Before making any Gamblers vs. Panthers picks or USFL predictions, see what SportsLine expert Emory Hunt has to say.

Hunt is the founder and CEO of Football Gameplan, which has been supplying analysis of all levels of football since 2007. He is a former running back for the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns and knows the game from a player’s perspective. Hunt’s dedication to analysis of all levels of college and professional football helped him start the USFL season 24-18 last year and he’s also off to a fast 21-11 start on his XFL spread picks this season.

Now, Hunt has set his sights on Panthers vs. Gamblers. You can head to SportsLine to see his picks. Here are several USFL betting lines for Gamblers vs. Panthers:

Panthers vs. Gamblers spread: Panthers -1
Panthers vs. Gamblers over/under: 38.5 points
Panthers vs. Gamblers money line: Panthers -120, Gamblers +100
Panthers vs. Gamblers picks: See picks at SportsLine
Why the Panthers can cover
New head coach Mike Nolan is looking to fix things on the defensive end this year. He is a long-time assistant in the NFL with previous stops in San Francisco and Dallas. He was the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator in 2020. Nolan will have the benefit of having standout linebacker Frank Ginda return, after finishing second in the league with 90 tackles.

Michigan, who led the league in passing in 2022, will welcome back a healthy Josh Love at quarterback. He passed for 791 yards a year ago, splitting time between Pittsburgh and Michigan. He threw for four touchdowns and four interceptions. He will be challenged for the starting spot by Carson Strong, who was signed last month, and has been solid in camp. Strong, who was on the practice squad for the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals, threw for 9,379 yards in college at Nevada, including 74 touchdowns with just 19 interceptions.

Why the Gamblers can cover
The Houston offense is led by quarterback Kenji Bahar, who is looking to improve in his second year with the team. The former undrafted free agent who had signed with the Baltimore Ravens in 2021 before joining the Gamblers last spring, played in seven games last year, including three starts. In those starts, the Gamblers went 2-1. In parts of seven games, Bahar completed 61-of-100 passes for 541 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions.

Houston will also be led by running back Mark Thompson, as the Gamblers try to build on an offense that strives for better ball control. The bruising back led Houston with 463 rushing yards and two touchdowns in 2022. Complementing him is running back T.J. Pledger, who is explosive as a pass catcher. Pledger, who split his collegiate career between Oklahoma and Utah, played in 37 games at that level, rushing for 1,389 yards and 12 touchdowns, and catching 21 passes for 196 yards.

How to make Gamblers vs. Panthers picks
Hunt has analyzed this matchup and while we can tell you he’s leaning Under on the point total, he has discovered a critical X-factor that has him jumping all over one side of the spread. He’s only sharing what it is, and which side to back, at SportsLine.

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