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USFL 2023 Midseason Power Rankings, The Race Tightens In Both Divisions

Fifty percent of the USFL 2023 regular season is in the books. As the USFL reaches its midseason point. The race has tightened in both divisions, as the North now has a four-way tie in the standings. And the South has one game separating three teams with a legitimate new threat emerging in the division.

Let’s look at how the entire league stacks up heading into Week 6.

USFL 2023 Midseason Power Rankings

#1: New Orleans Breakers (4-1)

The Breakers finally lost their first game of the season on Sunday in a listless 17-10 loss to Memphis. New Orleans didn’t look right from the outset against the Showboats. It was the type of performance on Mother’s Day that only a Mother could love.

Credit to Memphis and their staff for slowing down New Orleans’s offense. However, it’s the second week in a row that the Breakers have come down from earth offensively after making great waves the first few weeks of the USFL season.

New Orleans is heading to Ford Field next Sunday to face the Philadelphia Stars. The Breakers will look to shake off this loss and get back on track.

#2: Houston Gamblers (3-2)

The Gamblers, after starting the season at 0-2, are now winners of three straight and have thrust themselves directly into the playoff race in the South.

Houston sent a strong statement in Week 5, beating Birmingham.

The biggest surprise of the USFL season so far has been the Houston Gamblers. They started the season red-hot offensively but sported the league’s worst defense after three weeks. But in the last two weeks, despite an injury to their starting quarterback Kenji Bahar. The Gamblers’ defense has raised their game to match Curtis Johnson’s elite offense.

In Saturday’s 27-20 victory over the defending USFL champion Stallions. Houston’s defense kept the Gamblers in the game before their offense scored twenty points in the final quarter.

The Gamblers rode stud runner Mark Thompson all day to victory. The dynamic tailback stole the show again for Houston, rushing for three touchdowns and 78 yards.

Houston will return home in Memphis next Sunday to square off against the 2-3 New Jersey Generals. Can the Gamblers keep their growing momentum going?

#3: Birmingham Stallions (3-2)

This week, the running joke in football circles was the Red Stallions, a new moniker for the Falcons created by a female fan during the Tennessee Titans’ popular schedule reveal video.

The USFL’s defending champions, because of all their mounting injuries since their campaign started, can be labeled the Black and Blue Stallions at this point.

Injuries up and down Birmingham’s roster have affected the quality of their play. The team seemingly has lost significant players every week this season, and it’s caught up to them, as has the rest of the league.

The Stallions were competitive against the Gamblers and had their chances to pull away against Houston in Week 5. However, the team doesn’t have the horsepower right now to play at the same level they did a year ago. And it shows.

Because the Stallions have taken a step backward. It’s opened the door for other teams in the South to potentially supplant them, like the Houston Gamblers.

Skip Holtz’s squad needs to fight through their first sign of genuine adversity. In Week 6, they head to Michigan to play another team that has lost its way recently, the 2-3 Panthers.

#4: New Jersey Generals (2-3)

By default, the New Jersey Generals remain fourth in these rankings. But Mike Riley’s troops blew a grand opportunity in Week 5 to create distance in the North and stay undefeated within their division.

The Generals wasted a chance to kick their dreaded rival Stars while they were down. Instead, they watched Philly kickstart a dying season with eight field goals made by a lights-out Luis Aguilar.

As a result, New Jersey is now log-jammed in the North Division at 2-3 with Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Michigan.

The Generals’ defense did their job on Sunday. Ted Cotrell’s unit held Philly to 166 yards offensively.

It was New Jersey’s offense that let the team down—Particuarly Darius Victor, who, by far, had the worst game of his pro career. The 2022 USFL offensive player of the year fumbled the ball three times. The Generals turned the ball over four times in total. They outgained Philly by nearly two hundred yards and still lost.

New Jersey rallied late to nearly force overtime with 20 seconds left. However, the end-game sequence epitomized the Generals’ failings on the day. A poor kickoff and return coverage set the Stars up for an eventual 55-yard game-winning field goal.

The truth is that New Jersey didn’t deserve to win on Sunday. They had a bad day at the office against a team that seems always to have their number when it counts.

The Generals have a challenging task next Sunday against the red-hot Houston Gamblers. In Week 6, all four 2-3 North teams will face off against the South. If the recent trend continues, perhaps a week from now. Every team will be tied at 2-4.

#5: Pittsburgh Maulers (2-3)

In a league where five of eight teams are sporting 2-3 records at the midway point. Grading on a curve is necessary when deciding how to line up the weekly rankings.

The Maulers 2-3 right now looks as good, if not better, than the rest of the sub-500 dwellers. It’s not only about where they currently are but where they are coming from.

Pittsburgh has won two straight games after soundly defeating Michigan 23-7 in Week 5. They are right in the thick of things, thanks to a very strong defense, special teams, and an improving offense.

The Maulers were at anemic levels offensively after three weeks. But quarterback Troy Williams has righted their ship. He’s coming off his best performance against a stingy Panthers defense. The well-traveled college quarterback, who hasn’t shown much in his pro career since graduating from school in 2018, has been a revelation recently. He was ultra-efficient against Michigan, completing 15 of 19 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 59 yards and a score.

If the Maulers continue to get that type of high productivity from Williams, combined with Ray and Jarren Horton’s stout defense and Marc Hull’s special teams. Pittsburgh will have a puncher’s chance to be in the postseason. What a difference a year makes.

The Maulers travel to Memphis in Week 6 to face another team that has experienced a recent resurgence—the Showboats.

#6: Memphis Showboats (2-3)

Todd Haley’s Showboats have righted their ship after a dismal 0-3 start. Memphis, winners now of two straight, are coming off their best performance in 2023, thanks mainly to a spirited defensive performance against previously unbeaten New Orleans.

Sunday’s 17-10 victory over the Breakers is undoubtedly an eye-opener. Perhaps Memphis caught New Orleans on an off day. Nevertheless, there’s no denying that the Showboats have shown out in the last two weeks, and they deserve credit for picking themselves up off the mat.

Memphis’s offense has not been spectacular, but they have found stability with Cole Kelley under center. And the defense has stepped up after being picked on earlier this season.

In Week 6, the Showboats are at home hosting the Pittsburgh Maulers this Saturday. Two teams that have turned their seasons around after falling hard early in the season.

#7: Philadelphia Stars (2-3)

It feels like a criminal act listing the Stars as seventh in the power rankings after they desperately saved their season Sunday, winning 24-21 in improbable fashion against New Jersey.

Philly’s defense played much better in Week 5 than in Week 4, where Houston humiliated them.

However, The team’s offense continues to underperform. On Sunday, they produced only 166 yards, failed to get in the end zone, rushed for 2.5 yards per carry, and allowed four sacks.

In Week 5, Philadelphia’s ultimate savior and star was kicker Luis Aguilar.

In one of the most absurd kicking performances of all time. The NAU alum connected on eight field goals, three from 50 yards plus, including a 55-yard game-winning kick at the final gun. It wasn’t even Aguilar’s longest kick of the day.

Because of the overwhelming parity in the USFL North, the Stars still have a chance to shine bright in the second half of the season. Their win against who else but New Jersey puts them in striking distance. If they can figure out how to cure what ails a once elite offense.

In Week 6, Philly draws the 4-1 Breakers at Ford Field. There’s room for error because of a slumping North. But they can’t expect another freaky performance from their kicker to save the day again. Bart Andrus’s team has to be better down the stretch.

#8: Michigan Panthers (2-3)

While teams like Memphis and Pittsburgh have turned their seasons around for the better in the last three weeks. The exact opposite has transpired for the Michigan Panthers, who are coming off their third straight loss at Ford Field. A 23-7 defeat at the hands of the Pittsburgh Maulers.

A once-promising 2-0 start has turned completely on its head. Mike Nolan’s Michigan team has struggled mightily, particularly on offense, to find answers.

Eric Marty’s offense was dreadful in Week 5. They produced 152 yards and only 2.6 yards per play. The run game has disappeared, and the team has gotten weak play from its quarterback position, whether it’s been week one wonder Josh Love or Carson Strong.

The saving grace for the Panthers is that they are still in the hunt in the North Division.

Michigan’s defense has been the team’s most consistent strength all season. Led by league standout Breeland Speaks, who is coming off another monster effort. Speaks produced six tackles and 2.5 sacks in Week 5.

If the Panthers want to resurrect their season. They will need players on the offensive side of the ball to match the elite play of players like Breeland Speaks on the defensive side. If not, despite the opening in their division created by sameness. The Panthers will remain stuck in quicksand.

Michigan is once again at home next weekend at Ford Field. This time, they draw a weakened Stallions team. Perhaps the fourth time at home will be the charm for the Panthers.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ken Granito

    May 15, 2023 at 8:09 am

    Hi Mike, Totally still in agreement with your assessment and wirh a whole division at 2-3 you really need to understand what you are seeing. You my friend really get the nuances of this league. It, literally would be great to see if FOX can get this weekly article in the newspapers they own. No pressure on you, but it would help the league grow. Getting bqck to the week, Generals are still #4 and deservedly so. The Maulers hammered the Panthers, but when the O-Line and quarterback play are that bad is that a good measuring stick. Troy Williams played a great game against the Panthers and the D was playing hard. Excellent game! The thing I think anout playoff teams are, that they are smart and agile enough to have a spy limit the run game for a quarterback. And there is nothing that hurts morale as a running QB that takes off with the ball and the play is blown up. So great game for Troy, but this needs to be where he starts from and not the peak. Continuing the theme, I said he needed practice and he is practicing on the field and keeping his team competitive in doing so. I mean really good. I am just writing this not to knock him, but to make him remember he needs to get to that next level. He has really good receivers. The OC counting on the confusion of the defenders from pass to run for a running game. That will only work for so long. That is easy for a lineman, hut bad when you fumble the ball when all by yourself or are out for the season and uou never developed a running game, because it was just easier to watch Troy run. For these reasons the Generals take the 4 spot. Not as much raw talent on the defensive side of the ball for Generals, but they do bring it each week and they okay together like no other. The Generals offense has more upside. The parity in this league has really made it so the Gamblers vs Generals really means a lot this week as does just about every game on the schedule. There are 4 clear break points to a season. 1. How do you come out of the gate. Some teams came out quick, but others find their way a little later. Up until this point teams have proven the Breakers are the best as currently constituted. Gamblers, etc, etc. However, we are just about to engage phase 3, the heat. This is where depth and preparedness will help. In some ways NFL players would wilt in it without proper preparedness. 4. Battle for the postseason and the postseason itself. Much fun is on the way. At the half….the Stars heart is back. Case Cookus took the win and as QB that is what you need to do. As I said last week the home runs will come on their own as you try to win a game. At the end of the Panthers game this week, Josh Love was smiling. Carson Strong was not. Mike Nolan will have to read what his team needs and go from there. For me, it would say Barriere and Strong are active, but I am not part of the team, maybe the smile is what the Panthers need at this moment. Either way review why you picked Jarrett Horst and DJ Scaife Jr. Both were already released from the Dolphins. Maybe signing with the Panthers might be a good start for them. A good sign for the USFL scouting department. Almost all of their draft class was at an NFL mini-camp this week. For the ones that weren’t, I think it was done on purpose to have availability and depth if required due to injury. Kind of like their own staff of players that they believe have upside, but that noone would draft or sign.

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