Thirty percent of the 2023 USFL Regular Season is in the books. After three weeks of play, the balance of power has shifted dramatically in the USFL.
Let’s look at how all eight USFL teams stack up heading into Week 4.
USFL 2023 Week 4 Power Rankings
#1: New Orleans Breakers (3-0)
The Breakers offense, under DeFilippo and grizzled veteran QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, has been a revelation this season.
New Orleans’s offensive attack easily picked apart the Stallions’ typically stout defense. Birmingham had no answers for the Breakers’ barrage.
It was another banner day for MBT, and another CFL standout from 2022, RB Wes Hills. The deadly duo picked up right where they left off last week by combining for six touchdowns and nearly 500 yards of offense. (499).
The Breakers’ defense was far from perfect in Week 3. However, they didn’t need to be. Every time the Stallions valiantly battled back. New Orleans’s offense would answer the call immediately.
The Breakers look unbreakable at this rate because of their high-powered offense. It’s gotten better each week. The best could be yet to come, and that’s a scary thought based on the overly optimistic early returns.
New Orleans is headed to Canton in Week 4 to face the New Jersey Generals. Based on what we have seen, it will likely not be the Breakers’ last game this season played at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium—the playing site for the 2023 USFL playoffs and championship game.
#2: Birmingham Stallions (2-1)
For the first time in a long time, the best team on a USFL field wasn’t the Birmingham Stallions. A week after obliterating the Showboats 42-2, Skip Holtz’s squad came back down to earth with a 45-31 loss to division rival New Orleans.
The Breakers and Stallions went blow for blow through three-plus quarters. However, it was New Orleans that delivered a knockout late in the game.
Despite Birmingham’s best efforts to rally and keep pace. The Stallions lost in Week 3 because of their inability to win at the line of scrimmage.
The Breakers thoroughly outplayed the champs. New Orleans possessed the ball for over 36 minutes, running for 200 yards on the ground. In contrast, Birmingham rushed for only 46.
The Stallions took one on the chin from what appears to be a legitimate challenger to their reign as champions. Birmingham will have a chance to exact revenge on New Orleans when they meet again in Week 7. But by the looks of things, the two division rivals appear destined to meet again for a third time in the playoffs.
After being knocked down a peg in Week 3, the Stallions will attempt to rebound in Week 4 next Sunday evening in Canton when they square off with the 1-2 Pittsburgh Maulers.
#3: New Jersey Generals (2-1)
Mike Riley’s New Jersey Generals sent a statement on Sunday. They restated their claim to the North by going into Ford Field and soundly defeating the upstart Michigan Panthers 28-13.
The Generals embraced the role of spoilers to perfection in Week 4 by spoiling Michigan’s homecoming.
The formula that won New Jersey the North a season ago was back in full force on Sunday. They outmuscled the Panthers from jump street on both sides of the ball.
The Generals rushed for 198 yards on Sunday, a common occurrence for them. But two big plays in the passing game against Michigan propelled them to victory. A beautifully executed score on a 51-yard screen pass to Darius Victor and a 72-yard touchdown pass to Alonzo Moore.
The low volume-high efficiency passing attack that won New Jersey so many games in 2022 returned to form in Week 3.
Quarterback DeAndre Johnson was also back to his playmaking ways from a year ago. As he displayed so many times last season, Johnson was the best athlete on the field Sunday in Michigan. Johnson broke free for a game-long 71-yard rush against Michigan, rushing for 98 yards total with one touchdown and completing 10 of 15 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns.
Not to be outdone on Sunday was the Generals’ defense. In particular, Ted Cottrell’s unit flustered Michigan’s passing attack all day long, holding the Panthers passers to a 47 percent completion percentage and under four yards per pass play.
Josh Love, who, in week one, completed over ninety percent of his passes, was only 15 of 31 for 101 yards and threw an interception.
New Jersey reclaimed their Northern kingdom in Week 3. However, in Week 4, this coming Sunday, they will have to take on a potential new king in the South, the 3-0 New Orleans Breakers.
#4: Michigan Panthers (2-1)
The previously unbeaten Michigan Panthers got a reality check in Week 3, falling prey to the New Jersey Generals 28-13 in their long-awaited home opener.
It was a bittersweet weekend for the Michigan Panthers. The legacy USFL team returned home after nearly four decades. The Panthers were greeted by local sports legends and greats from the team’s past. As well as a welcoming Detroit crowd at Ford Field. It was great to see the Michigan Panthers back where they belong.
On the field Sunday, the 2023 Mike Nolan-led Panthers were outplayed by Mike Riley’s Generals on both sides of the ball. It was a disappointing result for Michigan, who found out the hard way how challenging it would be to wrestle the North away from New Jersey.
The good news is that Michigan will return home next weekend with a realistic chance of bouncing back against the rudderless 0-3 Memphis Showboats. Even though they didn’t beat New Jersey head to head, a victory over Memphis, coupled with a Generals loss to the undefeated Breakers, could put the Panthers back into the top spot in the Northern standings.
#5: Pittsburgh Maulers (1-2)
Thanks to continued strong play on defense and a stellar special teams effort in Week 3. The Pittsburgh Maulers finally broke through in Week 3 with a victory beating the Philadelphia Stars 21-13.
Suddenly, the Maulers’ seven-point loss to New Orleans in week one and their slugfest loss to New Jersey in week two don’t look as bad as they initially appeared. Ray Horton’s team has played hard, and it paid off for Pittsburgh on Sunday.
The Maulers’ offense finally scored a touchdown in 2023, thanks mainly to a short-field setup by their defense. Nevertheless, Pittsburgh showed some progress on that end after playing at an anemic level before week 3.
The actual scoring star of the show for Pittsburgh was new-arrival kicker Chris Blewitt, who, outside of a missed extra point late, failed to live up to his namesake, going five for five on field goal tries.
The Maulers, who generated only 231 yards on offense, and less than a hundred through the air, needed their defense and special teams to stand on their heads to win, and that’s precisely what transpired in Week 3.
Pittsburgh’s defense held Philly’s offense in check all game, generating three sacks and forcing three turnovers. The Maulers also had 181 return yards on special teams against the Stars.
If Pittsburgh can find some semblance of an offense moving forward, with the mobile but raw Troy Williams at quarterback, they will be a competitive team weekly. In Week 4, they can build off Week 3 when they play the Birmingham Stallions in Canton.
#6: Philadelphia Stars (1-2)
The time to press the panic button on the Philadelphia Stars is now. Bart Andrus’s team has lost much of its shine in the last two weeks, and many of the Stars’ flaws from a week ago remained unchanged.
Philadephia has struggled mightily to protect its star quarterback Case Cookus this season. The Stars’ offense line has also failed to open up holes in the run game to offset its pass protection deficiencies.
The Stars rushed for a paltry 18 yards on 18 carries against Pittsburgh. That type of continued imbalance will send Philly nowhere fast.
One of the most significant issues for Philly is their lack of creativity on offense. Bart Andrus’s offense has been very predictable. The book is out on how to stop them, and the necessary adjustments haven’t been made yet.
On a positive note, although they weren’t facing a stellar offense. The Stars’ defense played well enough in Week 3 for the team to win. Philly produced five sacks. Adam Rodriguez and Ali Fayad are one of the league’s best pass-rushing tandems and should continue to be a force moving forward. That’s the lone bright spot coming out of what has been an underwhelming start for Philadelphia.
The Stars will look to get their mojo back as they return to Michigan in Week 4 to face off with the Houston Gamblers.
#7: Houston Gamblers (1-2)
The Gamblers got their first win on Saturday night, outscoring the Memphis Showboats 30-26. For the second week in a row, Curtis Johnson’s Houston offense continued to show great strides.
The emergence of Ball State WR Justin Hall, who had another outstanding performance (six receptions, 90 yards, and two scores), coupled with the return of star runner Mark Thompson (21-81-2tds), has given Houston hope this season. In the process, quarterback Kenji Bahar has also raised his game.
It wasn’t all pretty for the Gamblers in Week 3. Their struggling pass defense nearly blew a 23-10 lead late, allowing the Showboats to surge ahead 26-23, but Houston managed to hang on late despite that.
The Gamblers will have a chance to win their second consecutive game in Week 4 against a sputtering Stars team.
#8: Memphis Showboats (0-3)
Memphis fell behind early but rallied late to take the lead against Houston. But poor coaching decisions and defensive play prevented them from winning their first game.
It’s been a frustrating couple of weeks for the newly christened Showboats, who are making their 4-6 predecessor Tampa Bay Bandits look like a juggernaut by comparison.
On Saturday, Memphis and its leader Todd Haley handled crucial moments and the post-game poorly.
Memphis will head to Michigan next Saturday to play Michigan in their third straight primetime game, this time on NBC.
In a ten-game season, it gets late very early. The Showboats better show out soon, or their show will be over by midseason.
May 1, 2023 at 11:56 am
As far as the Breakers go….let’s work a deal with New Orleans for the Super Dome. We may not have MBT next year, but they are building something. We need a place in South where fans can stay cool, especially while the Breakers are hot. Riley and Cottrell help lead the Generals. All I can say is I which I didn’t have to leave New Jersey to see them play. Case Cookus better stop going bomb whenever he has more than 2 seconds to throw.. You don’t manufacture big plays, you take them when you sniff them. While eating cereal today I looked at my milk carton and saw Jordan Suell. He is too good to stay this quiet. Bailey Gaither must have a knack for catching Mauler game-winning TD passes. I am waiting for Reggie Corbin to the walk. He is great, but I can’t help, but feel his attitude halts himself from getting the ball. You want the damn ball, just play the game. The commentator who brought up Josh Love staring at the receiver he is throwing to is an easy fix and one of the things you fix on your way to being a real professional quarterback. This is one of the great things to USFL offers, a chance to better your craft. After 3 weeks it’s hard to nail it all down, but you really caught the essence of it all.