Ninety percent of the USFL 2023 regular season is in the books. Week 9 saw the Birmingham Stallions punch their ticket to the postseason. While the rest of the league’s teams remain alive for the playoffs with one week to go.
The South has three teams beneath Birmingham, within a game of each other, vying for one final playoff spot.
The North situation is even more chaotic. It’s a wide-open four-horse race, with each team taking turns limping their way to the finish line.
By virtue of what took place in Week 9, it’s guaranteed that a team in the North will get into the postseason with a sub-500 record. There’s also a realistic chance that two teams with 4-6 records could be headed to the playoffs.
The Everyone’s still standing aspect of the North makes for an exhilarating conclusion to the regular season, with the division having two “win or go home games” in week 10.
Let’s look at how the league’s teams stack up after nine weeks of play heading into an exciting final weekend of the regular season.
USFL 2023: Post Week 9 Power Rankings
#1: Birmingham Stallions (7-2) * Clinched Playoff Berth
The Birmingham Stallions are back in the playoffs after winning their fourth consecutive game on Sunday. An impressive 38-15 conquest of playoff-hopeful Houston. Even though, technically, the Southern Division crown hasn’t been decided yet, the Stallions will effectively be at home for the Division Championship.
The defending USFL champs have been on a revenge tour against Southern teams down the stretch of their 2023 campaign. They avenged an early season loss to New Orleans two weeks ago. And then answered the call in Week 9, avenging a loss to the Gamblers in Week five.
Birmingham is in a unique spot in week ten. They will face a Memphis team; they humiliated in week two by a 42-2 score. The Showboats, namely head coach Todd Haley took exception to how the Stallions handled that game. Memphis will be looking for revenge. However, Skip Holtz’s squad is in a position to laugh again at the Showboats’ expense by knocking them out of the playoffs entirely.
#2: New Orleans Breakers (6-3)
Not even mother nature via a two-hour thunder delay could halt the Breakers’ domination of the Memphis Showboats on Saturday afternoon. New Orleans rode waves of momentum, early and often, even getting some breaks to go their way in a 31-3 thrashing of Memphis.
It was a good all-around performance by John DeFilippo’s team. But the New Orleans Breakers’ defense won the day against the Showboats. They forced five turnovers and sacked Memphis QB Cole Kelley five times.
Despite winning two straight games, New Orleans is still in a challenging spot going into the season’s final week. They must beat the 5-4 Houston Gamblers to gain access to the playoffs.
#3: Houston Gamblers (5-4)
Once you get past the first two teams in these rankings, it’s a pick-your-poison thing—a Houston team that was crushed by 23 or a Showboats team that lost by 28.
I am siding with the Gamblers at #3 by default. The final score of Houston’s 38-15 loss to the Stallions is misleading.
The Gamblers were down 17-15 in the fourth quarter before the game fell apart for them. They were going blow for blow with a Stallions team they beat earlier in the season before things went awry late.
Houston has to lick their wounds quickly. They must find a way to beat the Breakers next Sunday. But that might not be enough to get them into the playoffs. They need the Stallions to beat the Showboats on Saturday for a win, and you’re in scenario.
#4: Memphis Showboats (5-4)
Despite sporting a five-game win streak heading into Week 9, because of a poor start to the season and an ultra-competitive South. Memphis came into this past weekend having no room for error. Unfortunately, the Showboats’ showdown with New Orleans was a comedy of errors for them.
Memphis turned the ball over five times in a crushing 31-3 loss to the Breakers. It was a terrible day at the office for rookie quarterback Cole Kelley (4 interceptions) and the entire Showboats offense. So much of the goodwill that Todd Haley’s had going for them was washed away on a stormy Saturday afternoon.
However, all is not lost for the Showboats. But they will need some help in week ten to erase the stink off week nine. To advance to the playoffs, Memphis has to beat a Birmingham team that destroyed them 42-2 several weeks ago. And then, they need a Houston team to do them a favor and beat the Breakers a day later this coming Sunday.
#5: Philadelphia Stars (4-5)
Case Cookus and the Stars nearly battled back down 37-16 to New Jersey on Sunday night but fell short in their improbable comeback attempt.
As exciting as Sunday’s game was and as impressive as the Stars’ rally was, there are no moral victories at this point of the season.
After looking like the only sure thing in the North, Philadelphia is now in danger of missing the playoffs. They will face the 3-6 Michigan Panthers next Sunday night’s regular-season finale. The Stars must win to get into the postseason. Or the great promise of another championship run will fade away.
#6: New Jersey Generals (3-6)
After losing five straight games, the Generals finally answered the call in their most crucial game of the season. Thanks to quarterback DeAndre Johnson and running back Darius Victor, who both played their best games of the season when it counted the most.
The returning DeAndre Johnson completed 75 percent of his passes, throwing for 213 yards. It was his most efficient passing performance in a long time. Darius Victor contributed three touchdowns against the Stars—two on the ground and one through the air.
New Jersey’s defense faltered late but came through in pivotal situations in the red zone and late in the game.
Considering the magnitude of the game and the specific opponent. This was New Jersey’s best win since 2022. The Generals can make what they did against Philly count if they can beat the Maulers and punch their ticket to the playoffs next Saturday.
#7: Pittsburgh Maulers (3-6)
The stellar Maulers defense, led by league standouts like DT Boogie Roberts and defensive MVP candidate Kyahva Tezino steamrolled their way back into the playoff picture with a gritty 19-7 victory over the Michigan Panthers.
3-6 on paper may not look impressive. But compared to last season, this Maulers team is leaps and bounds better than its predecessor. And if Pittsburgh wins next week against New Jersey. The Maulers will be leaping into the playoffs.
As ludicrous as it sounds, because their offense has been very pedestrian all season long. If Ray Horton’s team gets into the playoffs, they are going to be a tough out, especially if their defense and special teams continue to play at the level they have.
#8: Michigan Panthers (3-6)
Despite a listless and ugly 19-7 loss to Pittsburgh in Week 9. Thanks to Mike Riley’s New Jersey Generals. Mike Nolan’s Michigan Panthers are heading into Week 10 with a chance to make the playoffs.
All they have to do is accomplish something they haven’t done all season. Win a home game at Ford Field next Sunday night.
The Panthers will need better play from their quarterback Josh Love to beat the Stars in Week 10.
Love had a bad day go awful in Week 9 against Pittsburgh’s stout defense. He started his day with rough luck on deflections that led to interceptions. But once he began to press, Love made matters worse.
Michigan’s defense, led by Frank Ginda, has been consistently good all season. But the sole reason the Panthers are 3-6 is because of the inconsistency of their offense. Michigan and Josh Love have one last Sunday to make it all count.
Virtually the entire USFL is in that predicament next weekend.