Week 3 of the USFL’s season is in the books, and we had no shortage of big plays throughout the weekend. Players and coaches continue to get more comfortable after about a month and a half together, and it’s been showing on the field. While every team still has plenty to clean up, we’ve had some exciting matchups, with 9 out of the 12 games this season being decided by only 1 score.
1. Birmingham Stallions (Last Week: 3)
While quarterback J’Mar Smith didn’t have the best day, he did enough to help his team win, ending the game having completed 15/38 passes (39.5% comp) for 197 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception, also running the ball 8 times for 59 yards. Running back CJ Marable had a sub-par day on the ground, taking 16 carries for only 36 yards, also bringing in 4 receptions for 14 yards. The Stallions’ leading receiver would be Victor Bolden Jr, who ended the day with 6 receptions for 70 yards and 1 touchdown.
The Stallions’ defense was the first team to sack Breakers quarterback Kyle Sloter all season and got to him 4 times throughout the night. Linebacker Scooby Wright III led the team in tackles with 17, recording a pass deflection and forcing a fumble on the goal line. Defensive end Dondrea Tillman also had a great day, ending the game with 11 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, 2 pass deflections, and 2 forced fumbles. Additionally, Stallions linebacker DeMarquis Gates recorded an interception on the day.
The Stallions’ win over one of the USFL’s best defenses, with J’Mar Smith completing only 39.5% of his passes, has to get Birmingham fans excited. This team already looks like it may be the best in the league and can be even better if they clean some things up on offense.
2. New Orleans Breakers (Last Week: 1)
After a hard-fought loss to the Birmingham Stallions, the Breakers fall to the number 2 spot in the rankings.
Kyle Sloter had a decent day numbers-wise, but he took a step back from last week’s performance, missing a few open receivers throughout the game. Sloter ended the game completing 26/47 passes (55.3% comp) for 240 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Running back Jordan Ellis had a great day on the ground, taking 25 carries for 90 yards on the day. The team’s leading receiver would be Johnnie Dixon, who totaled 7 receptions for 86 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Despite the loss, New Orleans’ defense played a good game, with linebacker Jerod Fernandez leading the team in tackles with 12 and recording a pass deflection. Safety Aashari Crosswell would record an interception on the day as well.
Ultimately, the Breakers played a tight game and had their moments but need to work on some things offensively if they want to win their Week 4 matchup against a hot Houston Gamblers team.
3. Tampa Bay Bandits (Last Week: 4)
The Bandits move up to the number 3 spot in the rankings after coming back from a 9-point deficit in the 4th quarter to pull off a 1-point victory against the Houston Gamblers.
It was not the best day for quarterback Jordan Ta’amu, but with some help from their kicker Tyler Rausa, the Bandits were about to come away with a win in Week 3. Ta’amu ended the game completing 21/36 passes (58.3% comp) for 255 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception, also running 6 times for 29 yards and a touchdown. Tampa Bay’s leading rusher was Juwan Washington, who totaled 15 carries for 65 yards and 1 touchdown on the day. Derrick Dillon led the team in receiving, totaling 6 receptions for 124 yards and 1 touchdown.
The defense struggled at times and didn’t sack Gamblers quarterback Clayton Thorson at all, but they played well enough to get the job done. Impact players on the Bandits’ defense were linebacker Emmanuel Beal and cornerback Quinton Meeks. Beal led the game in tackles with 9, while Meeks recorded 7 tackles, an interception, and 1 pass deflection.
Tampa Bay will have their work cut out for them heading into a Week 4 matchup against an undefeated Birmingham Stallions team.
4. Houston Gamblers (Last Week: 5)
The Gamblers take over the 4th spot in the rankings after a 1-point loss to the Tampa Bay Bandits in which they blew a 9-point lead in the 4th quarter. Quarterback Clayton Thorson continues to get better as the weeks go on, but the team’s second-half struggles continue as well.
Thorson ended the game completing 15/24 passes (62.5% comp) for 240 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception, also taking 1 carry for 3 yards. Running back Mark Thompson continued to be the highlight of Houstons’ offense, ending the game with 24 carries for 147 yards and 1 touchdown, also hauling in 1 reception for 10 yards. Wide receivers Anthony Ratliff-Williams and Isaiah Zuber led the air attack. Ratliff-Williams ended the day with 2 receptions for 85 yards and 1 touchdown, and Zuber totaled 3 receptions for 73 yards and 1 touchdown.
Despite the loss, Houston’s defense played a great game, totaling 3 sacks, an interception, 7 pass deflections, and 3 forced fumbles. The top players on the Gamblers’ defense were linebacker Reggie Northrup, cornerbacks Will Likely and Micah Abernathy, and defensive end Chris Odom.
The Gamblers continue to look better as the weeks go on, but they’ll have to figure out their 2nd half struggles if they want to beat the New Orleans Breakers in next week’s matchup.
5. New Jersey Generals (Last Week: 7)
The Generals take over the 5th ranked spot after a big win over the Philadelphia Stars. Quarterback Luis Perez entered the game as the starter, but head coach Mike Riley went with the more mobile DeAndre Johnson for the entire second half. The story of the game was the Generals’ rushing attack, totaling 270 yards on the ground between the team.
Before coming out of the game at the half, Perez completed 8/15 passes (53.3% comp) for 75 yards. Johnson got to show what he had in bits during the 1st half but played out the entire 2nd half. He ended the game completing 6/8 passes (75% comp) for 130 yards, also running the ball 11 times for 94 yards and 1 touchdown. Their leading rusher would be running back Trey Williams, who took 19 carries for 111 yards and hauled in 4 receptions for 44 yards. New Jersey’s leading receiver was KaVontae Turpin, who racked up 5 receptions for 78 yards, also taking 3 carries for 14 yards.
The defense didn’t do anything too crazy, but they played well enough to get the job done. The team totaled 1 sack, 3 tackles for loss, and 3 pass deflections, with the highlight defensive players including Linebacker D’Juan Hines, defensive ends Kolin Hill and Tyshun Redner, and cornerback De’Vante Bausby.
Mike Riley and the Generals seem to be figuring things out with their 2 quarterback system and are leaning more heavily on their dynamic runner, DeAndre Johnson, in crucial situations. If this team can clean up the missed field goals and Johnson continues to develop as a passer, this team should be one to watch out for down the stretch.
6. Philadelphia Stars (Last Week: 3)
After a tough loss to the New Jersey Generals, the Philadelphia Stars take a dive in the power rankings this week. Quarterback Bryan Scott suffered a knee injury in the 1st half and backup Case Cookus played the entire 2nd half in his place. Cookus played well in relief for Scott, but he couldn’t get the job done when the game was on the line.
Before leaving the game with an injury, Bryan Scott completed 9/13 passes (69.3% comp) for 84 yards and 1 touchdown. Serving as his replacement, Case Cookus completed 13/20 passes (65.0% comp) for 146 yards and 1 touchdown. Struggles in the run game continued for Philly, with Paul terry taking only 6 carries of 17 yards as their leading rusher. However, in the passing game, Terry totaled 8 receptions for 52 yards. The team’s top receiver was tight end Bug Howard, who hauled in 4 receptions for 78 yards and 1 touchdown.
On the defensive side, the Stars couldn’t find ways to stop the Generals when it mattered, allowing 21 points in the 2nd half of the game. The defense did have its moments, including sacking the Generals’ quarterbacks 3 times throughout the game.
The Stars need to work on some things defensively, but their offense seems to be reasonably capable regardless of who’s in at quarterback. While Cookus surely looked good at times, the offense had operated much better under the leadership of Bryan Scott when they needed their quarterback to step up. Hopefully, Scott’s injuries aren’t too serious, and he can return for their Week 4 matchup against the Michigan Panthers.
7. Michigan Panthers (Last Week: 8)
The Michigan Panthers take over the 7th ranked spot after pulling off a shutout win against the Pittsburgh Maulers. Paxton Lynch got his first start since back in 2017 when he was with the Denver Broncos, and played great to open against the Maulers. Unfortunately, Lynch suffered an ankle injury that took him out early, and Shea Patterson had to play the majority of the game.
Before going out with an injury, Lynch completed 3/8 passes (37.3% comp) for 23 yards, also running the ball twice for 21 yards and a touchdown. In relief for Lynch, Patterson completed 8/17 passes (47.1% comp) for 49 yards. Running backs Reggie Corbin and Stevie Scott III led the ground attack for the Panthers, with Corbin taking 20 carries for 133 yards and 1 touchdown, and Scott rushing 13 times for 54 yards and 1 touchdown. The teams leading receiver was Lance Lenoir, who ended the day with 4 receptions for 41 yards.
Defensively, the Panthers kept the Maulers offense scoreless but didn’t get a single sack. The defense ended the day with 3 tackles for loss and 2 pass deflections. Standout players on Pittsburgh’s defense include safetys Sean Williams Jr and Kieron Williams, cornerback Jameson Houston, and defensive tackle Jaquan Bailey.
The Panthers dominated the rushing attack, but struggled heavily in the passing game. They seemed to have more success with Paxton Lynch before he went down with an injury, so it will be interesting to see who the starter is next week, assuming Lynch is healthy. It should be noted that Michigan’s receivers dropped the ball a significant number of times in their win, which will have to be cleaned up if they want to stand a chance against the Philadelphia Stars in Week 4.
8. Pittsburgh Maulers (Last Week: 6)
The Pittsburgh Maulers fall back to the bottom of the rankings after getting shut out by the Michigan Panthers. Kirby Wilson’s lack of playcalling experience was exposed once again with no sign of any of the promise shown in last week’s matchup.
Both of the Maulers quarterbacks saw some action against the Panthers, but neither found much success. Josh Love ended the game completing 10/19 passes (52.6% comp) for 83 yards, with Kyle Lauletta completing 9/12 passes (75% comp) and 42 yards, also running the ball once for 7 yards. Madre London and Garrett Groshek led the ground attack, but neither found the endzone. London ended the game with 10 rushes for 68 yards, also bringing in 4 receptions for 8 yards, while Groshek took 10 carries for 28 yards, and brought in 1 catch for 10 yards.
Defensively, the Maulers had a rough start to the game, but had their moments. Panthers quarterback Paxton Lynch scored on the team’s first 2 drives, converting 2-point conversions on each. When Lynch went out with an injury shortly after the team’s 2nd touchdown, Shea Patterson took the field for the Panthers, and the Maulers’ defense stepped things up for the next 2 quarters. The defense ended the game with 1 sack, 4 tackles for loss, and 5 pass deflections. Highlight players on Pittsburghs defense include safety Arnold Tarpley III, linebacker E.J. Ejiya, and defensive tackle Darrius Margane.
The Maulers have a lot to figure out on offense before their Week 4 matchup against the New Jersey Generals.