Following a horrendous 34-3 loss to the New Orleans Breakers, the 1-1 Tampa Bay Bandits are looking to move on and take the anger out on another division rival. While Houston presents a lot of challenges for this team to overcome, as long as they stay motivated from the week two blowout, they should keep it both close and competitive.
Tampa has a lot of work to do on both sides of the ball, which starts by getting Jordan Ta’amu back into form. Last week, he had one of the worst performances of his career, completing less than 50% of his passes and tossing an interception in the process. Some of it may be nothing more than rust, given that this is his first pro opportunity in over two years.
The only real concern is that he’ll be going up against an equally potent defense that knows how to force turnovers. Ta’amu was decent in week one against the Maulers, who were also creating pressure and keeping receivers in check, but New Orleans appeared to have completely worn him out. Leaning on the run game isn’t exactly a reliable option for this matchup, either, and it might be another week before we see the backfield at full strength.
From Houston’s perspective, they too are trying to prove some points. The Gamblers played a great game last week (for the most part) and still came up short against the Birmingham Stallions. The team should be hungry, but after quarterback Clayton Thorson tossed three picks, their offensive plan will likely have to be more conservative until the former Northwestern product shows his value again. As I’ve said before, the defense is in a great position to succeed as long as they don’t weaken near the endzone.
Ultimately, this matchup is a contender to be the best of week three, even if two undefeated teams (Breakers and Stallions) are also playing each other. One team will regress to 1-2, while the other will advance to 2-1. There’s a significant difference in those records, and although the season is still young, it could really start to set the tone for what’s coming.
This game seems to be more important to Tampa Bay, as they need to bounce back from embarrassment and show their strengths. If Houston takes the loss, the hole could be easier to climb out of, as their roster looks more complete right now. Either way, this should be another fun showdown that proves the USFL is a viable product.