We’re through Week 4 of the USFL, and the tight games continue in Birmingham, with every game of the weekend being decided by 8 points or less. The outcome of this week’s matchups dictated little movement in the rankings, but things are sure to change in the coming weeks.
1. Birmingham Stallions (Last Week: 1)
The Stallions stay at the top of the rankings and remain the USFL’s only undefeated team after a win over the Tampa Bay Bandits.
Alex McGough was back in at quarterback due to J’Mar Smith missing practice all week after testing positive for covid. McGough had a bit of a slow start but ended up having a decent day, completing 14/26 passes (53.1% comp) for 126 yards, also running 9 times for 39 yards and 1 touchdown. Birmingham’s leading rusher was CJ Marable, who totaled 17 carries for 55 yards, while Victor Bolden Jr led the air attack, hauling in 5 receptions for 61 yards on the day.
The defense’s quality performance was led by linebackers Scooby Wright and Brody Buck, along with cornerback Brian Allen. Wright and Buck each recorded 6 tackles and a sack, with Allen tying them both as the team’s leading tacklers.
The Stallions seem unstoppable after defeating two of the league’s better teams over the last 2 weeks. We’ll see if they can keep the win streak rolling against the Philadelphia Stars in Week 5.
2. New Orleans Breakers (Last Week: 2)
The Breakers stay seated in the 2nd ranked spot after winning a tight one over the Houston Gamblers.
Quarterback Kyle Sloter had some serious ups and downs but played well enough to win despite turning the ball over 4 times (3 ints/ 1 fumble lost). Sloter ended the game completing 26/42 passes (61.9% comp) for 397 yards, 1 touchdown, and 3 interceptions. He’d also run the ball twice for 7 yards. Running back Jordan Ellis led the rushing attack for New Orleans, finishing the game with 19 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown, also bringing in 4 receptions for 17 yards. Wide receivers Taywan Taylor and Jonathan Adams led the air attack, with Taylor catching 4 passes for 112 yards, and Adams hauling in 6 receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, the Breakers held Houstons’ rushing attack in check and played well against the passing game despite not sacking Clayton Thorson once and having their star defensive end Davin Bellamy out of the lineup this week. Highlight players for the Breakers this week include linebackers Vontae Diggs and Jerod Fernandez, defensive tackle Shakir Soto, and defensive end Anree Saint-Amour.
New Orleans has a good bit to clean up on offense, but their defense is one to be feared even without Davin Bellamy. If they can eliminate the turnovers and keep playing as they have been on defense, they might have an opportunity to steal the division from Bir late in the season.
3. Tampa Bay Bandits (Last Week: 3)
The Bandits stay in the 3rd ranked spot after taking a loss to the Birmingham Stallions.
Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu played a decent game, completing 13/22 passes (59.1% comp) for 125 yards and 1 touchdown. The Bandits’ run game struggled, and Ta’amu led the team’s ground attack, taking 6 carries for 34 yards. Running back BJ Emmons took 11 carries for only 18 yards on the day. Leading the air attack was tight end Cheyenne O’Grady, who hauled in 2 receptions for 35 yards, but the team’s only receiving touchdown came on Rashard Davis’s only reception.
The defense played well despite the loss, totaling 4 sacks, and 7 pass deflections. Linebacker Travis Feeny and safety Anthony Cioffi were the highlights of Tampa Bay’s defense, with Cioffi totaling 9 tackles and a pass deflection, and Feeny racking up 9 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 pass deflection.
If the Bandits can clean things up a bit, they should have a good opportunity to push for a playoff spot later in the season. For now, the schedule gets a bit easier with their Week 5 game coming against a struggling Michigan Panthers team.
4. New Jersey Generals (Last Week: 5)
After a win over the Pittsburgh Maulers, the Generals take over the 4th spot in the power rankings.
Quarterback De’Andre Johnson would get the start over Luiz Perez this week, but Mike Riley continued using his 2-quarterback system. Johnson ended the day completing 9/10 passes (90% comp) for 98 yards and 1 touchdown, also having his worst game of the season running the ball, taking 11 carries for only 14 yards. Perez stayed productive in the passing game as well, completing 11/14 passes (78.6% comp) for 102 yards on the day. Darius Victor led the team’s rushing attack, but wideout Kavontae Turpin also got involved in the run game. Victor ended the game with 10 carries for 57 yards and a touchdown, while Turpin took 4 attempts for 37 yards and a touchdown, also hauling in 6 receptions for 28 yards. The Generals’ only receiving touchdown came from Alonzo Moore, who totaled 3 catches for 104 yards and a touchdown on the day.
The Generals’ defense played well against the Maulers, with the highlights being linebacker D’Juan Hines, defensive tackle Toby Johnson, and cornerback DeJuan Neal. Hines led the team in tackles, totaling 8 on the day, with Johnson recording the team’s only sack of the game. Neal finished the game with 2 pass deflections.
While the Generals are tied with the 2nd best record in the league, all their wins have come against teams below them in the power rankings. They’ll have their chance to jump up the rankings in Week 5 when they take on the only other 3-1 team in the league, the New Orleans Breakers.
5. Houston Gamblers (Last Week: 4)
After a tough loss to the New Orleans Breakers, The Gamblers fall to the 5th spot in the rankings.
Quarterback Clayton Thorson ended the day completing 14/26 passes (53.8% comp) for 127 yards and 1 touchdown, also rushing twice for 5 yards. Running back Mark Thompson would have his worst game of the year, taking 14 rushing attempts for only 10 yards. Houston’s rushing leader would be Thompson’s backup, Devwah Whaley, who only had 3 carries for 11 yards. Isaiah Zuber led the Gamblers in receiving with 5 receptions for 46 yards, and their only touchdown came from Jojo Ward on a 30-yard reception.
Houston’s defense was one of the team’s brightest spots, forcing Breakers quarterback Kyle Sloter to turn the ball over 4 times on the day (3 ints/ 1 fumble). Highlight players on the Gamblers’ defense include cornerbacks Micah Abernathy and Will Likely, defensive tackle Dominique Davis, and linebackers Donald Payne and Reggie Northrup.
While their record may be the worst in the division, their defense seems capable of keeping them alive regardless of how much the offense can produce. If the Gamblers can keep running back Mark Thompson involved and clean some things up in the passing game, they might be fighting for a playoff spot down the stretch.
6. Philadelphia Stars (Last Week: 6)
The Stars stay in the 6th ranked spot after a 1-point win over the Michigan Panthers. They probably should have lost this game but pulled off the win due to a missed field goal by Michigan as time expired in the 4th quarter.
With starting quarterback Bryan Scott heading home with an injury, Case Cookus got the start and completed 22/30 passes (73.3% comp) for 190 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception, also running 4 times for 35 yards. Running back Paul Terry led Philly’s rushing attack, ending the game with 11 carries for 62 yards, also bringing in 3 receptions for 9 yards. The team’s leading receivers were Devin Gray and Diondre Overton, with Gray totaling 4 receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown, while Overton hauled in 7 receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown.
Philly’s defense struggled against the Panthers’ rushing attack but played well enough to pull off the win. They totaled 2 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 8 pass deflections, with the highlight being cornerback Channing Stribling. Stribbling totaled 1 sack, 2 interceptions, and 3 pass deflections on the day.
The Stars have fought hard in every game this season, but they’ll face their most challenging matchup so far in Week 5 against the undefeated Birmingham Stallions.
7. Michigan Panthers (Last Week: 7)
The Panthers remain in the 7th spot in the rankings after coming up short in a 1-point loss to the Philadelphia Stars.
Quarterback Shea Patterson started once again for the Panthers despite making a plethora of simple mistakes in every game so far. He ended the game against the Stars completing 9/17 passes (52.9% comp) for 67 yards, 1 touchdown, and 3 interceptions, also taking 9 carries for 79 yards and a touchdown. The highlight of the Panthers’ offense was running back Reggie Corbin, who totaled 12 carries for 152 yards and a touchdown, also hauling in 1 reception for 8 yards. The team’s leading receiver would be Joe Walker, who ended the game with 3 receptions for 28 yards and a touchdown.
The defense recorded 2 sacks, 1 interception, 5 pass deflections, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. Highlights of the Panthers’ defense include linebacker Frank Ginda and safety Sean Williams. Ginda totaled 9 tackles and 1 sack on the day, while Williams recorded the team’s only interception along with 2 pass deflections.
The Panthers’ offense continues to struggle with Shea Patterson at the helm, but their downfall this time was poor kicking. If they want to stand a chance against a talented Tampa Bay Bandits team in Week 5, Jeff Fisher and Shea Patterson will have to start making better decisions.
8. Pittsburgh Maulers (Last Week: 8)
After a tough loss to the New Jersey Generals, the Maulers stay at the bottom of the rankings.
Quarterback Kyle Lauletta got the start for the Maulers and completed 15/32 passes (46.9% comp) for 169 yards and ran twice for 11 yards. The team’s only touchdown came from running back Garrett Groshek, who totaled 14 carries for 37 yards and a touchdown on the day. While Groshek led the team in rush attempts, Madre London led the team in rushing yards, ending the game with 5 carries for 43 yards. Pittsburgh’s leading receiver was Tre Walker, who hauled in 9 receptions for 110 yards.
The Maulers’ defense had its moments but struggled overall. They didn’t sack either of the Generals’ quarterbacks throughout the game and had a tough time keeping their opponent out of the endzone when they needed to.
The season won’t be getting any easier for the Maulers, who will face the Houston Gamblers in Week 5 and the New Orleans Breakers in Week 6.