We’ve passed the midway point of the USFL‘s regular season, and Week 6 brought us another round of exciting games in Birmingham. With the playoff race only beginning to heat up, we should be in for an exciting final four weeks of the regular season.
1. Birmingham Stallions (Last Week: 1)
After winning their Week 6 matchup against the Michigan Panthers, the Birmingham Stallions remain undefeated and still sit atop the power rankings.
J’Mar Smith got the start at quarterback and played a solid game, completing 12/25 passes (48.0% comp) for 135 yards and 2 touchdowns, also running once for 13 yards. Alex McGough also got a bit of playing time in the 4th quarter, completing 2/3 passes (66.7% comp) for 48 yards, also running 5 times for 21 yards and 1 touchdown.
Leading the Stallions’ ground attack was the recently signed former Alabama running back, Bo Scarbrough, who totaled 16 carries for 105 yards and 1 touchdown, also catching 2 passes for 15 yards. Tony Brooks-James took some of the workload as well, taking 7 carries for 32 yards, and hauling in 1 reception for 6 yards and 1 touchdown. Birmingham’s leading receiver would be Osirus Mitchell, who totaled 4 receptions for 63 yards and 1 touchdown on the day.
Despite missing one of their best defensive players in linebacker Scooby Wright III, the Stallions’ defense played a good game, totaling 3 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 4 pass deflections, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. This week, top players on Birmingham’s defense include safety Jojo Tillery, linebacker DeMarquis Gates, defensive tackle Willie Henry, and defensive end Jonathan Newsome.
The Stallions are steamrolling through their opponents, and the recent addition of Bo Scarbrough only makes them better. At this point, it’d be hard to believe if Birmingham didn’t end up making a push deep into the playoffs.
2. New Jersey Generals (Last Week: 2)
New Jersey’s still ranked 2nd after beating the Houston Gamblers in Week 6, and no matter what struggles this team faces, they always seem to find a way to win.
DeAndre Johnson got the start at quarterback but left the game with an injury midway through the 1st quarter. Before leaving the game, he completed 4/4 passes (100% comp) for 52 yards and a touchdown, also rushing once for 4 yards. Luis Perez would fill in for the injured Johnson and played a good game as well, completing 18/24 passes (75% comp) for 159 yards and 1 touchdown. Perez would also rush 3 times for a total of -1 yards, but scored the game-winning touchdown on a quarterback sneak.
Running backs Trey Williams and Darius Victor would split carries on the day. Williams took 16 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown, also bringing in a catch for 7 yards, while Victor totaled 16 carries for 57 yards, also catching 1 pass for 4 yards.
It was a great day for the Generals defensively, keeping the Gamblers’ offense off the field for most of the first half. The team ended the game without sacking Gamblers quarterback Clayton Thorson, but they did record 5 tackles for loss, an interception, a pass deflection, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. This week, top players for the Generals’ defense include linebacker D’Juan Hines, and cornerbacks Dravon Askew-Henry and De’Vante Bausby.
At this point, the Generals look like the clear favorite for the North Divisions 1st seed. While there are still 4 games left on the season, with a 2 game lead on the division, New Jersey will be tough to dethrone.
3. New Orleans Breakers (Last Week: 3)
The Breakers stay in the 3rd ranked spot after beating the Pittsburgh Maulers in Week 6.
Quarterback Kyle Sloter didn’t turn the ball over this week, but he was held to his lowest passing totals on the season. He’d complete 13/21 passes (61.9% comp) for only 92 yards, and ran 3 times for 14 yards.
Running back Anthony Jones took the majority of the carries against the Maulers and totaled 22 rushes for 102 yards and 1 touchdown, also bringing in 2 receptions for 20 yards on the day. Jordan Ellis also took a bit of the workload on the ground, totaling 13 carries for 47 yards and a touchdown, also catching 2 passes for 6 yards. Taywan Taylor would lead the air attack for the Breakers, totaling 5 receptions for 40 yards.
The Breakers’ defense played a great first half, keeping the Maulers without a score until after halftime. However, they’d start to let up a bit in the second half, almost allowing a 4th quarter comeback. The team totaled 1 sack, 4 tackles for loss, 4 pass deflections, and 2 interceptions, one of which was returned 97 yards for a touchdown by cornerback Ike Brown. Other top players on New Orleans’ defense include linebackers Jerod Fernandez and Vontae Diggs, and defensive end Davin Bellamy.
The Breakers find ways to win games even when their quarterback struggles, and this defense is one of the league’s best. With a 1 game lead on the South Divisions’ 2nd playoff spot and matchups against all their division rivals in the final 3 weeks of the season, the playoff race is about to really heat up.
4. Philadelphia Stars (Last Week: 5)
The Philadelphia Stars take over the 4th spot in the rankings after a win over the Tampa Bay Bandits.
The Stars leaned on the run game more than they have all season, but quarterback Case Cookus still played a decent game despite the total lack of passing yards. Cookus completed 11/20 passes (55.0% comp) for 73 yards, and 2 touchdowns, also running 4 times for 18 yards on the day.
Leading the ground attack for Philly was Matt Colburn II, who totaled 18 carries for 140 yards and 3 touchdowns, also hauling in 2 receptions for 12 yards. Darnell Holland took a bit of the workload as well, totaling 7 carries for 39 yards. Leading the air attack for Philly was tight end Bug Howard, who racked up 4 catches for 36 yards and 2 touchdowns on the day.
On the defensive side, the Stars struggled against the pass, but had their moments, totaling 3 sacks, 7 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 7 pass deflections, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. Top players on the Bandits’ defense include defensive tackle Antwan Owens, linebacker Jordan Moore, cornerback Amani Dennis, and safety Cody Brown.
Since losing quarterback Bryan Scott to an injury in week 4, the Stars have struggled to find a rhythm at times. However, head coach Bart Andrus altering his game plan to favor the run a bit more seems to be paying off. Philly is currently in 2nd place of the North Division with a record of 3-3, but with the Panthers and Maulers only 2 games behind them, and 4 games left in the regular season, they’ll have to get a few more wins if they want to lock up a playoff spot.
5. Tampa Bay Bandits (Last Week: 4)
The Bandits fall to the 5th ranked spot after a tough loss to the Philadelphia Stars.
Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu played one of his best games of the season despite the loss, completing 27/40 passes (67.5% comp) for 333 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 1 interception, also taking 9 rushes for 61 yards.
Outside of Ta’amu, Tampa Bay’s ground attack struggled, with their leading rusher being BJ Emmons, who totaled 10 carries for only 21 yards, also hauling in 2 receptions for 17 yards on the day. Leading the Bandits’ air attack were Rashard Davis, De’Quan Hampton, John Franklin III, and Cheyenne O’Grady. Davis ended the game with 3 receptions for 83 yards, while Hampton totaled 3 receptions for 55 yards and a touchdown. Cheyenne O’Grady had 3 catches for 45 yards and 2 touchdowns, with Franklin grabbing 1 catch for 13 yards and a touchdown.
The Bandits’ defense made a few great plays but overall struggled to stop the Stars rushing attack. The team totaled 1 sack, 6 tackles for loss, and a pass deflection, with top performers including linebackers Christian Sam, Greg Reaves, and Travis Feeney, along with defensive tackle Reggie Howard.
Sitting at 3rd place in the division and only 1 game behind the Breakers, the South Divisions’ 2nd playoff spot is still wide open if the Bandits can manage to take it.
6. Houston Gamblers (Last Week: 8)
The Gamblers take over the 6th ranked spot after a heartbreaking 1-point loss to the New Jersey Generals. This marks the 3rd straight week that Houston’s lost a game on a last-second touchdown.
Despite having half the time of possession as their opponents, Clayton Thorson and the Gamblers’ offense played a good game, with Thorson completing 15/19 passes (78.9% comp) for 171 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception, also taking 2 rushes for 10 yards.
While Houston’s been one of the best rushing teams in the USFL all season, they struggled against the Generals. Mark Thompson would total 11 carries for only 23 yards but made up for it in the receiving game, where he hauled in 3 receptions for 25 yards and 2 touchdowns. Daylin Dawkins also took a bit of the workload, taking 6 carries for 24 yards on the day. The team’s leading receiver outside of Thompson was Teo Redding, who ended the game with 3 receptions for 76 yards and 1 touchdown.
The Gamblers played a great game defensively despite the loss, with the team totaling 5 sacks, 7 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries, one of which was returned 56 yards for a touchdown. Highlight players on the Gamblers’ defense include defensive end Chris Odom, defensive tackle Tomasi Laulile, linebacker Donald Payne, and cornerback Micah Abernathy.
This Houston team is better than their 1-5 record, they just cannot close out games. Unfortunately, with the top of the South Division as competitive as it is, the Gamblers’ playoff hopes are basically gone at this point.
7. Michigan Panthers (Last Week: 6)
The Panthers move to the 7th spot in the rankings after taking a loss in Week 6 to the Birmingham Stallions.
Despite the loss, quarterback Shea Patterson played a good game, completing 24/35 passes (68.6% comp) for 209 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception, also rushing for 5 yards and a touchdown on 3 carries.
Leading the Panthers’ rushing attack was running back Reggie Corbin, who totaled 16 carries for 71 yards. Leading the air attack were wide receivers Lance Lenoir Jr and Devin Ross. Lenoir caught 9 passes for 82 yards on the day, while Ross totaled 7 receptions for 67 yards and 1 touchdown.
Michigan made a few big plays on defense, but couldn’t hold the Stallions from scoring when they needed to. They ended the game totaling 3 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, and 1 pass deflection, with highlight players including linebacker Frank Ginda, safety Corrion Ballard, defensive tackle T.J. Carter, and cornerback Jalin Burrell.
With all the special teams issues we’ve had in the first half of the season, it should be mentioned that in this game, Panthers’ kicker Cole Murphy converted the longest field goal attempt of any USFL team this season, nailing a 56-yarder early in the 1st quarter to get the game’s first points.
While the Panthers do seem to have improved a bit over the last few weeks, it’s going to be a tough push for a playoff spot with only 1 win under their belt at this point in the season.
8. Pittsburgh Maulers (Last Week: 7)
The Maulers fall back to the 8th spot in the rankings after a loss to the New Orleans Breakers.
After a first half where they were held without a score, Vad Lee and the Maulers almost mounted a comeback late in the game. Unfortunately, by the time everyone seemed to be on the same page, it was a bit too late. Lee ended the game completing 17/34 passes (50% comp) for 198 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions, also running 5 times for 9 yards and a touchdown.
Madre London led the rushing attack for Pittsburgh, totaling 10 carries for 50 yards on the day. While London led the team in rushing yards, Garrett Groshek led the team in carries, gaining only 7 yards on 14 carries. Leading the Maulers’ air attack were wide receivers Isiah Hennie and Delvon Hardaway, with Hennie grabbing 4 receptions for 71 yards, and Hardaway totaling 4 receptions for 33 yards. The team’s only touchdown through the air came from Bailey Gaither, who totaled 2 receptions for 29 yards and 1 touchdown on the day.
Despite the loss, the Maulers fought hard on defense, totaling 3 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, and 2 pass deflections. This week, top players for the Maulers’ defense include linebackers Dale Warren and Kyahva Tezino, and safety Bryce Torneden.
When Pittsburgh gets rolling with Vad Lee at the helm, this team can be dangerous. The issue seems to be getting everyone on the same page early enough to stay in the game. While they aren’t technically eliminated from the playoffs quite yet, with only 1 win on the season, this team will need to go on a serious winning streak if they want to secure a playoff spot.