There was no shortage of excitement in Week 7 as two of the USFL’s playoff spots were officially locked up, and we witnessed the first-ever shootout overtime in league history. While there’s still a bit to be determined before the full playoff bracket is finalized, it’s looking significantly more favorable for a few specific teams to lock up those final spots.
1. Birmingham Stallions (Last Week: 1)
The Stallions are still number 1 after beating the Pittsburgh Maulers, keeping them undefeated and locking up a South Division playoff spot.
J’Mar Smith got the start at quarterback and had a tough time against the Maulers’ defense. He ended the day completing only 9/24 passes (37.5% comp) for 138 yards and an interception, also taking 5 carries for 8 yards.
Running back Bo Scarbrough led the ground attack for Birmingham, totaling 27 carries for 100 yards. Additionally, fullback Bobby Holly made a great play on a fake punt, taking his lone rush 52 yards for a touchdown. The team’s leading receiver was Victor Bolden Jr, who grabbed only 1 reception for 53 yards.
The Stallions’ defense had a bit of a slow start, but after allowing a touchdown in the 1st quarter, they’d keep the Maulers out of the endzone for the rest of the game. The team totaled 3 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, 3 pass deflections, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. Top players on the Stallions’ defense include defensive tackles Willie Henry and Willie Yarbary, linebacker Terrill Hanks, and safety Tyree Robinson.
The Stallions have officially locked up a playoff spot and have looked like the best team in the league all season. However, with injuries stacking up and home-field advantage ending in only a few weeks, it will be interesting to see how the team handles these final 3 weeks and if head coach Skip Holtz can keep things rolling.
2. New Jersey Generals (Last Week: 2)
The Generals are still ranked number 2 after a win over the Tampa Bay Bandits that locks them into a playoff spot.
With DeAndre Johnson still out with an injury, Luis Perez led the way for the Generals at quarterback and played well. Perez ended the game completing 19/25 passes (76.0% comp) for 174 yards and 1 touchdown on the day.
Leading the Generals rushing attack was Darius Victor, who came into the game leading the league in rushing touchdowns. Victor totaled 14 carries for 72 yards and 1 touchdown against the Bandits, also catching 3 passes for 19 yards. Trey Williams also took a bit of the workload, taking 8 carries for 14 yards on the day. Wide receiver Alonzo Moore led the air attack, totaling 4 receptions for 69 yards. However, the team’s only touchdown through the air came from KaVontae Turpin, who totaled 2 receptions for 20 yards and 1 touchdown, along with 4 carries for 13 yards.
The Generals played a great game defensively, forcing a handful of turnovers and keeping the Bandits’ offense in check for most of the game. The team totaled 3 sacks, 9 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, and 8 pass deflections. Top players for the Generals’ defense include cornerback Dravon Askew-Henry, and linebackers Chris Orr and D’Juan Hines.
With New Jersey having locked up a playoff spot in the North Division, starting quarterback DeAndre Johnson recovering from an injury, and their final 3 games all coming against division opponents, it will be interesting to see how they handle the rest of the season.
3. New Orleans Breakers (Last Week: 3)
The Breakers stay in the 3rd ranked spot after taking the USFL’s first-ever shootout overtime win over the Michigan Panthers.
Kyle Sloter got the start at quarterback, but some early struggles gave backup Zach Smith a chance to see the field as well. Sloter ended the game completing 15/24 passes (62.5% comp) for 182 yards and 2 touchdowns, also taking 2 carries for 3 yards and rushing in for the game-winning points in overtime. Zach Smith ended the game completing 5/8 passes (62.5% comp) for 46 yards and 1 touchdown, also rushing twice for 18 yards.
Running backs Jordan Ellis and Anthony Jones led the ground attack for New Orleans. Ellis ended the day with 7 carries for 42 yards and 3 receptions for 26 yards, while Jones took 11 carries for 34 yards and hauled in 2 receptions for 33 yards and a touchdown. The teams leading receivers were Johnnie Dixon and tight end Sal Canella, with Dixon totaling 3 receptions for 44 yards, and Canella hauling in 4 receptions for 40 yards and a touchdown on the day.
The defense played well throughout their first 3 quarters but started to fall off in the 4th, allowing the Panthers to take the lead and eventually force overtime. The team totaled 1 sack, 4 tackles for loss, and 8 pass deflections on the day, with highlight players including safeties Greg Eisworth II and Jarey Elder, along with linebackers Jerod Fernandez and Vontae Diggs.
The Breakers are getting closer to locking up a playoff spot, but with their next 3 games all against division opponents, they’ll have a bit more work to do before anything is certain.
4. Philadelphia Stars (Last Week: 4)
The Stars are still ranked 4th after a close win over the Houston Gamblers, moving them 3 games ahead of both the Panthers and the Maulers in the North Division Playoff race.
Quarterback Case Cookus was under heavy pressure throughout the game and forced a few turnovers because of it. However, he still played a good enough game to get the win, leading his team to score 22 points in the 4th quarter to take the lead and seal the victory. Cookus ended the game completing 21/31 passes (67.7% comp) for 163 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions, also running 3 times for 28 yards.
Matt Colburn II led the rushing attack, totaling 21 carries for 75 yards and 1 touchdown, also grabbing 4 receptions for 14 yards on the day. Darnell Holland took a bit of the workload as well, taking 7 carries for 49 yards and 1 touchdown, also grabbing 1 catch for 7 yards. The team’s leading receiver was Jordan Suell, who totaled 7 receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown.
The Stars’ defense struggled in the first half but came up big late in the game when the team needed them most. Philly’s defense totaled 6 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 4 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries, with highlight players including cornerback Channing Stribbling, defensive end Adam Rodriguez, and linebackers James Crawford and Jordan Moore.
While they haven’t officially locked up a playoff spot quite yet, with a 3 game lead on both of the teams behind them in the North Division, and only 3 games left in the season, it seems like it’s only a matter of time.
5. Tampa Bay Bandits (Last Week: 5)
The Bandits stay in the 5th spot after a rough loss to the New Jersey Generals.
Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu had one of his worst games of the season, completing 17/37 passes (45.9% comp) for 237 yards, 1 touchdown, and 3 interceptions, also rushing 7 times for 18 yards. While much of the blame should go on Ta’amu, nobody on the team was helping him out. The Bandits had tons of dropped passes, questionable play calls, bad snaps, and more throughout the game, which certainly didn’t help the offensive production.
The team’s leading rusher was Juwan Washington, who totaled 8 carries for 41 yards and 2 catches for 11 yards on the day. Leading the air attack were wide receiver Vinny Papale and tight end Cheyenne O’Grady. Papale hauled in 4 receptions for 68 yards, with O’Grady bringing in 2 catches for 43 yards. Tampa Bay’s only touchdown would be caught by John Franklin III, who only caught 1 pass on 6 targets but took his lone reception 20 yards for a score.
The Bandits made some good plays defensively but couldn’t stop the Generals from stretching the lead out of reach. The team totaled 2 sacks, 6 tackles for loss, 1 pass deflection, and a forced fumble, with top players including linebackers Christian Sam and Anthony Butler, and cornerback Quenton Meeks.
While the Bandits aren’t technically eliminated from the playoffs quite yet, it will take a heck of a run and a few losses from the Breakers for them to snag a spot in the post-season.
6. Michigan Panthers (Last Week: 7)
The Panthers take over the 6th spot in the rankings after losing to the New Orleans Breakers in the USFL’s first-ever shootout overtime.
Former Maulers quarterback, Josh Love, was recently signed by Michigan and got the start against the Breakers. Love played well in his first appearance with the Panthers, ending the game completing 18/37 passes (48.6% comp) for 179 yards, also running 4 times for 16 yards.
Leading Michigan’s ground attack was the committee of Reggie Corbin, Cameron Scarlett, and Stevie Scott III. Corbin ended the game taking 13 carries for 108 yards, with Scarlett and Scott each scoring a touchdown on the day. Wide receiver Lance Lenoir Jr led the team in receiving, totaling 3 receptions for 47 yards.
Defensively, the Panthers started strong and had some great moments throughout the game, but they couldn’t hang with the Breakers’ high-powered offense when things mattered most in overtime. Michigan totaled 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss, 3 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries. Top players on the Panthers’ defense include linebacker Frank Ginda, cornerback Jameson Houston, and safeties Sean Williams Jr and Kieron Williams.
While their newly signed quarterback Josh Love has definitely brought a spark to this team, their playoff hopes are nearly gone at this point in the season.
7. Houston Gamblers (Last Week: 6)
The Gamblers fall to the 7th spot after losing to the Philadelphia Stars, which officially eliminates them from the playoffs.
Quarterback Clayton Thorson got the start but banged up his elbow and was replaced by backup Kenji Bahar just before halftime. Before getting injured, Thorson completed 8/12 passes (66.7% comp) for 70 yards, also taking 2 carries for 5 yards. Bahar played well in Thorson’s place, but some costly mistakes late in the game sealed their fate. Bahar ended the game completing 10/13 passes (76.9% comp) for 101 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception.
Mark Thompson led the team in rushing, but had far from his best day, taking 13 carries for only 47 yards and 1 touchdown. Houston’s leading receiver was Teo Redding, who hauled in 4 receptions for 58 yards on the day. However, their only touchdown through the air came from tight end Brandon Barnes.
The Gamblers’ defense came out the gates hot and kept Philly’s quarterback Case Cookus under heavy pressure for most of the game despite not recording a single sack. Unfortunately, Houston’s defense let the Stars score a total of 22 points in the 4th quarter, allowing Philly to take the lead and add another Gamblers loss to the books. The team ended the game with 4 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions (one of which was returned for a touchdown by linebacker Donald Payne), and 3 pass deflections. Top players for Houstons’ defense in Week 7 include linebacker Donald Payne, defensive tackle Domenique Davis, and defensive back Jeremiah Johnson.
While their defense plays as good as any team in the league at times, the team as a whole cannot close out games, having lost their last 6 in a row. With the Gamblers having officially been eliminated from the playoffs with their most recent loss, it will be interesting to see how Kevin Sumlin handles the rest of the season.
8. Pittsburgh Maulers (Last Week: 8)
The Maulers are clearly the worst team in the USFL, but not due to their personnel, it’s due to coach Kirby Wilson’s poor playcalling, bad clock management, and various other questionable decisions made consistently throughout the season.
Vad Lee got the start at quarterback, completing 6/14 passes (42.9% comp) for only 58 yards before getting benched for “body language”. Newly signed backup quarterback Roland Rivers took over for Lee in the 4th quarter during the game’s most critical moments and only completed 3/9 passes (33.3% comp) for 25 yards. Roland Rivers two drives ended with a turnover on downs and a missed 52-yard field goal.
Despite the loss, running back Madre London had a great game, taking 18 carries for 99 yards and 1 touchdown. Leading the air attack was fullback Mikey Daniel who totaled 2 receptions for 21 yards on the day.
Pittsburgh’s defense came out the gates hot and played a great first half, but started to fade a bit after halftime. The team totaled 3 sacks, 8 tackles for loss, 1 interception, and 6 pass deflections on the day. Top players on the Maulers’ defense include linebacker Kyahva Tezino, along with safeties Bryce Tornaden and Malcolm Elmore.
Kirby Wilson seems to blame his players for the team’s faults, which their frequently changing personnel backs up. However, the actual problem with the Maulers is that coach Wilson is prioritizing his total control of the team rather than trying to actually win any football games. Pittsburgh has some talented players on the roster that deserve significantly more than what they’re getting out of this opportunity in the USFL.
Stay with USFL News Hub to the road to the playoffs.