Through 8 weeks of the USFL’s season, the playoff picture is becoming a bit clearer. Three teams have been officially eliminated from playoff contention, and the race for the final playoff spot in the South Divison is starting to really heat up.
1. Birmingham Stallions (Last Week: 1)
The Stallions are still undefeated through 8 weeks and hold onto the top spot after an ugly, low-scoring win over the New Orleans Breakers.
It wasn’t the best day for quarterback J’Mar Smith, who completed 15/29 passes (51.7% comp) for 183 yards, 1 touchdown, and an interception, also rushing 7 times for 45 yards, and fumbling twice on the day. However, he played well enough for them to barely squeeze out the win.
Running back Bo Scarbrough continued to take the majority of the carries for Birmingham, but didn’t have quite as much as he has in recent weeks, totaling 14 attempts for 54 yards, and grabbing 2 passes for 5 yards. Wide receiver Marlon Williams led the air attack, totaling 7 receptions for 109 yards. The team’s only touchdown came from wide receiver Adrian Hardy, who had 3 receptions for 43 yards and a touchdown on the day.
On the defensive side, linebacker Scooby Wright returned to the lineup, and the team played a solid game, totaling a sack, 2 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, 10 pass deflections, and a forced fumble. Top players on the Stallions in Week 8 include safeties Christian McFarland and Jojo Tillery, along with linebacker DeMarquis Gates.
Kicker Bandon Aubrey, the most consistent kicker in the USFL, had his worst game of the season, converting only 1 field goal on 3 total attempts.
Good teams find a way to win, and the Stallions did just that after picking off Breakers quarterback Kyle Sloter in the game’s final seconds. Birmingham’s officially locked up the South Division’s 1st seed with this win.
2. New Jersey Generals (Last Week: 2)
The Generals steamrolled the Maulers in Week 7, keeping them locked into the 2nd ranked spot and locking up the North Division’s 1st seed.
Quarterback De’Andre Johnson was back on the active roster after suffering an injury a few weeks ago, but with a playoff spot already locked up, Mike Riley decided to give Luis Perez the start. Perez played a great game, completing 18/24 passes (75% comp) for 220 yards and a touchdown.
Running back Darius Victor led the rushing attack and had a phenomenal day, totaling 17 carries for 87 yards and 3 touchdowns, also catching 1 pass for 19 yards. Trey Williams also took a bit of the workload, taking 12 carries for 66 yards on the day. Wide receiver KaVontae Turpin led the air attack, hauling in 5 receptions for 83 yards and 1 touchdown, also rushing twice for 10 yards on the day.
Defensively, the Generals played a good game, and while they let the Maulers score relatively early, they’d keep them out of the endzone for almost the entire rest of the game. The team totaled 1 sack, 4 tackles for loss, 1 interception, and 6 pass deflections, with highlight players including linebackers D’Juan Hines and Chris Orr, and cornerback Dravon Askew-Henry.
With their final two games against division opponents, but a playoff spot already secured, I’d expect the Generals to play things safe with starting quarterback De’Andre Johnson leading up to the postseason. The team has been very successful with Luis Perez in Johnson’s absence, so there’s no reason to risk losing one of your best pieces at this point.
3. New Orleans Breakers (Last Week: 3)
The Breakers hang onto the 3rd spot despite a sloppy and low-scoring loss against the league’s best Birmingham Stallions.
It was a rough day for quarterback Kyle Sloter, who ended the game completing 23/40 passes (57.5% comp) for 251, 0 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions, also fumbling once.
Running backs Jordan Ellis and Anthony Jones split carries on the day, with Ellis totaling 11 carries for 41 yards, while Jones totaled 10 rushes for 27 yards, and 1 touchdown. Wide receiver Taywan Taylor led the air attack, hauling in 4 receptions for 76 yards.
New Orleans’ defense played a solid game despite the loss, totaling 4 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 5 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries. In Week 8, top players on the Breakers’ defense include linebackers Jerod Fernandez and Vontae Diggs, defensive tackle Connor Christian, and defensive end Davin Bellamy.
While they did take a loss in a pretty embarrassing fashion, they did hang in there with the best teams in the USFL, and are still 2nd place in the South Division. However, they’ll need to clean things up in their final 2 games if they want to lock up the 2nd seed.
4. Philadelphia Stars (Last Week: 4)
The Stars stay in the 4th ranks spot after a dominant win over the Michigan Panthers, which locks them into the 2nd playoff spot in the North Division.
Quarterback Case Cookus played an amazing game, completing 20/26 passes (76.9% comp) for 247 yards, and 4 touchdowns, also rushing 4 times for 118 yards and a touchdown.
Running back Matt Colburn II took the majority of the carries for Philly, totaling 16 rushes for 48 yards and a touchdown, also grabbing 3 receptions for 49 yards and 1 touchdown. The team’s leading receiver was tight end Pro Wells, who totaled 1 catch for 51 yards and a touchdown. However, wide receivers Jordan Suell and Devin Gray each hauled in a touchdown as well.
Besides allowing Michigan to score 18 points in the 2nd quarter, the Stars played a great game defensively. While they didn’t sack Panthers quarterback Paxton Lynch once, they did total 4 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 6 pass deflections, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. Highlight players on the Stars’ defense this week include cornerback Channing Stribbling, linebacker Gabriel Sewell Jr, and safety Ahmad Dixon.
Philly’s been playing some great football lately, and with a playoff spot already locked up, it’s going to be interesting to see how they handle the rest of the season.
5. Tampa Bay Bandits (Last Week: 5)
The Bandits hold onto the 5th ranked spot after a win over the Houston Gamblers, inching them closer to a potential playoff push.
Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu had a decent day despite the loss, completing 12/21 passes (57.1% comp) for 98 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception, also rushing 4 times for 35 yards.
Juwan Washington led the team in rushing, taking 20 carries for 60 yards on the day. However, running back BJ Emmons also took a bit of the workload, totaling 12 carries for 51 yards on the day, also grabbing 1 catch for a yard. Wide receiver Rashard Davis led the team’s air attack, hauling in 3 receptions for 37 yards on the day.
Tampa Bay played a great game defensively, keeping the Gamblers’ offense out of the endzone for the entire game. They’d total 4 sacks, 6 tackles for loss, 1 interception, and 4 pass deflections, with highlight players including linebacker Anthony Butler, safety Antonio Reed, and cornerback Quenten Meeks.
With the Bandits only 1 game behind the Breakers after week 8, Tampa Bay still has a shot to steal a playoff spot from New Orleans if things fall in their favor. Week 9’s matchup against the Breakers will have a lot on the line.
6. Houston Gamblers (Last Week: 7)
That Gamblers take over the 6th ranked spot after a hard-fought game by their defense. Unfortunately, the offense couldn’t help them out enough to pull off a win against the Tampa Bay Bandits, officially eliminating Houston from the playoffs.
With Clayton Thorson out for the rest of the season with an injury, Kenji Bahar got the start at quarterback for Houston, completing 19/34 passes (55.9% comp) for 159 yards, a touchdown, and an interception, also taking 7 rushes for 49 yards.
Leading Houston’s rushing attack was running back Devwah Whaley, who totaled 11 carries for 31 yards, also grabbing 4 passes for 26 yards. Wide receiver Teo Redding led the air attack, hauling in 5 receptions for 44 yards on the day.
Houston’s defense was the highlight of their team, totaling 4 sacks, 2 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 2 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. Top players on the Gamblers’ defense include linebackers Donald Payne and Reggie Northrup, defensive end Chris Odom, and cornerback Will Likely.
It’s a shame the Gamblers’ offense hasn’t been able to help the defense much this season. Now that they’ve officially been eliminated from the playoffs, it’s time for coach Sumlin to start looking for things to build on for next season.
7. Michigan Panthers (Last Week: 6)
The Panthers fall to the 7th spot after a tough loss to the Philadelphia Stars, which officially eliminates them from the playoffs.
Paxton Lynch got the start at quarterback and completed 27/40 passes (67.5% comp) for 251 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions, also rushing 7 times for 20 yards and a touchdown.
Leading the ground attack was Cameron Scarlett, who totaled 5 receptions for 35 yards, also grabbing 3 receptions for 19 yards and a touchdown. While Scarlett led the team in rushing yards, Stevie Scott III led the team in attempts, taking 11 carries for 29 yards, also catching 2 passes for 19 yards. wide receiver La’Michael Pettway led that air attack, hauling in 7 receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown on the day.
Michigan could not keep the Stars out of the endzone but had their moments on defense. The team totaled 3 sacks, 5 tackles for loss. and a pass deflection, with highlight players including linebacker Frank Ginda, cornerback Jalen Burrell, and safety Sean Williams Jr.
The Panthers have looked better as the season’s gone on, but they haven’t been able to fully pull things together. After being officially eliminated from the playoffs, it’s time to focus on letting guys get some film and looking at what they can build on for next season.
8. Pittsburgh Maulers (Last Week: 8)
Who could’ve guessed that going into a game against one of the league’s most formidable opponents with your 4th quarterback wouldn’t work? Not Kirby Wilson! After their Week 7 loss to the Generals, the Maulers have been officially eliminated from the playoffs.
Roland Rivers got the start at quarterback and played a decent game despite the loss, completing 18/38 passes (47.4% comp) for 218 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception, also rushing 6 times for 28 yards and 1 touchdown.
Contrary to their usual game plan, the Maulers actually leaned away from the run game, giving Garrett Groshek only 8 carries for 25 yards and Madre London only 4 carries for 12 yards. The teams leading receivers were wide receivers Isiah Hennie and DelVon Hardaway. Hennie hauled in 6 receptions for 60 yards and a touchdown, while Hardaway totaled 3 receptions for 64 yards.
The defense struggled mightily against the high-powered Generals offense, totaling 1 tackle for loss, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 fumble recovery on the day. This week, the top players on Pittsburgh’s defense include linebackers Kyahva Tezino and Dale Warren, along with safety Bryce Tornaden.
It’s been an unfortunate season for the Maulers, mainly due to the countless poor decisions of their head coach. While Kirby Wilson’s surely brought some attention to the USFL, but it’s all been negative attention. It’d be good for the league to move on following this season. We’ve seen players like Josh Love struggle with Pittsburgh, get released, and then find some level of success on the Michigan Panthers. Players seeing this would have to think the same might happen to them if they were on a team with more functional leadership, which would only worsen the things for the Maulers.
Stay with USFL News Hub to the road to the playoffs.