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Week 2 Preview: Birmingham Stallions (1-0) vs Houston Gamblers (1-0)

The Stallions and Gamblers both snatched close victories in Week 1, and this matchup will be a good test to see how each team can build on their debut success. The race for the Southern Division title started hot, as each team won their first game vs North Division opponents, and now Birmingham & Houston have a chance to pull ahead in the South.

Can Birmingham Rally Around J’Mar Smith?

Yes. That’s my answer. Starter Alex McGough scored a TD and threw a pick, before going down with a leg injury, limping off the field. J’Mar came in and struggled at first, before establishing a connection with Osirus Mitchell and igniting the pass game. Smith led the team to a comeback, and eventual game winning drive, earning USFL Player of the Week honors in his first pro start. Now, they’ll have to go up against Houston’s strong defense and try to carry that momentum going forward.

The Stallions defense struggled mightily against the run, with QB De’Andre Johnson rushing for a league-leading 98 Yards, and former XFL standouts Trey Williams and Darius Victor combining for 120 Yards. Giving up 220+ on the ground is never a good sign, and I’d imagine DC John Chavis is dedicating a good amount of his preparation towards stopping the Gambler’s Juwan Thompson, who averaged 5.5 YPC on 71 yards last week.

Will Houston’s Offense Catch Up to its Defense?

The Gamblers’ D absolutely won their season opener. Dominant performances by Donald Payne (18 tackles), Reggie Northrup (11 tackles, 1 FF) and Ahmad Gooden (9 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 FF) paved the way to a W, but their offense only put up 181 total yards.

Clayton Thorson was 9/17 passing for 71 yards, a TD and a pick, so clearly there’s room to grow here. Kenji Bahar took a few snaps, continuing the trend of USFL Teams fielding two quarterbacks last week. I wouldn’t say Bahar is close to taking over the starting job, but if Thorson isn’t able to kickstart this offense here, his job could be up for debate. The run game fared a little better, and Juwan Thompson should look to take advantage of the Stallions Run D.

It doesn’t appear any starters are in danger of missing the game due to injury, so Houston is going into this full strength.

Injury Report

The Stallions are down QB Alex McGough, though J’Mar seems poised to solidify his job. Losing veteran DB Josh Shaw would be a blow to this secondary as they try to shut down the Gambler’s struggling pass game. The Gamblers appear in better shape, and LP designations on Tuesday is hardly cause for concern.

The Stallions and Gamblers will face off this Saturday, April 23rd at 3:00 ET on FS1.

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