New Orleans Breakers (1-0) @ Tampa Bay Bandits (1-0)
Sunday, April 24th, at 12 pm PT on NBC.
The New Orleans Breakers are set to face the Tampa Bay Bandits in one of the more exciting matchups of the USFL’s season. Both teams remain undefeated after the opening weekend, but only 1 will remain without a loss after meeting in week 2.
With only 3 weeks of practice leading up to Week 1, there was a bit of rust for players to work off throughout the league, and teams will likely continue figuring things out this week.
New Orleans Breakers
There was room for improvement, but the Breakers look like one of the league’s better teams after a Week 1 win over the Philadelphia Stars.
Many, including myself, expected quarterback Kyle Sloter to come out the gates as one of the league’s top quarterbacks, but New Orleans’ pass game struggled in Week 1. Sloter ended the game having completed 17/27 passes for 150 yards and 1 interception.
The highlight of the Breakers’ offense would be running backs Jordan Ellis and TJ Logan. Ellis ended the day with 18 carries for 89 yards and 1 touchdown, with TJ Logan rushing 15 times for 56 yards and 1 touchdown, also hauling in 4 receptions for 38 yards. Tight End Sal Canella led the team in receiving yards, bringing in 6 receptions for 58 yards.
While the offense had its moments, the story of the game was defensive end Davin Bellamy and the team’s defense.
Davin Bellamy came out on a mission and recorded 3 sacks in the 1st quarter against the Stars. He’d end the day with 6 tackles (4 solo) and provided constant pressure on Stars quarterback Bryan Scott. The Breakers totaled 6 sacks on the day, along with an interception by linebacker Vontae Diggs, and 2 forced fumbles by defensive tackles Shakir Soto and defensive end Shareef Miller. Other notable names on the Breakers’ defense are linebacker Jerod Fernandez and defensive end Anree Saint-Amour.
Despite the early quarterback struggles in Week 1, this is a Breakers team loaded with talent that will likely be a problem throughout the season.
Tampa Bay Bandits
The Bandits came out the gates swinging in their Week 1 game against the Pittsburgh Maulers, and look like one of the league’s better teams to begin the season.
Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu marched down the field on the game’s opening drive, throwing for 68 yards on 8 plays, and capping the drive off with a rushing touchdown by BJ Emmons. They’d score 17 points in the 1st half and held their opponent without points until the 3rd quarter. Unfortunately, the Bandits’ offensive success didn’t continue in the 2nd half.
Ta’amu ended the game having completed 20/32 passes for 185 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. However, one of the interceptions was tipped up in the air by his own receiver, and the other was a shot downfield in an attempt to score before the end of the 1st half. BJ Emmons finished the game with 19 carries for 40 yards and 1 touchdown, also bringing in 3 receptions for 23 yards. The team’s leading receiver was tight-end Cheyenne O’Grady, who had 8 receptions for 86 yards on the day. Jordan Lasley had the team’s only touchdown through the air, ending the day with 3 receptions for 21 yards and 1 touchdown.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bandits were in bend but don’t break mode for the entire game. Maulers running backs were continuously running into the wall that was the Bandits’ defense throughout, with Pittsburgh’s only points coming on a 46-yard field goal late in the 3rd quarter. Tampa Bay had 3 sacks on the day, coming from defensive tackle Reggie Howard, defensive end Zac Dawe, and linebacker Travis Feeny. Other notable names on the Bandits’ defense are defensive back Quenton Meeks and linebacker Emmanuel Beal.
While they did seem to stutter out offensively in the second half, this team is still one of the more high-powered units in the league. Ta’amu and the Bandits will have their work cut out for them against a talented Breakers team in Week 2.
It’s early in the season, and both teams are still figuring things out, but The New Orleans vs. Tampa Bay series has the potential to be one of the most exciting matchups of the USFL’s season. These teams will meet at least 2 times during the 2022 season. Once in Week 2 and again in Week 9, with the potential of meeting a 3rd time in the playoffs.