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Week 3 USFL Power Rankings, Stacking The League’s Best To Worst Teams

Twenty percent of the USFL 2023 regular season is in the books. The league’s champion from a year ago remains dominant. However, there’s a changing of the guard near the top of the USFL after two weeks of play.

Let’s look at how the USFL’s teams stack up heading into Week 3.

Week 3 USFL Power Rankings

#1: Birmingham Stallions (2-0)

Despite a handful of key injuries sustained in week one, which included two standout players in QB J.’Mar Smith and WR Marlon Williams. Skip Holtz’s squad didn’t miss a beat in Week 2. The Stallions absolutely crushed the Showboats 42-2 on Saturday night.

It’s a pretty rare feat in pro sports to see a team dominate an opponent that severely. Birmingham bludgeoned Memphis into submission in Week 2, and the Showboats never stood a chance. It was total domination from the Stallions on every front: offense, defense, and special teams.

Alex McGough stepped up in week one and followed that up with an even more spectacular performance in week two—a year after completing only 52 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and three interceptions. McGough is playing at his highest level as a pro, and on Saturday, he was 21/28 for 334 yards with four touchdowns.

The home cooking has tasted very good for the Stallions in their first two games. And they’ll stay in Birmingham for Week 3 as they host the equally 2-0 New Orleans Breakers this coming Saturday afternoon. Things can’t possibly go easy for Birmingham this coming week, as they did in Week 2, or can they?

#2: Michigan Panthers (2-0)

I was wrong. It’s not the first time and certainly won’t be the last time.

Before the season started, despite believing that the Michigan Panthers would be improved from last year’s 2-8 record. Because of their continuity on offense and upgrades on defense. Nevertheless, I had Michigan ranked sixth in my preseason power rankings.

The Panthers sent a statement to the entire USFL on Sunday night, beating last year’s championship runner-up, the Philadelphia Stars, 24-10. Mike Nolan’s Michigan team is off to a tremendous start this season. And they are looking like one of the league’s most balanced teams.

A week after, Josh Love set a league completion percentage record (90%) by completing 18 of 20 passes for 215 yards and three scores. He came back down to earth, going 15 for 30, 174 yards, one score, and throwing two interceptions. However, it was RB Reggie Corbin (11-131-2tds) and the Panthers’ defense that stole the show in Week 2.

Mike Nolan’s defense smothered Case Cookus and the Stars’ high-powered passing attack. Philly’s gunslinger threw for 283 yards but was sacked four times and intercepted twice. The Panthers were relentless on both sides of the ball, controlling the line of scrimmage.

In Week 3, Michigan is coming home to Ford Field in grand style for their home opener. The Panthers get a chance to take down another top team from the North last season. The New Jersey Generals this coming Sunday afternoon.

#3: New Orleans Breakers (2-0)

New Orleans played with fire for the second week in a row but avoided getting burned late, outscoring the Houston Gamblers 38-31. The Breakers have a new look from 2022, with several off-season additions who have been difference-makers: Quarterback McLeod Bethel Thompson, TE Sage Surratt, and Week 2’s breakout star Running Back Wes Hills.

The Breakers’ defense had their struggles against Houston in Week 2, allowing 355 yards of offense. But John DeFilippo’s offense was clicking on all cylinders this past Saturday, and it was enough to shift the tide in New Orleans’s favor.

In particular, Wes Hills (110 yards/3 scores) showed some of the same dynamic skills he showed last year in the CFL. The Breakers have benefitted from tapping into talent from up north. A dynamic run game complimenting the stability displayed by grizzled veteran McLeod Bethel-Thompson should make New Orleans a formidable threat all season long.

However, the Breakers will face their stiffest challenge of the early season this coming weekend when they square off with the dominant defending champion Stallions in Birmingham. New Orleans will have to play better defense in Week 3 than they did against the Gamblers to hang tough with the champs.

#4: Philadelphia Stars (1-1)

Last week’s opening victory on the road against Memphis doesn’t look as impressive a week later. Especially after the Stallions shellacked the Showboats by forty points this past weekend, you couple that with Philly being thoroughly outplayed by Michigan. And now, you can start to wonder if the Stars can repeat what they did last season.

Philadelphia was pushed around by Michigan in Week 2. They were dominated at the line of scrimmage, and the turnovers by Case Cookus didn’t help matters (2 interceptions). But the team’s other areas faltered heavily in week two.

Against better competition and moving forward. Philly can’t afford to put all the weight of their team’s success on their passing attack, and they’ll need to be more balanced as the season goes along.

The Stars will have to dust themselves off and bounce back in Week 3 when they face another division team, the Pittsburgh Maulers.

#5: New Jersey Generals (1-1)

After a sluggish start in Canton, Mike Riley’s troops regained their groove. At least for one week, outmuscling and outlasting the Pittsburgh Maulers 20-3 on Sunday. It wasn’t pretty, but Week 2’s Generals’ effort was very reminiscent of the type of games New Jersey played last season—a disciplined Smashmouth style of play on both sides of the ball.

The Generals ran the ball 33 times for 112 yards, with Darius Victor (71 yards) predictably leading the way. Ted Cottrell’s defense smothered the Maulers with five sacks, forcing three turnovers. DeAndre Johnson bounced back from a poor Week 1 effort with a 9 of 13 for 100 yards workman-like performance. Nothing to hold your head very high about, but perhaps it’s a step in the right direction.

Pittsburgh was a temporary get-right opponent for New Jersey in Week 2, and the jury is still out on whether the Generals can be as good as they were last season. In Week 3, they will face a much more formidable opponent in the 2-0 Michigan Panthers.

#6: Houston Gamblers (0-2)

By default, the Gamblers are sixth in this week’s rankings. Only because the two teams below them were pitiful in Week 2, to their credit, Houston had a much better showing for themselves this past weekend, and they fought well in losing 38-31 to New Orleans.

Quarterback Kenji Bahar rebounded from a sluggish Week one, with 266 yards passing and three touchdowns. However, he did throw three interceptions. But it was an improvement from the week prior, nonetheless. Houston’s true bright spot in week two was WR Justin Hall, who had a breakout performance for Houston. He had eight receptions for 110 yards and two scores. Longtime NFL WR and current Gamblers coach Curtis Johnson may have found himself a hidden gem.

The return of league standout runner Mark Thompson, coupled with T.J. Pledger at running back. Along with the return of WR Isaiah Zuber from the NFL, could give Houston more hope moving forward, at least on the offensive side of things.

The Gamblers’ defense is still a significant problem area. Houston can’t stop anyone on that side of the ball right now. For the second week in a row, an opponent moved the ball at will against them. Perhaps the team Houston faces in Week 3, Memphis, will help them notch their first win of the season.

#7: Memphis Showboats (0-2)

To paraphrase legendary comedian Chris Rock. The Memphis Showboats went from an almost grand opening in week one to a grand closing in week two. A week after, Todd Haley’s team showed great promise in a competitive struggle in their home opener against Philadelphia. The Showboats were thoroughly humiliated in Week 2 against Birmingham.

Todd Haley took exception to how his team was thrashed 42-2 by the Stallions on Saturday night. After the game, Haley was caught on FOX taking issue with Birmingham’s Skip Holtz for running up the score late. Haley told Holtz “that we’ll remember it.”

Saturday was the kind of game for Memphis you’d like to forget, if possible.

The 0-2 Showboats return to Memphis to play as the designated road team against the equally 0-2 Houston Gamblers next Saturday night. Todd Haley’s team hopes that they don’t repeat the same performance in primetime again on FOX.

#8: Pittsburgh Maulers (0-2)

A week after generating a pitiful 166 yards of offense in Week One. The Maulers’ offense outdid that lowly feat by amassing 156 yards in week two against New Jersey in a 20-3 loss. They have gone two weeks now without scoring an offensive touchdown. The leather helmet-like performance by Pittsburgh in Week 2 was ideally suited for the setting of Canton, Ohio.

Much like a week ago, Ray Horton’s defense was game. At least for a little while. The Maulers battled hard on that side of the fence. But their ineptitude offensively gave Pittsburgh an unrealistic shot at staying competitive for four quarters. To make matters worse, star defensive player Reuben Foster went down late in the game with a left shoulder injury. No word on his status yet. But it would be unfortunate for Foster, who hasn’t played pro football since 2018, to be back on the shelf again.

The colors may have changed from last season to black and yellow. But the Maulers look very similar to 2022. In Week 3, Pittsburgh will head to Detroit to face Philadelphia. There’s no turning back now. But the team feels like it needs a do-over to restart 2023 again.

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