Week seven in the USFL has officially come and gone – bringing us plenty of excitement across the board. We were even treated to our first overtime game of the season, as New Orleans topped Michigan in thrilling fashion.
New Jersey found a way to win on Saturday, even though it wasn’t always pretty. Luis Perez did what needed to be done, while Darius Victor and Kavontae Turpin continued to shine, as they have all year long. Add in some quality minutes from guys like Trey Williams and Alonzo Moore, and you’ve got all you need in an offense. On Saturday, they did enough to clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Bandits.
This defense has shaped up to be one of the best in the league. Jordan Ta’amu could not get into a rhythm to save his life, all because of how excellent this squad played all day long. Dravon Askew-Henry showed out, grabbing two interceptions and knocking away the potential game-tying touchdown at the end. If Mike Riley’s group continues to play complete football against good teams, they’ll be well on their way to the Championship. Their dominant victory over Tampa Bay was just another example of what they’ve been doing to the USFL every week.
Tampa Bay: Identity Not Found
Tampa Bay has a lot of work to do, as the team is now under .500 for the first time this year. Ta’amu has been quite inconsistent in the USFL, which has held the Bandits back from reaching their full potential. After throwing for over 300 yards last week, Ta’amu was all out of sorts against a tough New Jersey defense. The ground game was nonexistent, which didn’t help matters much at all.
The defense has taken strides forward – but every time they do, their offense can’t hold up their side of the bargain. It seems like if the offense is in a groove, the defense can’t get stops. When Ta’amu and Co. are struggling, the defense arguably plays better. Moving forward, Todd Haley has to figure out a way to get both groups to play at a high level at the same time. Guys like Travis Feeney can’t be doing it all defensively, other players have to step up and contribute effectively.
What a night it was for Kyle Sloter, who got a massive outing from his running backs again when it was needed. Anthony Jones is a rock star, putting up excellent performances despite being in the USFL for such a short time. While Sloter had an up and down game as he usually does, this offense rallied around him when it mattered most to propel the Breakers to a huge week seven win – in overtime.
Throw it in @ItsJayAdams's direction and let him do the rest 💯
Breakers march down the field to extend their lead!
Now, the Breakers still have a lot to work on – especially defensively. After such an incredible start to the season for this group, New Orleans defense has been a bit shaky over the past few weeks. Michigan got everything they wanted on the ground, as Reggie Corbin was unstoppable on Saturday night. If it weren’t for a late missed field goal from Cole Murphy, there is a good chance that New Orleans would not have made the comeback. As the playoff push nears its end, Larry Fedora has to get this squad in check before it comes back to bite them.
Michigan: Heartbreak Repeats Itself
As for Michigan, the heartbreaking losses continue to pile up. Once again, it seemed like this game was in their hands – until it wasn’t. Josh Love deserves a lot of credit – the kid absolutely played his heart out in his first start, putting the Panthers in a position to win despite dealing with an injured thumb on his throwing hand. Love threw some beautiful balls on the night, including some that his receivers simply could not hold on to. His energy and aggressiveness was a welcome sight for Jeff Fisher, and expect Love to remain the starter moving forward.
THIS GUY IS TOUGH 💪@Josh12Love giving us everything he's got 👏👏
Michigan’s defense wasn’t perfect by any means, but they did play a decent game. Their biggest issue was the secondary, one that struggled to get stops when it mattered. Kyle Sloter had his way in the second half, even when it seemed impossible (i.e. that final pass to Jonathan Adams). The ground game was sensational, as Corbin & Co. racked up almost 200 yards rushing. It’s a shame that their elite talent cannot translate into wins, as Michigan sits at 1-6. The Panthers just cannot find a way to properly close out games, and that haunted them again versus New Orleans.
Birmingham is still undefeated – but this team shouldn’t be too proud of their performance on Sunday. The Stallions offense was not close to ideal, as J’Mar Smith and his receivers were clearly not on the same page. Bo Scarbrough was solid as expected, but overall Birmingham’s offensive unit was not nearly as potent as it usually is. If it weren’t for a fake punt that turned into a score which gave Birmingham the lead, who knows if the Stallions would have actually found their footing in the second half.
Defensively, the unit locked down Pittsburgh as expected. With their predictable game plan, it was easy to shut down the Maulers in the second half. That being said, Madre London did have an outstanding game, which is something to keep an eye on for Skip Holtz’ defense. They have been solid against the run for most of the year, but stumbled a bit in that area on Sunday. At the end of the day, though, this team is still undefeated – and officially have beaten every team in the USFL.
Pittsburgh: Fire Kirby Wilson
Now, looking at Pittsburgh…good grief. This team was about as pathetic as could be on Sunday – and it was all due to Kirby Wilson (no surprise). Wilson’s conservative, boring game plan lost the game for Pittsburgh. For example, when up 10-6 before the half and with possession of the football, Wilson was totally fine with just running the clock out, instead of being aggressive. With their season literally on the line, it made no sense. Not to mention – he yanked Vad Lee in a clutch fourth quarter situation, despite Lee performing best in those moments. Inexcusable from Wilson and the coaching staff, if we’re being brutally honest.
It’s frustrating watching Wilson handicap his own team – because they do have a lot of talent. Their defense was fantastic on Sunday, making the Stallions look silly for large chunks of the afternoon – and they effectively made Smith uncomfortable in the pocket. On top of that, Madre London added almost 100 yards of his own on the ground, but still wasn’t utilized to his full potential. At the end of the day, Vad Lee and Roland Rivers only combined for nine completed passes – a stat line you have to expect with Wilson at the helm of play calling.
Philadelphia is finding a rhythm, and they’re doing it at the right time. Bart Andrus’ offense is doing an excellent job of providing a supporting cast to Case Cookus, who is looking more and more like a starting quarterback over these past few weeks. Now, his stats weren’t incredible on Sunday – but Cookus did enough to get the job done against a spunky Houston defense. This newfound ability to run the football has worked wonders for the Stars, as they ran for over 150 yards again. If this offense can continue to gel as the playoffs approach, they will be as dangerous as anyone.
Our defense and special teams brought their A game Sunday 💯
A major factor in Philadelphia’s success has been their defense, which has shown improvements in the second half of the year. They were spectacular in the second half, shutting out the Gamblers completely after going down by 11. This group continues to make big plays when they need to, and that was evident on Sunday as they forced multiple turnovers down the stretch. Of course, the status of the Stars defense will make or break how far they can go. If they can play at this level against a team like New Jersey, Andrus can definitely take this team to the championship, even without Bryan Scott.
Houston: Second Half Tragedy
Unfortunately for Houston, week seven will be the last time they were eligible to make the playoffs. Kevin Sumlin’s group has come up short every game, and that was the case once again against Philadelphia. Clayton Thorson went down with an injury, but Kenji Bahar did not provide the team with much of an offensive punch whatsoever. Mark Thompson has been inconsistent over the past couple of weeks, and he could not get things going against the Stars, which contributed to another loss.
Similar to Michigan’s situation, it really is a shame that Houston cannot find a way to win ball games. Their defense has been one of the most explosive in the league – but they can never make those clutch stops in the big moments. Donald Payne, Chris Odom, Will Likely, etc. all made plays on Sunday, but ultimately it did not result in a win, which is the most important goal in any game. Despite leading 24-13 heading into the final quarter, the Stars unleashed a 22 point barrage that Houston could not do anything about – and it ended their season in fitting fashion.
Week seven saw two teams clinch the playoffs, as New Jersey and Birmingham both punched their tickets to Canton. Both teams have been sensational in the USFL’s 2022 season, and absolutely deserve their place in the inaugural playoffs.
The @usflstallions have booked their ticket to the inaugural USFL Playoffs! 🐎🐎🐎
Meanwhile, Houston is now eliminated – and Michigan and Pittsburgh are essentially out of the playoff race when all is said and done. The only seed that is still up for grabs resides in the south division, between New Orleans and Tampa Bay.
All of that aside, this weekend was certainly another fun slate of football games in the USFL, with each one being quite competitive. Heading into week eight, there is still a lot to be played for, so expect the quality of play to only get better as we approach the playoffs.
What did you think of week seven in the USFL? Which game was your favorite to watch? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!