Philadelphia Stars vs. Houston Gamblers | Week 4 Preview

Philadelphia Stars vs. Houston Gamblers | Week 4 Preview

Week four of the USFL kicks off tomorrow at Ford Field, with the Philadelphia Stars hosting the Houston Gamblers.

Both of these teams are 1-2, but have been trending in opposite directions. Philadelphia has lost two games in a row, struggling to find that spark on offense that they had towards the end of 2022.

On the other hand, Houston picked up their first win of the season against Memphis, and will look to build upon that victory this week. Curtis Johnson has found something with QB Kenji Bahar, who’s been at his best as of late.

When these two teams played in year one, it was Philadelphia who came away with a 35-24 win. Let’s take a look at the key factors ahead of this matchup, and what to expect.

Quarterback Play

Last year, Case Cookus was clearly the better quarterback, while Kenji Bahar was making his first official start of the USFL season. This time around, it’s much closer than one would think.

Cookus is one of the league’s best quarterbacks – but, he has stumbled over the past two weeks, with an average QBR of just 67. It’s been tough for Case to find much of a rhythm, given the constant pressure he’s facing due to a weak offensive line.

On the other hand, Bahar has shown plenty of growth, especially last week. He only turned the ball over once (as opposed to six times in the first two games) – and seamlessly marched Houston down the field for the game-winning score.

Kenji finished week three with 235 yards, and two touchdowns. In addition, he’s got speed, which allows him to scramble and keep plays alive. If both these quarterbacks can find their footing early on Saturday, we’ll be in for some fun football.

Standout Playmakers

Without a doubt, both of these teams feature some outstanding talent. Starting with the backfields, there’s plenty of depth. Matt Colburn and Dexter Williams struggled mightily against Pittsburgh, but should see more touches against Houston.

Meanwhile, T.J. Pledger and Mark Thompson have been sensational for Houston all year long. Pledger broke out the first couple of weeks without Thompson in the lineup – and now, Mark will have to step up with T.J. out for this weekend. The two combined for over 120 yards of offense in week three.

Philadelphia has to find a way to get one of their wide receivers going outside of Corey Coleman. Coleman’s been fantastic, but can’t do it all on his own. Devin Gray, Chris Rowland, Jordan Suell, etc. – someone has to make an impact alongside Corey.

Justin Hall is ridiculous. He came into the USFL as a sleeper candidate, but everyone’s eyes are now open, dazzled by what he can do week in and week out. Expect another big week from Hall, after posting two scores once again last weekend.

Philadelphia’s Defensive Edge

Philadelphia certainly has the advantage from a defensive perspective, as they are a unit who’s gotten better with each week. While they lost last week, this defense held Pittsburgh to five field goals, tightening up when it mattered most.

They also forced multiple turnovers in crunch time, giving their offense multiple cracks at it down the stretch. Linebacker Adam Rodridguez has been fantastic (8 tackles, 2 sacks in week three) – and will continue to be a pillar for this group moving forward.

The Stars defense is filled with studs. Cody Brown, Amani Dennis, Channing Stribling, Ali Fayad – the list goes on and on with guys who make plays on a weekly basis. Houston’s offense will have their work cut out for themselves against this unit.

Speaking of defense, the Gamblers haven’t been great this season. They continue to look like a team who lost multiple All-USFL standouts (Will Likely, Chris Odom, Donald Payne, etc.). The Memphis Showboats have not been known for their offense, yet they scored a season high against Houston.

In fact, no team has scored under 26 points against the Gamblers this season. If this is a sign of things to come, Philadelphia will be piling up the numbers against Houston this weekend.

Coaching Matchup

Houston Gamblers | Curtis Johnson: Johnson picked up his first win as a USFL head coach last week, setting up the team to make a run in the South Division, if they can keep it up. So far, Curtis has impressed despite the losing record.

Philadelphia Stars | Bart Andrus: While it hasn’t been an ideal start to the season for Philadelphia, they’ve been in this situation before. To be fair, they started the 2022 season with a 1-2 record, and then turned things around entirely. If anyone can stabilize this ship, it’s the leadership of Bart Andrus.

Final Thoughts

To be honest, this matchup could go either way. It feels like Houston has the momentum at the moment – but Case Cookus and the Philadelphia Stars are bound to break out at some point.

Either way, Saturday afternoon should be an entertaining showdown between these two teams. With tons of young talent abounding within both organizations, a higher scoring affair would be expected.

The Philadelphia Stars will host the Houston Gamblers on Saturday, at 1pm ET on FOX.

What are your thoughts on this upcoming matchup between the Houston Gamblers and Philadelphia Stars? Which USFL players will impress? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!