Reviewing USFL Week Eight: Major Takeaways From Each Matchup

Week eight in the USFL has come and gone. Once again, fans were treated to plenty of entertainment throughout the weekend’s slate of games. Some high scoring, some low scoring, but all were at least relatively competitive.

During week eight, Philadelphia punched their ticket to the playoffs. Meanwhile, New Orleans lost a bit of the stronghold they had on the second seed in the South.

Let’s take a look at what all went down in week eight, and what it means for each franchise moving forward.

New Jersey vs. Pittsburgh | Generals 29, Maulers 18

Despite clinching a playoff spot last week, New Jersey clearly came to play on Friday night. Luis Perez was fantastic, putting on a show. He made the right reads time and time again, setting up his playmakers for success. Darius Victor was absolutely incredible as expected, with over 100 total yards on the day alongside three touchdowns. With the offense firing on all cylinders, it’s hard to see anyone stopping them anytime soon. Friday night was another excellent example of how good this team is, when guys like Victor, Trey Williams, and KaVontae Turpin are all on the same page.

Defensively, New Jersey has become one of the best groups in the league. They effectively shut down Pittsburgh for most of the night, and withstood their late comeback attempt. Dravon Askew-Henry and Shalom Luani have been sensational for Mike Riley this season, and that shouldn’t change anytime soon. Not surprisingly, this team clinched the North Division with a dominant victory over Pittsburgh, playing complete football on both sides.

Roland Rivers Shows Potential

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, had a rough outing. Now, they did improve quite a bit in the second half. Roland Rivers got his first start (poor Vad Lee…) – and found a groove down the stretch. His playmaking abilities were put on full display when Pittsburgh began to make their comeback. Rivers has a very strong arm, and can also run when needed. Unfortunately for the Maulers, they were unable to capitalize on some of the opportunities they had in the fourth quarter, which prevented them from overcoming the deficit they faced.

Ramiz Ahmed has been one of the USFL’s best kickers, knocking through a 61 yarder which was extremely impressive. Defensively, there’s only so much the Maulers could do to try and stop Darius Victor and Co. Hats off to Pittsburgh for holding New Jersey to only six points in that second half. As has been the case all season long – if Kirby Wilson could make the right adjustments, Pittsburgh does have the talent to win more games. Unfortunately, they’ve been handicapped by the play calling of Wilson, which once again haunted them against New Jersey.

Birmingham vs. New Orleans | Stallions 10, Breakers 9

Well, this game was not exactly that we expected. Defense controlled the game from start to finish, with Birmingham’s defense doing just a tad bit more to come away with a win. Scooby Wright being back in the lineup was a welcomed sight, as he made impactful plays all day long, as expected. Skip Holtz’ group stepped up in a big way on Saturday, shutting down Kyle Sloter and Anthony Jones for most of the day. Birmingham has had one of the best defensive units in the league, and that was clearly evident in week eight.

On the other hand, the offense was pretty ugly. J’Mar Smith did have a decent outing, but dropped passes and offensive miscues kept them from scoring much at all. Bo Scarbrough was contained relatively well, which made it difficult to score. Two missed kicks, and a fumble at the one yard line, stopped this team from reaching 20 points like they normally would. If Birmingham wants to be taken seriously as an 8-0 team, these errors have to be improved upon moving forward.

Breakers Starting To…Break?

New Orleans has to be frustrated with this loss. They could’ve taken a giant step forward towards clinching the playoffs, but instead have left the door wide open for Tampa Bay. The offense could not find a way to execute much of anything at all, leaving Larry Fedora empty handed at the end of the day. Anthony Jones and Jordan Ellis were limited on Saturday, putting a lot of weight on Sloter’s shoulders. This is never a good thing, because Sloter then tries to do too much.

Defensively, the team played a heck of a game. New Orleans has not been a good defensive team in the second half of the season – but they were excellent against Birmingham. If it weren’t for their offense’s inability to consistently score points, the Breakers likely would have won the game. Taylor Bertolet really struggled as well, missing multiple field goals and an extra point – the team lost by one. Again, mental errors have to be improved upon, otherwise this team risks a playoff collapse.

Michigan vs. Philadelphia | Stars 46, Panthers 24

Case. Freaking. Cookus. My. Goodness. Cookus has been improving as a playmaker over the past couple of weeks, but Sunday was absolutely incredible. Cookus threw for almost 250 yards, and four touchdowns – but also ran for over 100 yards and a touchdown on the ground as well. He should have been wearing a Lamar Jackson jersey on Sunday, because that’s what he looked like out there. If this offense can continue to hum at this level, look out. New Jersey hasn’t officially punched their ticket to the championship game quite yet.

Luis Aguilar has been an excellent addition in the kicking game, being a major improvement over Matt Mengel who had a hard time this year. Meanwhile, the defense is playing great football, making strides forward week in and week out. The second Michigan started to mount a comeback, Channing Stribling and the rest of those ballhawks made Paxton Lynch’s life miserable. Bart Andrus has got to be quite pleased with how this group looks, as they are certainly ready to play in the postseason.

Michigan: The Same Ol’ Story

Michigan continues to shoot themselves in the foot. Against Philadelphia, the offense just could not find a rhythm in the second half. Paxton Lynch actually played quite well in his return from injury, but was severely outmanned in the third and fourth quarters. The team sincerely missed Reggie Corbin, who got injured during the early goings, and never returned. Turnovers were the difference in the second half, as Lynch and Co. could not take care of the football, which has been an ongoing problem for this group.

As for the defense, Sunday was an absolute disaster. This team could not stop Philadelphia to save their lives. The Stars put up a season high 46 points, which ties The Spring League for the most points scored in a game over the past few years in spring football (not counting the FCF/arena). It’s strange, because Michigan’s defense has been one of their strongest points all year long. But, now that their offense has finally been able to put up points here and there, their defense has been pitiful. With this loss, the Panthers were officially eliminated from the playoffs – something that we figured would happen soon.

Houston vs. Tampa Bay | Bandits 13, Gamblers 3

Tampa Bay should not be too proud of this victory. The team saw very little offensive success, struggling to get into a rhythm all evening long. Penalties, mental errors, and poor decisions left the Bandits scraping at the bottom of the barrel to find points. If it weren’t for Houston’s inability to score at all, Tampa Bay very well could have lost. Now, the one bright spot offensively is that Juwan Washington and BJ Emmons ran the football better than they have in prior weeks. If this can become a trend, Tampa will have a chance at making the postseason. If they can provide some support to Jordan Ta’amu, it makes his life a whole lot easier.

What legitimately gives this team a chance is their improved defense. Similar to Philadelphia, Tampa’s defense was quite bad in the first half of the year. Over the past few weeks, those numbers have shown growth. On Sunday, Tampa Bay suffocated Houston’s offense, only allowing three points and creating multiple turnovers. Can Todd Haley’s group continue to play like this? Who knows. Heck, Houston is 1-7 after all, and were missing their three main playmakers). Regardless, Sunday was a step in the right direction.

Houston’s Battered Offense

As for Houston, Sunday was about as ugly as it could get. Only one field goal was made the entire day. However, the team should be given a bit of slack. Kevin Sumlin was missing most of his offense, as Clayton Thorson, Mark Thompson, and Isaiah Zuber were all missing in action on Sunday. Kenji Bahar wasn’t awful in his first start, but clearly did not have that x-factor to give the Gamblers any life at all. At this point, Houston’s season is over – and it looked like it on Sunday. This offense played with zero heart, leading to another tough loss.

Defensively, Houston did what they’ve been doing all year long: play solid football. Chris Odom was sensational (no surprise), while playmakers such as Donald Payne and Reggie Northrup were all over the place. Unfortunately, the offense could not hold up their side of the bargain. Houston did almost nothing right on Sunday, with the exception of Nick Vogel’s ridiculous onsides kick and recovery. Generally speaking, Houston just does not have the pieces necessary to be a legitimate threat in the USFL.

Final Thoughts

Overall, week eight was another fun outing in the USFL. Philadelphia officially clinched the playoffs, and will face off against the New Jersey Generals on June 25th in Canton.

The battle in the South division will be quite entertaining to watch, as it got a lot more interesting this week. New Orleans and Tampa Bay face off next Sunday at 4pm on FOX. If there’s one game you want to watch next week, it is certainly that one.

What did you think of week eight in the USFL? Which game was your favorite to watch? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!