Reviewing USFL Week Three: Major Takeaways From Each Matchup

Reviewing USFL Week Three: Major Takeaways From Each Matchup

Week three in the USFL has come and gone, bringing us quite a bit of action. Between a double header on FOX, alongside Sunday’s slate of games, the league saw plenty of enjoyable football played.

Three out of the four games played this weekend were decided by one score, providing viewers with excitement from start to finish. Offenses are beginning to find their identities, leading to more scoring across the board.

Let’s take a look at some of the key takeaways from each USFL matchup, and what they mean for each franchise moving forward. For some teams, there is a lot of work that needs to be done.

Houston vs. Tampa Bay | Bandits 27, Gamblers 26

Saturday’s opener turned out to be an entertaining affair. Tampa Bay came away with the win, on a late field goal from Ty Rausa.

Tampa Bay rediscovered who they were this week. After six straight quarters without a touchdown, the Bandits put up 27 points in a crucial week three game against Houston.

Jordan Ta’amu was fantastic, and came into his own during the second half. If he can perform like this week in and week out, the Bandits will be in excellent shape. Limiting the mental errors will greatly benefit Ta’amu, and the entire team as the season continues.

Defensively, the Bandits have some weak points – but the squad got the job done when it mattered most. Houston struggled to get anything offensively in the fourth, largely due to the adjustments Todd Haley made. Don’t count the Bandits out – last week’s blowout loss might just have been what the team needed to wake up.

The Gamblers are one of the USFL’s most talented teams. Clayton Thorson is showing tremendous growth with each week, and Mark Thompson is absolutely incredible. Offensively, the team has plenty of weapons in Isaiah Zuber, Brandon Barnes, and others.

What is holding Houston back, though, is their inability to close out games. A nine point fourth quarter lead was squandered, resulting in a loss that leaves the Gamblers dead last in their division.

Houston boasts a fierce defense, as players like Reggie Northrup and Donald Payne have dominated every week. However, if the Gamblers do not figure out how to win the fourth quarter, they will not see success this season. It was simply way too easy for Tampa Bay down the stretch.

Birmingham vs. New Orleans | Stallions 22, Breakers 13

Birmingham won the battle of undefeated teams, and it revealed a very important piece of information: the Stallions’ defense is severely underrated. What we saw on Saturday night was a defensive masterclass.

Multiple crucial stops, clutch turnovers forced, and high energy led Birmingham to a massive divisional win. Scooby Wright III and DeMarquis Gates being on the same team is simply unfair. Both linebackers were vital to week three’s victory, and are a duo to be feared. The front seven as a whole made Kyle Sloter’s life miserable all night long.

The crazy thing about this win was Birmingham’s inconsistent offense. J’Mar Smith completed under 40% of his passes, and the running game was practically nonexistent. If it weren’t for Marlon Williams and Victor Bolden, the Stallions would have had a hard time scoring at all.

If Birmingham wants to continue to win games, Skip Holtz needs to get his offensive group in a consistent rhythm. With all of the talent the team possesses, we should see a better performance next week.

Breakers Not At 100%

Week three’s game has a bit of an asterisk on it for New Orleans. Kyle Sloter played, despite dealing with a groin injury – and it was evident that he was hampered. Sloter could not scramble at all, which led to major issues with Birmingham’s intense pressure.

TJ Logan was missing in action due to an injury, which was a tough loss for Larry Fedora’s group, as Jordan Ellis had to handle most of the workload. Johnnie Dixon had himself a night though, scoring two touchdowns and keeping the Breakers’ offense alive during large portions of the game.

New Orleans defense continues to be elite, putting that on display again against Birmingham. They had J’Mar Smith out of rhythm the whole night, and shut down the rushing game. If it weren’t for the offensive shortcomings, the Breakers likely would have won.

Michigan vs. Pittsburgh | Panthers 24, Maulers 0

Jeff Fisher finally got himself a win, and did so in dominant fashion. Michigan’s underrated defense made Pittsburgh look pathetic, shutting out the Maulers entirely. The Panthers played an excellent game on the defensive side of the football, always being a step ahead of Kirby Wilson’s game plan.

But, Michigan still has some work to do when it comes to quarterback play. Paxton Lynch started the game, and looked like the QB Fisher expected him to be. But, an injury sidelined Lynch, and Shea Patterson was mediocre in his place.

Luckily, Michigan’s running game was unstoppable, as Reggie Corbin and Stevie Scott III ran right through Pittsburgh’s defense. The team combined for 244 yards on the ground, propelling the Panthers to a dominant week three victory.

If Fisher can figure out what to do with his quarterback situation, Michigan can make some waves in the North division. The other pieces are clearly there, and the Panthers showed just how dominant they can be when things go right.

As for Pittsburgh…they took several steps backwards. Kirby Wilson’s play calling was back to how it was in week one: terrible. Josh Love looked out of sync, and Kyle Lauletta never found much of a rhythm either.

It’s a shame that Pittsburgh’s offense can’t figure things out, because Madre London is one of the premier backs in this league. Defensively, the Maulers haven’t been awful, but they had no answers for Michigan’s ground attack on Sunday.

Quite simply, the Maulers need to be better in every aspect of the game. A team with this much talent should not be 0-3, but Pittsburgh is. And, they haven’t shown any real signs of life. Pittsburgh has a lot of work to do heading into week four.

New Jersey vs. Philadelphia | Generals 24, Stars 16

It seems like New Jersey discovered the winning formula in that second half against Philadelphia. That game plan is: run the football, and don’t look back. As good as Luis Perez can be, it seems like DeAndre Johnson is the better fit for Mike Riley’s offensive scheme.

The Generals rushed for almost 300 yards on Sunday night, absolutely dominating Philadelphia’s defense from the get go. Darius Victor, Trey Williams, Kavonte Turpin, and Johnson are an absolute nightmare for opposing defenses. Every single one of them can go off, at any given time.

If New Jersey can continue to run the ball like they have all year long, this team will be scary come the postseason. Philadelphia could do nothing to stop their ground game, especially during the final minutes.

Defensively, the Generals have enough firepower to close games out. We saw them shut down Michigan last week, and then once again put the game away against Philadelphia. It seems like Mike Riley has gotten this team on the right track, which is a good sign for New Jersey.

Philadelphia’s Injury Issues

Philadelphia was dealt a tough blow this week. Darnell Holland was inactive, while Matt Colburn is rebounding from an injury himself. Bryan Scott, the league’s best quarterback through two weeks, went down with an injury in the first half – and the offense never recovered.

Now, Case Cookus filled in impressively well, and kept the team alive through portions of the game. That being said, Cookus struggled to make something happen when Philadelphia needed him to during the final minutes. This isn’t entirely his fault – as he hasn’t had many reps with the team. But, if Scott is out for a period of time, this could prove to be an issue for the Stars.

Philadelphia is currently lacking a consistent offense. Unfortunately, they’ve been dealing with injuries which are hampering that side of the football. When healthy, they are one of the best offenses in the league.

Defensively, the team needs to be a lot better. New Jersey got whatever they wanted in the second half, with no resistance. The Stars simply looked outmanned on Sunday night, and that has to change if they want to win the division. If anyone can figure it out, it is Bart Andrus. We’ll have to see what he has in store next week.

Final Thoughts

Overall, it was a fun week in the USFL. Some teams stepped up to the challenge (i.e. New Jersey, Michigan) – while others continued to stumble (Pittsburgh, Houston). As we approach the halfway point of the season, each game is going to become increasingly more important.

Heading into next week, teams such as Philadelphia and Houston have a lot to prove. Meanwhile, New Orleans will have to hope that Kyle Sloter is healthy, otherwise the Breakers could be in trouble.

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