Week eight in the USFL is officially behind us. Over this past weekend, we saw plenty of the same trends stay true. Certain teams continued to play excellent football, while others struggled as they have for most of the year.
Things are going to be interesting in the South Division with 2 weeks left to play 👀
After this weekend’s slate of games, New Jersey and Birmingham remained at the top of their divisions. In fact, both clinched their division titles, and will have the No. 1 seed through the postseason.
Houston purely sits in last place because most of their offensive talent is likely out for the rest of the year. Clayton Thorson, Mark Thompson, and Isaiah Zuber were all missing in action on Sunday, and it was pretty obvious the team had no offensive firepower. I mean, they only scored three points. Chris Odom has been sensational leading the defense, but the Gambler’s defensive unit can only do so much. At the end of the day, their offense has not been able to win them ball games, no matter who is in at QB.
Next Up: Birmingham. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, this team has to try and beat the undefeated Stallions. Who knows, maybe this will be the week Houston surprises us. Kenji Bahar getting into a rhythm early will be key.
While it’s frustrating to see how Kirby Wilson has treated Vad Lee, Roland Rivers showed some major potential this weekend. Sure, he had some ugly moments. But, Rivers did get to showcase his strengths: a strong arm, with the ability to be more mobile than he looks. Rivers will probably see most of the starting time in these last two weeks, and for good reason. Rivers is the kind of guy Pittsburgh could build around in year two, so it makes sense. The Maulers have a long way to go, but should not be too discouraged despite having a terrible first year. The future is looking up. Oh – and did I mention their kicker hit a USFL record 61 yarder? This team does boast some serious talent. It’s a shame they don’t have a competent coach.
A 61-YARD FIELD GOAL 😱💥
Ramiz Ahmed just set a new @USFL record with this BOOT 🎯
Michigan got blasted on Sunday, but let’s not forget how close this team has been to winning almost every week. Over the past few games, they’ve had three different starting QB’s (Paxton Lynch, Josh Love, Shea Patterson). It’s hard to build any chemistry offensively, when there are new guys in every week. Paxton Lynch wasn’t terrible against Philadelphia, but I don’t think he’s the answer for this team. If they are able to build around someone like Love heading into 2023, Michigan could certainly make a postseason run next year.
Next Up: New Jersey. Similar to Pittsburgh’s situation, there could definitely be a “surprise” victory, given that New Jersey could rest their starters with not much to play for in the final two weeks. If Lynch gets the start for the second straight week, expect this offense to look smoother than it did against Philly.
While Tampa Bay picked up a win over Houston to stay alive in the playoff race, this team should not be too proud of where they’re at. The offense looked quite stale throughout most of the game. Jordan Ta’amu just has not been his XFL self, showing inconsistencies week after week. Todd Haley needs his star QB to be on point in the next two weeks, otherwise they can kiss playoff hopes goodbye. A huge key to the offense seeing success, is getting the ground game going early with Juwan Washington. If they can do that, they’ll be in decent shape. On a positive note, Tampa’s defense has been much better recently – something that could push this team to the playoffs.
Next Up: New Orleans. Folks, this is the game of the week. A win puts Tampa Bay in excellent position to make the postseason. Can Ta’amu get hot early? Can this defense put pressure on Kyle Sloter? Lots of questions for Tampa heading into Sunday’s showdown.
New Orleans has to break out of their offensive slump, before it’s too late. Kyle Sloter has at times looked like the best QB in the USFL – but has also shown some major weaknesses. When the ground game doesn’t get off to a good start, Sloter begins to try and do too much. This was evident against Birmingham, as Sloter forced some throws into places he should not have. Larry Fedora has to get his QB into a rhythm early in games, so that he feels comfortable from the get go. An uncomfortable Sloter is bad news for the Breakers.
Meanwhile, Anthony Jones and Jordan Ellis have been solid all year – but they have to be better in these crucial situations. On the other hand, the defense did make some improvements compared to their games against Michigan and Pittsburgh. If this unit can be as aggressive as they were in the first half of the year, the playoffs will be theirs to take.
Next Up: Tampa Bay. As previously mentioned, this game is extremely important. A win here puts New Orleans in the playoffs. Kyle Sloter has to be on point, no excuses. This is his chance to put the team in the postseason. It’s up to him to perform at a high level, and get the job done.
So…how about those Philadelphia Stars? They might be the most slept on team in the USFL. This offense has put up 35, 35, and 46 points in their last three games. Case Cookus was absolutely sensational on Sunday. If Bart Andrus can get consistent production from Cookus heading into the postseason, anything is possible. Also, a key factor will be Matt Colburn and the run game. As Colburn has become healthy, he has made a big impact in Philly’s offense. His presence makes Cookus’ life a lot easier – especially when he performs well.
One of the biggest stories in the second half of the year has been Philadelphia’s defense. This unit has stepped up in a big way, taking strides forward week in and week out. In the first several games, it was this group that held them back from being elite. With Channing Stribling leading the way, (and leading the league in interceptions), the sky’s the limit for this Philadelphia team.
Next Up: Pittsburgh. It will be interesting to see how Andrus approaches this game, since the team already clinched a postseason berth. Will Cookus still get the start? With not much to play for, it might make sense to rest the starters.
Last week, I was a bit worried about how Birmingham’s offense struggled. Unfortunately, those worries were validated this week, as the Stallions looked quite sloppy against New Orleans. Had it not been for their defense, Birmingham certainly would have lost this game. Now – the team is excellent in producing points in crucial situations, as Brandon Aubrey was able to knock through the game winning field goal to put the team up 10-9.
However, Skip Holtz has to get this offense to find their identity again. Dropped passes, stupid penalties, and offensive miscues continue to hold this group back from reaching their full potential. If this isn’t fixed by the postseason, it doesn’t matter how good their defense plays – Birmingham’s championship run might be in danger.
Our defense, once again, put on an absolute show in our win vs the Breakers 🔒
Next Up: Houston. Will Birmingham rest their starters? Who knows. Personally, I don’t think that is a great idea. This offense needs to gel once again, otherwise they are in for a rude awakening in the playoffs.
New Jersey stays at the top of our power rankings, for good reason. This team is probably the most complete group in the USFL, boasting a powerful offense that is paired with a very solid defense. Luis Perez and DeAndre Johnson are two of the league’s best QB’s, and both can win this team football games. Darius Victor and Trey Williams have been sensational on the ground, while playmakers such as KaVtonae Turpin and Alonzo Moore are always creating noise of their own. Defensively, New Jersey has become one of the best squads in the league. If Mike Riley’s group continues to play at this level, they are certainly the favorites to hoist the first USFL trophy on July 3rd.
Not one, not two, but THREE TDs for @yungvitov on Friday night. Victor now leads the USFL in Rushing Yards and Rushing Touchdowns!
Next Up: Michigan. Similar to other situations, it all comes down to whether or not Mike Riley wants to rest his starters. It will be interesting to see if DeAndre Johnson gets some playing time, as he hasn’t seen the field since his injury in week six.
With only two weeks left to play in the USFL’s inaugural season, things are getting quite interesting in the South Division. While New Orleans still has the second seed as of right now, the door is open for Tampa Bay to make a move.