USFL Power Rankings: Trends Remain The Same After Week Six

USFL Power Rankings: Trends Remain The Same After Week Six

We are officially six weeks through the USFL’s inaugural season, one that has been very exciting so far. As of right now, both New Jersey and Birmingham are on top of their respective divisions – a trend that has stayed the same for weeks.

Week six brought quite a bit of entertainment to viewers across the country. Offenses were rolling throughout the weekend, with multiple teams scoring upwards of 30 points.

Let’s take a look at where each team stands after week six, and what has to change moving forward.

#8: Pittsburgh Maulers (1-5)

Kirby Wilson is the USFL’s worst coach. I’m sorry, but it has to be said. He’s received a lot of criticism this season, and to be quite frank, it is well deserved. Week after week, Pittsburgh continues to do the exact same things – and Wilson makes very few adjustments. It doesn’t matter who is in at quarterback, or how well their defense plays – the Maulers consistently find ways to lose. Wilson’s lackluster offensive scheme is not working, and it is holding Vad Lee back from reaching his full potential.

It’s a shame, because the Maulers possess a lot of talent. Tre Walker, Bailey Gaither, Madre London, and others are tremendous athletes who bring a lot to the table. Wilson clearly does not know how to properly utilize them, however. His methodical “run the ball up the middle every play” approach simply does not cut it in the USFL. While Pittsburgh has not officially been eliminated quite yet, this season is just about over for Kirby’s squad.

Next Up: Birmingham. Well, it isn’t going to get any easier from here. In a must win situation, Pittsburgh will face off against the dominant Stallions. A miracle will be necessary to keep this game from being extremely ugly.

#7: Michigan Panthers (1-5)

Michigan has certainly been one of the most disappointing stories of the USFL’s 2022 season. While it’s not over quite yet, the Panthers are quickly running out of opportunities to right the ship. Jeff Fisher has struggled to find a way to will this team to victory. Every week, something goes ridiculously wrong that alters the course of the game. This time, a pass from Patterson that careened off his own lineman’s helmet resulted in an interception, which ended up putting things out of reach.

The Panthers have so much talent across the board, so it’s unfortunate to see the team lose in the same fashion week after week. Heck, they even have a great kicker now in Cole Murphy, who confidently knocked through a 56 yarder on Saturday night.

Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that this team can’t put it together. Chemistry seems to be lacking offensively, even with Shea Patterson’s improvements. If the mental errors and mistakes can be tightened up, Michigan still has a chance. That being said, they cannot afford to lose another game.

Next Up: New Orleans. This is a winnable matchup for Michigan – if everything goes right. Odds of that happening, however, are not very high. It’s spring football, though, so anything is possible.

#6: Houston Gamblers (1-5)

Yes, Houston did lose this week. Yes, they also moved up two spots in our power rankings. Why? Houston simply is the best 1-5 team in this league. It’s unbelievable that the Gamblers have lost three games in a row in the final seconds. It’s the same story every week – as good as this defense is, they just can’t find a way to close out games. Chris Odom has been absolutely incredible, forcing two fumbles on the day (including the go-ahead scoop & score). Meanwhile, Donald Payne, Will Likely, and Reggie Northrup have been some of the USFL’s best defenders.

Somehow, it never quite translates into the final drives, as Houston’s defense has crumbled every single week. It has to be frustrating for Kevin Sumlin, as Clayton Thorson actually had a very productive day, throwing for three touchdowns on the afternoon. Mark Thompson even caught two of those, yet the team still found a way to lose. With only four games left – and considering how strong the South Division is, Houston’s postseason aspirations are slipping away very quickly.

Next Up: Philadelphia. As is the case every week, the Gamblers are certainly capable of beating Philadelphia. One of the keys will be slowing down Matt Colburn, who ran for 140 yards against Tampa Bay. Can Clayton Thorson lead this team to victory with their backs up against a wall?

#5: Tampa Bay Bandits (3-3)

Tampa Bay’s defense is going to cost this team dearly in the 2022 season. They have been relatively weak throughout most of the season, and this was as clear as day against Philadelphia. The Bandits could not slow down Matt Colburn, Case Cookus, or Bug Howard throughout the entirety of the game. This is due to the fact that Tampa Bay does not have a leader defensively, something other groups possess (i.e. Scooby Wright III with Birmingham). If the Bandits seriously want to make a playoff push, major adjustments have to be made across the board with this defense.

Offensively, they have been looking a lot better over the past couple of weeks. Jordan Ta’amu has been a rockstar, throwing for over 300 yards and four touchdowns against the Stars. He even miraculously set the team up to tie the game as time expired, but unfortunately overthrew his intended receiver in the end zone. Juwan Washington has been a solid addition in the backfield, making big plays when needed. However, Tampa Bay will continue to lose games if their defense cannot make pivotal stops.

Next Up: New Jersey. This is a huge test for Tampa Bay. First of all, their defense will have their work cut out for themselves going up against an offensive powerhouse. Secondly – can Jordan Ta’amu have a breakout game against one of the league’s best defenses?

#4: Philadelphia Stars (3-3)

Philadelphia picked up a huge win this week, and finally found a running back who can provide Case Cookus with some help. Matt Colburn was absolutely sensational on Saturday, dominating Tampa’s defense from start to finish. This is a huge deal for Bart Andrus’ squad. The team has had a difficult time finding a steadiness, due to injuries in the backfield, plus Bryan Scott’s injury. However, if guys like Colburn can help shoulder some of what Cookus has to bear, the Stars will be in excellent shape as the season continues.

That being said, Philadelphia’s defense is holding them back from being in the USFL’s elite. Similar to Tampa Bay, the Stars have a defense that does not always live up to expectations. They could not stop Ta’amu on Saturday, and it nearly cost them when all was said and done. Josh Banderas did get injured, which is something to keep an eye on. If he doesn’t come back, the squad will be in trouble, as Banderas serves as Andrus’ leader on defense. With four games left, the Stars still have a lot to prove as a football team.

Next Up: Houston. Don’t let Houston’s record fool you – this team can be about as dangerous as anyone. Philadelphia can get one giant step closer to the postseason with a win here. If their defense can have a bounce back week, I like the Stars’ chances in this one.

#3: New Orleans Breakers (4-2)

Interestingly enough, New Orleans’ only two losses of the season have been against the only teams better than them: Birmingham and New Jersey. The Breakers found a way to get the job done on Sunday against the lifeless Pittsburgh Maulers, even though it wasn’t always pretty. The emergence of Anthony Jones as a star running back might just boost this team to the playoffs, as he has turned out to be an excellent replacement for TJ Logan. If Kyle Sloter can become more consistent (and healthy), this team will be as dangerous as anyone once the playoffs arrive.

Defensively, Larry Fedora has made this group into one of the best in the league. Davin Bellamy, Vontae Diggs, and Ike Brown have made opposing offenses lives miserable during the past six weeks. They have the firepower needed to stop any offense in the USFL – as long as they are all on the same page. The Breakers are absolutely prepared to make waves in the postseason, but it all comes down to their ability to keep up with the USFL’s best, something they have not always done.

Next Up: Michigan. This could turn out to be a trap game for New Orleans. A win here would give them an important edge over Tampa Bay – but you can’t count Michigan out, despite the Panthers’ inability to win so far. The Breakers will have to be at the top of their game to come away victorious.

#2: New Jersey Generals (5-1)

New Jersey found a way to win, despite it being by the skin of their teeth. After DeAndre Johnson went down with an ankle injury, it appeared that Luis Perez might have a hard time finding a rhythm. This was not the case, as Perez ended up leading the Generals on an incredible game winning drive, scoring on the very final play. Luis is hands down the best backup QB in the league, and that was on full display against Houston.

Now, this isn’t to say that things are perfect in the Generals camp. Turnovers proved to be an issue for New Jersey. If Perez sees more playing time in the future, he has to improve upon his ball security, as he lost two fumbles on the afternoon. Luckily, guys like KaVontae Turpin and Darius Victor continued to make plays for New Jersey’s offense, which put them in a winning position down the stretch. Not to mention, that “Philly-Jersey Special” was pretty sick to watch. At the end of the day, it seems like Mike Riley’s group is the clear favorite to win the North.

Next Up: Tampa Bay. We’ll see if DeAndre Johnson can make his return – but if not, the Generals are still in good hands with Perez. The key factor in this game will be Jordan Ta’amu; can New Jersey’s defense make him uncomfortable from the get go?

#1: Birmingham Stallions (6-0)

Birmingham is a force to be reckoned with. It doesn’t matter who might be out with an injury. It doesn’t matter which quarterback is randomly swapped in or out during a drive. It doesn’t matter if they trail in the first half. Skip Holtz has done an outstanding job in his first year with the Stallions, creating a culture of winning the week, one by one. Birmingham does just that every single game, and they have a knack for dominating second halves. Michigan was completely shut down in the fourth quarter, allowing Birmingham to pull away, staying undefeated on the season.

While J’Mar Smith still has some growing pains to face, he has developed into an excellent spring league quarterback. Bo Scarbrough is looking like the Bo Scarbrough of old, as he dominated the Panthers defensive front in that second half. Defensively, the Stallions are arguably the best in the USFL. On top of that, Brandon Aubrey provides the team with steady kicking and special teams. As long as nothing goes drastically south, Birmingham is well on their way to the Championship game in Canton.

Next Up: Pittsburgh. This might just be the biggest blowout we’ve seen in the USFL so far. If this offense gets going in the first quarter, the Maulers might as well call it a day. That being said, something about this matchup certainly screams “trap game”…so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens on Sunday.

Final Thoughts

As with any professional league, trends that set themselves usually follow the same pattern. This has been evident throughout the USFL’s 2022 season – as teams such as New Jersey and Birmingham have consistently dominated, while groups like Pittsburgh and Houston cannot find a way to win at all.

As the season nears its end, keep an eye on Tampa Bay and New Orleans in the South Division. That second seed will likely be up for grabs until the final week of action.

What do you think of these power rankings? Which teams are you pleased/disappointed with? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!