Week Seven: Last Chance For 1-5 Teams In The USFL?

With six weeks in the USFL’s inaugural season behind us, three teams currently sit at 1-5 in their respective divisions. Those include the Houston Gamblers in the South, alongside the Michigan Panthers and Pittsburgh Maulers in the North.

Heading into week seven, it’s basically do or die for each team. They haven’t been eliminated from playoff contention quite yet – but the writing is on the wall.

Let’s take a look at where each team currently stands, and what their chances are of making a postseason push.

Houston Gamblers

The Houston Gamblers probably have the hardest path to the playoffs out of all of these teams, despite being the most talented. The Gamblers will face off against: Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Birmingham, and New Orleans in the final four weeks.

While it isn’t impossible, Houston needs everything to go their way down the stretch. New Orleans would have to lose out, while Tampa Bay would have to go 2-2 at best – and preferably 1-3. Not to mention, Houston themselves would have to win all four games.

The Gambler’s biggest issue is the strength of the South Division. If you put them in the North, they would actually have a decent shot at making it to the postseason. However, since the South is already stacked with three excellent teams, it’s safe to say that Houston’s season is likely over. Unless Clayton Thorson turns into Tom Brady, the Gamblers will probably end up with that fourth and final seed.

Pittsburgh Maulers

Pittsburgh is in an interesting situation. The team is clearly the worst in the USFL, yet they still have a chance to make the playoffs when all is said and done. With the Philadelphia Stars sitting at just 3-3, the Maulers could technically overcome them if they do everything right.

That being said, Pittsburgh has done almost everything wrong this season. Kirby Wilson has not put the team in a winning position most of the time, suffocating his offense with poor schemes and game plans that simply do not work. While Vad Lee has performed decently well since his arrival, the odds of him taking this team to the postseason are pretty low given the circumstances.

The Maulers face off against: Birmingham, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Michigan to finish out the season. Going undefeated during that stretch would be optimal – but if they can at least beat either Birmingham or New Jersey, 3-1 could still be enough to cut it. Wins against the Stars and Panthers will be key, to give themselves some leverage in the division. However, Pittsburgh needs to win out if they want a genuine chance at making the postseason. A loss against the Stallions this week would likely put the nails in the coffin.

Michigan Panthers

The Michigan Panthers are an anomaly. They boast some tremendous talent – but also sport a 1-5 record, struggling to find ways to win all season long. Heck, their only victory of the year came against Pittsburgh. Some breaking news came out this week – Shea Patterson is gone, and Eric Barriere is in. Could the college super star give the Panthers some life? Only time will tell. However, Michigan is in the best scenario of all of these three teams, and here’s why.

First of all, Michigan has already beaten Pittsburgh once. If they can do that again in week ten, they’ll be in decent shape. Secondly, the team does boast a very talented squad that is capable of doing damage against any team. If any 1-5 squad can find a way to win out, it’s going to be Michigan, simply because of the strength of their remaining opponents.

Now, Michigan doesn’t have the easiest schedule – but it isn’t horrible. They will play: New Orleans, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Pittsburgh in the final four weeks. These are all winnable matchups. If the Panthers can steal one against the Breakers this Saturday, it could put the team in a rhythm to close out the year strong. Jeff Fisher no doubtedly has his work cut out for him, but Philadelphia is not too far out of reach. The biggest factor will be their matchups against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. If Michigan wins those two games, anything is possible in that North Division as the season comes to a close.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, every one of these teams is essentially one loss away from being eliminated entirely. Some are in a more dangerous scenario than others (i.e. Houston) – but odds are we won’t see any of these teams in the postseason.

Unfortunately, Michigan and Houston have not been able to win fourth quarters, resulting in plenty of heartbreaking losses throughout the season. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh has looked out of sorts since the USFL began. Anything is possible, but don’t expect a miracle for either one of these groups.

Do you think one of these teams will turn their season around? If so, which team, and why? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!