Path To The USFL Playoffs In The South

Path To The USFL Playoffs In The South

The final slate of the USFL regular season kicks off today. But if the USFL wanted to, they could rebrand this weekend’s game from week 10 of the regular season to week one of the USFL playoffs. Because of the parity in the league and how tight the division standings are, this weekend’s games have effectively turned into a playoff wild card round before the postseason officially begins next week.

In the North, the math is simple: win and you are in. The Pittsburgh Maulers and New Jersey Generals play today at 1 pm EST on USA network. The winner will advance to the playoffs in Canton, OH next Saturday.

The other Northern game takes place in primetime tomorrow night. The Philadelphia Stars take on the Michigan Panthers at 7 pm EST on FOX. Again, the winner will advance while the loser’s season will be finished.

In the South, it is not so simple. No one has been eliminated yet, but some teams need outside help if they want a chance to survive and advance. Let’s take a look at the path to the playoffs for each Southern team, beginning with the most likely to be alive next week and working toward the less likely teams to advance.

BIRMINGHAM STALLIONS

The Birmingham Stallions (7-2, 3-2) are the only team to have clinched a playoff spot. They will be in the playoffs next week regardless of the outcome of their game today against Memphis.

However, if they lose this weekend and the Breakers win, they would be the number two seed in the playoffs due to having a worse divisional record than the Breakers.

Either way, the game will be played in Birmingham.

NEW ORLEANS BREAKERS

The New Orleans Breakers (6-3, 3-2) are the only team in the South fighting for a playoff spot that controls its own destiny. If the Breakers beat the Gamblers on Sunday, they will advance to the playoffs for a rematch with the Stallions. If they win Sunday and the Stallions lose today, they will be the number one seed in the playoffs.

If the Breakers lose, their season is not over just yet. They could still make the playoffs depending on what else happens over the weekend. If Michigan wins on Sunday, then the USFL would have to use point differential to determine the second playoff spot in the South. Currently, the Breakers are +46, the Gamblers are -6, and the Showboats are -16. So as long as the Breakers don’t get blown out this weekend, they should advance if it comes down to net points.

Given the fact that the Breakers control their own destiny, I am giving them a 60% chance of making the playoffs.

HOUSTON GAMBLERS

The Houston Gamblers (5-4, 2-3) play the Breakers at 4:00 pm EST on Sunday on FS1. The first thing they must do if they want to keep their season alive is win. However, it is not a simple win-and-in situation. If the Gamblers win, they will be tied with the Breakers in overall record, head-to-head record, and divisional record. So it would come down to the next tiebreaker.

The easiest path for them to advance is a win over the Breakers and a Stars win over the Panthers on Sunday. It may seem odd that a North Division game would have any effect on the South playoff race, but the third tiebreaker is overall strength of victory. Since the Gamblers beat the Stars but lost to the Panthers and the opposite happened for the Breakers, a Stars victory would give the Gamblers the nod to get in.

If the Stars lose, the Gamblers could still get in. However, they would have to cover the gap that currently exists in points between them and the Breakers. There is a 56-point spread between them heading into week 10, so the Gamblers would need to beat the Breakers by at least 29 if they wanted to win the tiebreaker outright. The odds of that are quite slim, so the Gamblers will likely have to win Sunday afternoon before becoming the Stars’ biggest cheerleaders.

I would give the Gamblers a 39% chance of making the playoffs, A Gamblers win and a Stars win is not far-fetched at all, but that is really the only way their season stays alive.

MEMPHIS SHOWBOATS

The team with the worst odds of making it to the playoffs is the Memphis Showboats (5-4, 2-3). The Showboats need to beat the best team in the league to stay alive. That game will be today at 4:00 pm EST on FOX. If they accomplish that, they will need New Orleans to lose as well. That would create a three-way tie for second place in the South. New Orleans, Houston, and Memphis would all have the same overall record, head-to-head record, and divisional record.

From there, the Showboats would need the Panthers to win. At that point, it would come down to point differential. The Showboats are currently behind both the Breakers and the Gamblers in net points. They are down 62 to the Breakers and 10 to the Gamblers. So the only realistic scenario that allows Memphis to advance would require the Gamblers blowing out the Breakers with the Showboats blowing out the Stallions by at least 11 points more. For example, if Houston beat New Orleans by 26 and Memphis beat Birmingham by 37, then Memphis would advance.

Essentially, the Gamblers and Showboats’ combined margin of victory over the weekend needs to equal at least 63 points with the Showboats scoring at least 11 more points than the Gamblers.

All that to say, it is not impossible for the Showboats to be playing in Birmingham next weekend. But I would give it a 1% or less chance. Memphis fans better spend all weekend praying because they need a miracle in Memphis to keep their season alive.

PLAYOFFS BEGIN TODAY

For all intents and purposes, the playoffs begin today. What a season it has been in the USFL. It is remarkable to see everyone’s preseason aspirations and goals still alive. Teams are going to be bringing it all weekend, so make sure you do not miss a minute of the action. Viva la USFL!