Saturday’s games were certainly the most entertaining, but overall it was a fun week in the USFL. Let’s take a look at some of the key factors from each matchup, and what they mean for each organization moving forward.
New Jersey vs. Michigan | Generals 10, Panthers 6
Friday night’s game was most definitely the sloppiest between both teams. New Jersey and Michigan have a lot to work on offensively as the season moves forward.
The Generals do have plenty of offensive weapons, so it was strange to see them perform so poorly after a solid opening week. Luis Perez looked out of sorts for most of the night, never finding a rhythm. DeAndre Johnson was arguably better than Perez, and ended up seeing quite a bit of playing time.
Defensively, New Jersey did an excellent job of containing Michigan all game long. The Panthers only score of the night came off of a turnover which put them deep into Generals territory. Something to keep an eye on is Shalom Luani – the team’s leading tackler who left the game with an injury.
As the Generals season continues, Mike Riley has to figure out his offense. If New Jersey cannot consistently produce points, their postseason aspirations will be in jeopardy.
After two weeks of play, Michigan looks like the USFL’s worst team. It’s a shame, because the Panthers defense is surprisingly solid. They certainly are not the issue, holding their opponents to a combined 27 points through two games.
However, it is Michigan’s lack of offensive firepower that prevents them from winning football games. Shea Patterson once again looked very shaky, and Jeff Fisher has not figured things out yet. Every time the Panthers start to put something positive together, they can’t finish the job.
If Michigan wants to become competitive, the entire offensive game plan has to shift. Patterson has to become more aggressive from the get go. They have plenty of talent – now it is up to Fisher to figure out how to utilize it properly.
Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh | Stars 30, Maulers 23
Bryan Scott showed us who he truly is this past Saturday. After a somewhat underwhelming week one performance, Scott was on fire against Pittsburgh.
What made his afternoon so impressive was his ability to rebound from his mistakes. Scott threw an interception on their opening drive, and later fumbled, which gave Pittsburgh quite a bit of momentum. However, Scott continued to stay aggressive, willing his team back into the game.
After Darnell Holland went down with an injury, Scott put the team on his back. His decision making improved drastically compared to last week, and he currently leads the league in multiple passing categories. Expect Scott to continue to grow as a leader over the coming weeks.
Philadelphia’s defense has some work to do. There were stretches during the game where it was simply way too easy for Pittsburgh to score.
With that being said, the squad shut down the Maulers during the fourth quarter, closing out the game efficiently. The Stars will have to continue to rely on playmakers such as Josh Banderas, Ahmad Dixon, Channing Stribling, and others as the season progresses.
Pittsburgh, despite the loss, proved a lot of the doubters wrong in week two. After the team looked completely inept against Tampa Bay, the Maulers made several excellent adjustments.
Kirby Wilson absolutely deserves credit for this. He received a lot of criticism after week one, and rightfully so. But, Wilson made the necessary changes for his offense to see success. Josh Love saw the field on Saturday, proving to be the right decision. Love drastically improved from week one in every category.
A balanced attack on the ground and through the air allowed the Maulers offense to put up much better numbers in week two. Madre London and Garrett Groshek are looking like a solid duo in the backfield, while Love has an amazing connection with Bailey Gaither. Pittsburgh has a lot of work to do – but the upside is high for this offense.
Pittsburgh’s defense was not bad this week either, even though the Stars put up 30 points. Multiple times throughout the game, the Maulers generated stops that allowed their team to hang around. This defense will definitely be a problem for opponents as the season continues.
Birmingham vs. Houston | Stallions 33, Gamblers 28
J’Mar Smith is that guy. His week one performance is looking less and less like a fluke, especially after his incredible second half against Houston. The Gamblers boast one of the fiercest defenses in the league, but this did not faze Smith whatsoever.
In the second half, Smith was sensational. He finished the night with 246 yards, alongside a pair of touchdown passes. His playmaking abilities are quite underrated, as he has proven to be one of the USFL’s best quarterbacks.
Not to mention – Smith has experience with Birmingham’s head coach, Skip Holtz. Across the board, the Stallions are looking like one of the USFL’s most complete teams. Having an engaged home crowd for every game certainly helps, as the team feeds off of their energy.
Defensively, Birmingham did what they needed to do to secure a win. Brian Allen is a ballhawk, and is shaping up to be a leader on the defensive end. The pressure applied to Houston down the stretch was exceptional, and won them the game.
As for Houston, the team performed relatively well – they just could not find a way to secure the victory. Second half woes offensively proved to be a major factor in their loss.
Clayton Thorson is an anomaly. Every game, there are amazing moments – and some atrocious ones. For example, Thorson made an incredible throw to put Houston back in the game late, finding his receiver deep down the field while rolling to his left – and throwing off his back foot.
But, Thorson has not shown that he can be consistent. This was evident in week one, and once again was present during Saturday night. An overthrown ball was tipped and intercepted, losing the game for Houston during the final moments.
Kevin Sumlin might need to make some adjustments, especially since Mark Thompson has been such an effective running back. Thompson was excellent once again against Birmingham, and should be a key factor for the Gamblers’ success moving forward.
Defensively, Houston definitely has some things they need to clean up. After they shut down Michigan in week one, Birmingham saw a lot of success across the board. This Gamblers defense has a boatload of talent. Quite simply, they need to step up to the task, especially in the secondary.
New Orleans vs. Tampa Bay | Breakers 34, Bandits 3
One of the surprising results from week one came on Sunday afternoon. The Breakers vs. Bandits was poised to be one of the best games of the week, but was not even close.
Starting with New Orleans, the Breakers are arguably looking like the USFL’s best team. Kyle Sloter showed the world what he is capable of, throwing for over 260 yards while seamlessly dissecting Tampa’s defense. If Sloter plays like this week in and week out, the Breakers are going to be unstoppable offensively.
New Orleans also boasts a solid backfield, as TJ Logan and Jordan Ellis help alleviate some of the pressure Sloter might face. Both continue to put up impressive numbers, and should do so as the season continues.
As scary as the Breakers offense looks, their defense might be even scarier. Tampa Bay is supposed to have one of the league’s best offensive groups, but they looked completely out of place against New Orleans. Davin Bellamy and Vontae Diggs have been absolute monsters for Larry Fedora’s squad. Don’t sleep on the Breakers – they can easily win the South Division.
On the other hand, Tampa Bay has a lot to figure out. Jordan Ta’amu struggled for large portions of Sunday’s game, while the running game was practically nonexistent.
Granted – Ta’amu did not have much help. The offensive line was terrible, while multiple receivers dropped passes that were accurate. That being said, Ta’amu has to step it up in the coming weeks. The Bandits have not scored an offensive touchdown in over six quarters, which is worrisome.
Clearly, Tampa Bay is lacking an intensity on the defensive side of the football. New Orleans feasted on Tampa’s weak coverages and poor communication. Todd Haley has to get this group together as week three approaches, otherwise the Bandits are in danger of falling under .500 in this young season.
Overall, week two provided USFL fans with a lot of fantastic content. Getting to hear and see things that football fans normally would not have access to has been a treat. It has been quite enjoyable watching everything unfold on the field, as players have certainly been getting into it with each other.
As we look forward to week three, Saturday night’s primetime game on FOX is a must watch. The undefeated Stallions face off against the undefeated Breakers – who are as of right now, the two best teams in the league. Grab your popcorn – it’s going to be fun.
What did you enjoy about week two in the USFL? What are you excited for as week three approaches? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!