USFL fans were treated to another entertaining weekend of football. With three weeks under our belts, we are starting to watch each team build chemistry – well, at least most of them. It’s been a roller coaster so far, and should continue to be as the season continues.
The @USFLGenerals took control of the North Division with a win in Week 3 🎖🔝
Week three provided us with plenty of excitement, as three of four games were decided by one score. Let’s take a look at where each team stands currently, and what needs to be improved upon moving forward.
You know, I really thought that Pittsburgh turned the page last week, after their abysmal week one performance. I could not have been more wrong. The entire team took major steps backwards, across the board.
Kirby Wilson was back to looking like the worst coach in the league. He made poor adjustments throughout the game’s entirety, struggling to get his team into a rhythm at all. Outside of Madre London, Pittsburgh looked completely out of sorts.
Defensively, Pittsburgh hasn’t been awful – but, their defense has not been able to stay consistent when needed. They are worn down though, considering their offense can hardly stay on the field. It’s hard to expect the Maulers to be elite defensively, when the team can’t score.
If Pittsburgh doesn’t right the ship quickly, it’s safe to say their season will be over before we know it. Wilson desperately needs to figure out his quarterback situation, otherwise the Maulers will have a hard time simply winning a single game.
Next Up: New Jersey. While I’m not counting Pittsburgh out quite yet, this is going to be quite the challenge, especially with how NJ is running the football. Wilson’s going to have to pull out all the stops to win this one: and it starts with consistent coaching.
Michigan finally got themselves a win this weekend – and they’ll take what they can get. It wasn’t a pretty victory, and it was against the league’s worst team. But, the team finally showed some chemistry on both sides of the football that propelled them to a dominant 24-0 shutout.
Firstly, Paxton Lynch looked halfway decent during his short stint. After he got injured, Shea Patterson filled in, and looked mediocre like he had the first two weeks. The good news is that Michigan’s ground attack is looking elite. On Sunday, the group ran for almost 250 total yards. If the Panthers can consistently run the football, that would certainly open up the passing game moving forward.
.@ReggieCorbin walks right into the end zone for the touchdown‼️🐾
Defensively, Michigan is making strides forward each week. In fact, their defense has only given up 27 points through three games. Sure, they played Pittsburgh on Sunday – but the Maulers couldn’t even taste the scoreboard against Michigan after scoring 23 the week prior. Let’s see if this win can give Michigan some momentum heading into week four.
Next Up: Philadelphia. This is a huge game, as the winner will hold the second seed after week four. With Bryan Scott now out indefinitely, Michigan could absolutely steal one here.
If Houston knew how to close fourth quarters, they may very well be 3-0 right now. Last week, a late drive came to an end on a turnover against Birmingham. On Saturday, Houston blew a nine point fourth quarter lead, losing on a last second field goal to Tampa Bay.
It’s frustrating to watch the Gamblers stumble, considering how much talent the team possesses. Clayton Thorson has shown growth week in and week out, and threw some excellent passes this past week. Mark Thompson is looking like the league’s best running back, dominating Tampa Bay all afternoon long. Isaiah Zuber continues to be a force to be reckoned with, being an elite receiver.
Kevin Sumlin simply needs to figure out how to win the fourth quarter with his squad. Houston has so much talent – and has been in a position to win every game they’ve played in. But, right now the Gamblers sit dead last in their division, which is not ideal.
Next Up: New Orleans. Houston has an opportunity to regain some leverage in their division, and it’s going to come down to Clayton Thorson. Will he rise above expectations? Also, can their defense slow down Kyle Sloter (will he even be healthy?)? Once again, Houston has a lot of questions to answer.
It’s hard to accurately grade Philadelphia’s performance, because of the missing pieces. Bryan Scott (the USFL’s best QB) went down with an injury – and is out for the foreseeable future. Not to mention, Darnell Holland (the Stars RB1) has been sidelined as well. Case Cookus filled in relatively well, but New Jersey completely shut him down during the final drives.
We know how dangerous this Philadelphia offense can be when healthy, as they put on a show in week two. Regardless, the Stars need to find out how to generate consistency even when they are missing their best playmakers. Paul Terry has done a solid job, but it was not enough to give the Stars any momentum down the stretch.
So much room for activities 👏 @Paulterry55 gets into the open field for a big pickup 😤
One of Philadelphia’s glaring weak points is their defense. New Jersey got whatever they wanted in the second half. Quite frankly, the Stars were out-manned and out-hustled in that second half, which resulted in a lackluster week three loss against a tough division rival. Bart Andrus needs to figure things out quickly, before Philadelphia sinks further in the North.
Next Up: Michigan. This is certainly a game that Philadelphia can win, but they will be in a tough spot without Bryan Scott. If Darnell Holland can return from injury, that could provide the spark that the Stars desperately need.
Tampa Bay picked up a huge win in week three, and looked a lot more like the Bandits we were expecting to see all season. The team had gone over six quarters without an offensive touchdown through weeks 1-2, and looked out of sorts for the majority of the short season.
While Saturday’s performance certainly wasn’t perfect, the Bandits made some solid improvements that allowed the team to mount a clutch comeback win. Jordan Ta’amu is slowly but surely coming into his own. The XFL standout hasn’t been fantastic so far, but is trending upwards, and hopefully will continue to do so.
Defensively, the Bandits have work to do. The team has allowed 60 points in the last two weeks, being one of the worst secondaries during that span. With that being said, the squad stepped up in the fourth quarter against Houston, which led to Tampa’s comeback. If they can continue to play at that level, the Bandits will be dangerous moving forward.
Next Up: Birmingham. This is going to be quite the test for Tampa Bay, facing off against the league’s final undefeated team. Expect Tampa to rely on Ta’amu & his playmaking, alongside Ty Rausa’s trusty leg.
Don’t let New Jersey’s 10 point outing last week fool you: the Generals have a scary good offense. Sure, it has been messy at times – but week three showed just how dangerous this squad can be. As good as Luis Perez is, New Jersey will probably benefit from sticking to DeAndre Johnson as QB1.
With Johnson at the helm, the team ran for almost 300 yards against Philadelphia, absolutely pummeling their defensive front in the second half. Darius Victor and Trey Williams are an outstanding one-two punch; and when paired with Johnson’s athletic abilities, they are nearly unstoppable.
Despite dealing with some injuries on the defensive side of things, New Jersey’s defense held Philadelphia to just six points in the second half. They have been one of the league’s best in this early season, and have plenty more to prove. Under Mike Riley’s leadership, the ceiling is very high for this Generals squad.
Next Up: Pittsburgh. New Jersey has an easy opportunity to take full control of the Northern Division with a win over the Maulers. This would give them an edge on every division rival, having previously defeated Michigan and Philadelphia. With how Pittsburgh has looked, this could get ugly.
A healthy Kyle Sloter will make or break (no pun intended) the Breakers 2022 season. While New Orleans boasts one of the best offenses in the league, they struggled on Saturday night. This was largely due to Sloter playing through a groin injury, limiting his mobility. The Breakers looked like a shell of their week two selves against Birmingham.
As long as Sloter (and the team) can stay in good health, New Orleans will be in good shape. Defensively, the team is outstanding, creating big time plays week in and week out. The only thing that needs a bit of improvement is the secondary, who gave up a couple of massive momentum plays throughout the night.
Fans of the Breakers should not be worried. The team has shown resilience so far, and I would expect them to bounce back this upcoming week. On a side note: Davin Bellamy has got to be one of the most enjoyable players in the league. His energy is unmatched, bringing the heat every week. You can’t help but love the guy.
THE PUNT IS BLOCKED AND THE BREAKERS ARE IN BUSINESS
Next Up: Houston. With how inconsistent the Gamblers have been, this is an excellent opportunity for New Orleans to get back on track. As long as their defense makes Thorson uncomfortable, I like the Breakers’ odds.
Birmingham is truly the definition of a winning football team. No matter how ugly things may be, and no matter how impressive their opposition is, the Stallions find a way to fight through it all. Did J’Mar Smith play his best football in week three? No, not even close. But, it didn’t matter – because Smith did enough to get his team the win.
Marlon Williams is an absolute star. The kid has been making big time plays all year long, and that wasn’t any different against New Orleans. Victor Bolden is also an incredibly important piece, dominating the league in overall yards from scrimmage.
.@ShannonSharpe reacts to Marlon Williams' touchdown in Week 3 of the USFL:
"This is my play right here. The jailbreak screen, you have to have a lot of courage. He wanted this touchdown, that's how you hit your head on the goal post." pic.twitter.com/ecYpeIuU43
Defensively, Birmingham is looking as fierce as ever. Between Scooby Wright III, DeMarquis Gates (DPOW), and Brian Allen, the team has depth at every position. They took advantage of Sloter’s injury, bringing the pressure on every single snap. Skip Holtz has his squad in an excellent position as we head into week four.
Next Up: Tampa Bay. Birmingham is going to have to be at the top of their game if they want to beat Tampa Bay. The Stallions have a chance to take total control of the South Division with a win, let’s see if Holtz’ group can get the job done.
As we head into week four, there is a lot in the balance for each USFL team. Can Philadelphia survive the storm without Scott? Can Pittsburgh win a single game? Will Kyle Sloter be healthy by Sunday? With the season being only 10 games, each week is more important than the last.