In week two, there were a few teams that redeemed themselves. On the other hand, a couple of organizations continued to look out of place. Let’s take a look at where each team sits currently, and what needs to change heading into week three.
Unfortunately for Michigan fans, the Panthers have been extremely underwhelming to start the season. Poor quarterback play, lackluster coaching, and an inability to capitalize on opportunities leaves the Panthers as one of two winless teams.
Shea Patterson and Paxton Lynch have been two of the worst quarterbacks in the USFL. Neither one has stepped up to the challenge in either week. Every so often, Patterson will make a solid throw, but then follows it up with more incompletions and turnovers. If Michigan wants to be competitive, their offense needs a complete revamp.
Defensively, the team looks great. The Panthers’ defense has kept them in the ball game for the last two weeks. Stevie Scott III and Cam Scarlett are talented backs, with a lot of promise. Jeff Fisher simply has to figure out how to score the ball more efficiently.
To be completely honest, Pittsburgh played a great ball game against Philadelphia. In week one, the team was an utter disaster. Kirby Wilson looked inept as a coach, and the team had no chemistry whatsoever. However, the Maulers were much improved in week two, and almost beat a solid Stars squad.
I have to give credit to Wilson for stepping up after a controversial first week. His adjustments helped Pittsburgh perform well throughout large portions of the game. Pittsburgh’s offense revolves around their backfield, as Garrett Groshek and Madre London are an excellent one-two punch. Josh Love saw major improvements compared to week one, facilitating the offense at a high level.
Pittsburgh features one of the best defenses in the league. Quite simply, the Maulers have to find a way to close out games moving forward, on both sides of the football. Once they do this, Pittsburgh will be a team to watch out for in the North division.
Next Up: Michigan. I’m confident that Pittsburgh will pick up their first win, as long as they continue to build upon what we saw in week two.
Even though New Jersey picked up a win on Friday night, it felt like a step backwards for the group as a whole. In week one, we saw an aggressive offense that was capable of scoring. Luis Perez and DeAndre Johnson worked as a solid duo, and the Generals were fantastic on the ground.
Week two told a different story. Perez looked out of sorts, while New Jersey struggled to produce offensively. Luckily, they were playing an even worse Michigan team, otherwise the outcome likely would have been different.
Mike Riley needs to get this group back on the right track. Defensively, the team may be lacking firepower as their leading tackler Shalom Luani went down with a calf injury. But, the Generals should be capable of putting up points. If they can become consistent offensively, New Jersey will be in good shape.
If I’m the Tampa Bay Bandits, I would be quite worried about how the offense looks. The team has not scored a touchdown in over six quarters of action. After a 17 point first half in week one, Tampa Bay has only scored three points since.
Jordan Ta’amu has not found his groove quite yet. He is partially to blame – alongside Tampa’s offensive line that was a mess on Sunday. The Bandits have not found that ‘go to guy’ on offense, which puts the team in a tough place when they need to score.
Defensively, Todd Haley has a lot of work to do. New Orleans had it way too easy all afternoon long. After a decent week one performance, Tampa Bay looked like frauds against a better team. Moving forward, the Bandits desperately need to find a balance offensively, otherwise this season could slip right through their fingers.
Houston is a bit of an anomaly right now, due to their quarterback. Clayton Thorson has, at times, looked like the sharpest QB in the league. But, in other instances, he looks like he shouldn’t be on the field. Quite simply, if Thorson can become consistent, Houston will be one of the top teams in the league.
Mark Thompson is an incredible back, rushing for almost 100 yards and averaging over 5YPC on Saturday. Isaiah Zuber is one of the USFL’s best receivers, and has potential to be a monster duo with Thorson. Kevin Sumlin will do himself a favor by calling more plays for Zuber.
Defensively, the team struggled compared to week one, but made plays to give their offense an opportunity down the stretch. Will Likely has been sensational through two weeks of action. Expect the feisty cornerback to be a defensive player of the year candidate as the season continues.
Next Up: Tampa Bay. What version of Thorson will we see? Will Thompson keep up his excellent performances? Can their defense shut Ta’amu down? Lots of questions for the Gamblers…their answers will win or lose them the game.
On Saturday, Philadelphia looked like the team we expected to see in week one. Bryan Scott was exceptional, scoring four total touchdowns on the day. He led the team to a bigtime victory over Pittsburgh, despite a couple of early turnovers. If Scott continues to play at an elite level, the league is in trouble.
Philadelphia is going to have to hope that their running backs get healthy, as Darnell Holland and Matt Colburn missed action on Saturday. Maurice Alexander stepped up in their absence, along with Paul Terry. Defensively, the Stars have some things to tighten up on – but their opportunistic secondary sealed the victory this past week.
If the Stars want to continue to see success, Bart Andrus has to get his team to clean up the turnovers. Multiple giveaways allowed Pittsburgh to gain momentum. As long as Philadelphia improves in this category, they have every piece a Championship team requires.
Next Up: New Jersey. Philadelphia has an opportunity to take control of the North Division, and they certainly can. Expect the Stars to show up on Sunday night.
Birmingham might be one of the biggest surprises we’ve seen so far. The Stallions have been scrappy, yet electrifying through two weeks of play. J’Mar Smith is showing that he can perform at a high level, leading his team to two straight wins. Birmingham’s offense has been stellar, scoring consistently.
Skip Holtz has done an excellent job across the board. After Alex McCough went down with injury in week one, Holtz has coached the team well, and I would not expect that to change moving forward. Defensively, the Stallions have a solid squad, led by Brian Allen who made excellent contributions against Houston.
Having a home crowd for every game is certainly a plus. The Birmingham fans have been quite engaged through the first two games, giving the offense a boost that they need. As long as the Stallions continue to play consistent football, they will be a force to be reckoned with all year long.
There is no question about it – New Orleans has been the strongest team so far. The Breakers absolutely destroyed Tampa Bay on Sunday, led by Kyle Sloter’s three touchdowns and elite play. Sloter looked a lot more like himself in week two, dominating the Bandits from start to finish.
CJ Logan and Jordan Ellis are an excellent duo in New Orleans’ backfield, serving as a solid supporting cast for Sloter and company. Larry Fedora has been a fun coach to watch so far, and there is plenty of season left to see what he is capable of.
What makes New Orleans so daunting is their defense, only allowing 20 points through two games. The Breakers suffocated Jordan Ta’amu and the Bandits, making them look foolish. When Brady White filled in for Ta’amu, his performance was just as bad, if not worse. The Breakers are here to make waves, and loud ones at that.
Kyle Sloter served up some serious waves against Tampa this weekend 🌊
Next Up: Birmingham. If Kyle Sloter looks like he did against Tampa Bay, it is going to be a long night for Birmingham’s defense. The big question is: can New Orleans shut down the Stallion’s fast-paced offense?
As week three approaches, there is a lot in the balance for each USFL franchise. Some are looking to pick up their first win, while others hope to stay undefeated.