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How’s your USFL Pool working out? I’m riding on the edge of respectability at 14-10. Six weeks in, the South Division is a dog fight, while the North is a bit of a mess. Here are this week’s matchups.
BIRMINGHAM STALLIONS (4-2) VS. NEW ORLEANS BREAKERS (4-2) | MAY 27 | 4:00 P.M. | FOX
This sets up as the week’s premiere matchup. The Stallions regained their form in Week 6, recording a key win against Michigan on the road to put them back into a tie for a share of the lead in the South. Birmingham boasts a productive, well-balanced, and efficient offense, and the league’s #4 ranked defense, allowing 18.8 points per game, despite creating just 9 sacks and a second-last place -1 turnover ratio on the season.
The Breakers have struggled the last two weeks after a hot start to the season, looking frustrated in back-to-back losses to the Gamblers and Stars. This is still a dangerous offense (338 YPG for #1), but inconsistency in converting third downs and in the red zone has become an issue of late. New Orleans’s defense is Top 3, with 12 sacks and a +1 turnover ratio on the year, and their placekicker is excellent in clutch situations, as he will need to be this week.
Straight-up pick: New Orleans Breakers
PHILADELPHIA STARS (3-3) VS. PITTSBURGH MAULERS (2-4) | MAY 27 | 9:00 P.M. | FS1
Philadelphia has found its form in the last two weeks, recording quality wins over the Generals and Breakers to level up to 3-3 on the season, good for first in the weak North Division. The Stars have a respectable passing game, but give up way too many sacks and have a very poor running game, largely because of the porous offensive line. It’s really the Stars placekicker, an Aguilar (‘nuff said), that has kept this team in contention in 2023.
Pittsburgh is my love/hate team for 2023. Up and down all season, one of the Maulers’ only two wins in 2023 came in Week 3 against these same Stars, 21-13. The difference that day was the Maulers’ rushing attack, which came alive for 135 yards in the contest — along with a win on turnover margin and pretty good defense, that’s why the Maulers won the game. I don’t think they can repeat in Week 7.
Straight-up pick: Philadelphia Stars
HOUSTON GAMBLERS (4-2) VS. MEMPHIS SHOWBOATS (3-3) | MAY 28 | 2:30 P.M. | USA
This should be another entertaining game. The Gamblers are the hottest team in the league, with consecutive wins against Philadelphia, Birmingham, and New Jersey. Mark Thompson is the league’s most feared ball carrier, tallying 72 carries for 374 yards, good for 5.2 yards per carry, and 9 rushing TDs on the season so far. The Gamblers are the league’s most efficient in offensive third down conversion (56.5%), though a -3 turnover ratio is concerning. Special teams here are just average.
The Showboats will go as far as QB Cole Kelley can carry them this year. This is not a bad team but it is full of gaps and question marks. Memphis does not play a pretty brand of football and it’s not very entertaining to watch. What the Showboats are pretty good at is hanging around until the fourth quarter in games, largely because of their league-leading +4 turnover ratio. That and an okay special teams game have been enough on three occasions this year. Not this week.
Straight-up pick: Houston Gamblers
MICHIGAN PANTHERS (2-4) VS. NEW JERSEY GENERALS (2-4) | MAY 28 | 5:30 P.M. | FS1
Cards on the table, Michigan is probably the worst team in the USFL this year, despite a couple of decent wins against Houston in Week 1 and Philadelphia in Week 2. Since then, it’s been pretty dismal: four straight losses and 107 points allowed versus just 43 scored (-16 PPG). The offense flashes but underperforms. The defense does the same. The return game here is among the league’s worst and you don’t want to rely on the kicking game for much.
The Generals – a cornerstone USFL franchise – should be doing better this year but they are not. As of late, the team simply looks frazzled on offense, resulting in third down and red zone inefficiency, and too many turnovers, thus New Jersey’s three-game skid since Week 3. Again, this is still a pretty good team: they put up 152 yards rushing per game and field the league’s #2 defense and decent special teams — the Generals are just in a funk. I think they will get out of it this week.
Straight-up pick: New Jersey Generals
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