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    How’s your USFL Pool working out? Things are tight in the South Division with just one win separating all four teams. In the North, it’s Philadelphia atop the standings, but every other team is still in playoff contention heading into the regular season homestretch. Here’s how Week 8’s games shape up.

    HOUSTON GAMBLERS (4-3) vs PITTSBURGH MAULERS (2-5) | JUN 3 | 12:00 P.M. | USA

    The Gamblers lost their starting QB early in the season but the drop-off has been almost nil. Houston is a balanced #5 in passing and #3 in rushing offense, and check-in with the USFL’s #7 defense and #6 kicking game. That ain’t great, but Houston has still managed to win three of their last four games by being efficient (52.4% offensive third down conversion; best in the league). The Gamblers are in a dogfight for a playoff spot in the South and will come to this game with swagger. 

    Pittsburgh is pretty healthy coming in, not that it will help their O much. The Maulers are by far the league’s worst passing offense and the #6 rushing game also fails to inspire. The USFL’s #4 ranked defense, PIT gets after the QB and gets INTs, but the kicking game (#7) and inefficient offense (just 27.5% third down conversion; worst in the league), continually let the D down. The Maulers can still make the playoffs in the South if they win out, but I don’t think they will.

    Straight-up pick: Houston Gamblers


    The Stars are physically healthy coming into this game but the stats reveal an underlying illness in this team. Ranked #2 overall in passing offense, Philadelphia is #8 (dead last) rushing the ball. The kicking game is #1 overall, but the defense is again dead last.  The Stars have won 3 in a row entering the week and are a competitive team in the North but they may find this well-rounded South Division team simply too tough to handle.

    Birmingham has a banged-up WR core entering Week 8 but still looks good on the stat sheet: the Stallions boast the #3 passing and #2 rushing offense in the league, to go along with the #2 defense and #4 kicking points game. BHAM has won 3 of its last 4 and is the defending champion. This is the time of year when superior franchises and teams lock in for a playoff run. The Stars are the weaker team and Birmingham must win to stay atop the standings in the South.

    Straight-up pick: Birmingham Stallions 


    The Stars are healthy coming in. The league’s #7 passing and #7 rushing attack are not pretty to watch, but the Showboats stay in games with the #5 defense and #3 kicking game in the league. Memphis has won 3 of their last 4; the key to success in that stretch has been a +4 turnover margin. Can they be as efficient against the high-powered NYJ defense? The Showboats are in a must-win situation to stay in contention for a playoff spot in the South, but the Generals – the division’s defending champs – are literally fighting for their lives in the North.

    New Jersey uses two QBs situationally: one is out this week and the other is questionable with a head injury. When healthy, the Generals offer the league’s #7 passing and #1 rushing offense. That’s to go along with the #1 defense, but the least productive kicking game in the league. This is a team that relies on the running game, which is rapidly declining, and their defense, which is still very good. The numbers say to me that won’t be enough this week.

    Straight-up pick: Memphis Showboats


    The Michigan Panthers are as healthy as they are going to get going into Week 8, which is good because they will need every working body to have a shot in this game. On offense, the Panthers field the #4 passing and #5 rushing attack in the league. That pairs with their #6 defense and #7 kicking game. The Panthers have lost three of their last four by an average margin of 16 points. That said, with a couple more wins on the season, this team could still get into the playoffs.

    New Orleans looked very strong to start the season but has lost form a bit in the last few weeks. Currently ranked #1 by a long shot for USFL passing offense, the Breakers also have a competent running game (#4 overall). That pairs with the league’s #3 defense (19.6 points per game), and #2 ranked kicking game (61 points off one missed kick all season). NO has lost three in a row to quality opponents — they need this game to stay in the hunt for the playoffs in the tight South division.

    Straight-up pick: New Orleans Breakers

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