USFL Week 7: What to expect in all four matchups

With 4 weeks to go within the 2023 USFL season, issues could not be a lot tighter, as first and final place in every division are separated by just one recreation.

That makes this weekend’s video games as essential as ever, because it’s an opportunity for every workforce to make a transfer and maybe create a bit little bit of separation.

Week 7 kicks off Saturday with two video games, beginning with a contest in Birmingham between a pair of 4-2 groups — the Birmingham Stallions and the New Orleans Breakers — every seeking to acquire an edge within the South Division. That might be adopted by a recreation between the Philadelphia Stars and Pittsburgh Maulers at Tom Benson Corridor of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.

There are two extra video games on Sunday, because the Houston Gamblers and the Memphis Showboats battle at Simmons Financial institution Liberty Stadium in Memphis, adopted by a recreation between the Michigan Panthers and the New Jersey Generals in Canton.

[2023 USFL playoff picture through Week 6]

Right here’s a breakdown of this weekend’s matchups, from FOX Sports activities’ RJ Young, Eric D. Williams and Greg Auman.

Birmingham Stallions (4-2) vs. New Orleans Breakers (4-2)
Saturday, 4 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app

A month in the past, the New Orleans Breakers and Birmingham Stallions had been taking part in for supremacy not simply within the South Division, however for the most effective report within the United States Football League.

However with 4 video games left to play this season, the Stallions and Breakers would possibly merely be taking part in for a spot within the playoffs. That’s how tight the race is within the South.

Birmingham (4-2), New Orleans (4-2) and the Houston Gamblers (4-2) are every tied for first place of their division with the Memphis Showboats (3-3) only a recreation again. Nevertheless, it’s the Breakers who look most susceptible heading into their Week 7 showdown in opposition to the Stallions on Saturday.

After opening the season 4-0, John DeFilippo’s Breakers have misplaced their final two video games. These losses had been away from their residence hub in Birmingham, although, and so they had been two of the worst video games they’ve seen from quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson by six weeks.

In truth, the losses on the Breakers’ report every coincide with the one situations the place Bethel-Thompson has didn’t cross for no less than 250 yards.

On high of that, tailback Wes Hills, who had back-to-back 100-yard speeding performances in Weeks 2 and three, has didn’t rush for 100 yards in every of the Breakers’ final three video games.

Getting again residence is perhaps simply what the Breakers are in search of to regain their kind.

That’s one cause to consider the Breakers can pull off the double and beat Skip Holtz’s Stallions for the second time this season. However do not anticipate it to be straightforward. The Stallions boast final week’s USFL Offensive Participant of the Week in quarterback Alex McGough, who accounted for 133 cross yards and 82 rush yards of their win in opposition to Michigan in Detroit final week.

With every passing week, McGough has grown extra assured, and Holtz has complimented how he’s grown into the function of beginning quarterback, even asking for McGough’s enter on play-calling throughout video games.

McGough continues to get assist from a receiving corps that’s blossoming, with tight finish Jace Sternberger and wideouts Davion Davis and Adrian Hardy changing into regular and reliable pass-catching threats simply in time for the working recreation to kick into gear.

Final week, working again CJ Marable turned the primary Stallion to hurry for 100 yards in a recreation this season, that means the workforce’s main rusher (McGough), has assist toting the rock in short-yardage conditions.

The Stallions’ means to run the ball in opposition to Michigan final week was aided by the protection returning to kind with complementary soccer. After giving up no less than 20 factors three weeks in a row, the Stallions clamped down on the Panthers, surrendering simply 13 factors.

Of their first lack of the season, the Stallions gave up a gaudy 45 factors to the Breakers and allowed 483 yards of offense. John Chavis’ unit will stroll into Protecting Stadium with a degree to show and a division to retake management of come Saturday.

— By RJ Younger

Philadelphia Stars (3-3) vs. Pittsburgh Maulers (2-4)
Saturday, 9 p.m. ET on FS1 and the FOX Sports app

At 3-3, the Philadelphia Stars are tops within the USFL North division with 4 video games left. Nevertheless, the remainder of the division stays in hanging distance at 2-4, together with the workforce the Stars face Saturday at Tom Benson Corridor of Fame Stadium, the Pittsburgh Maulers.

Maulers head coach Ray Horton already surpassed his workforce’s win whole from final season and is now working to do one thing Pittsburgh didn’t accomplish in 2022 — make the playoffs. 

Pittsburgh defeated the Stars 21-13 in Week 3, Pittsburgh’s first win of the season. Right here’s one factor to observe for from every workforce within the rematch. 

Stars: Can the Philadelphia offense rating TDs within the crimson zone?

The Stars have received two in a row however haven’t scored an offensive landing over the past two video games. 

Philadelphia is 0-for-7 within the crimson zone over that time-frame. Whereas kicker Luis Aguilar has been spectacular, making 11 of 12 area targets over the past two video games, the Stars can’t hold counting on the kicker to complete drives. 

Philadelphia wants to determine methods to constantly put the ball within the painted space for touchdowns. 

“It comes right down to psychological errors, and it consists of myself,” Philadelphia quarterback Case Cookus stated after Sunday’s win over New Orleans. “I can’t make errors or flip the ball over like a pair occasions we did at the moment. However I believe it comes right down to the little issues. We’ve got lots of returning guys, and typically it’s a must to remind them, ‘Hey, when you have a hitch, simply run a hitch.’ Don’t fear concerning the different stuff.”

The Stars lead the league with 45 accepted penalties for 367 yards. Philadelphia can also be tied for second within the USFL with 10 giveaways and had three touchdowns known as again due to penalties final week.

So, curbing self-inflicted errors might be key for the Stars in opposition to Pittsburgh.

Maulers: Can Maulers create consistency on offense with run recreation? 

Horton would love Pittsburgh’s offense to be dynamic and explosive, working up the scoreboard. However with the best way the Maulers are taking part in on protection, Pittsburgh may gain advantage from a run-based, ball-control offense that performs steer clear of the opposing workforce.

With that in thoughts, the Maulers have to discover a runner that may hold the chains transferring. By means of six video games, Pittsburgh’s main rusher has been quarterback Troy Williams with 214 speeding yards. However somebody from a steady of working backs that features Madre London, Duane Gary and Garrett Groshek should tackle an expanded function within the offense.

In Pittsburgh’s wins this season, the Maulers averaged 128.5 speeding yards. Although he was pulled in favor of James Morgan final week to attempt to generate a spark on offense, Williams stays the workforce’s beginning quarterback, Horton stated. 

“We’ve got to be a workforce,” Horton stated. “Are we probably the most dominant workforce within the league? No. Defensively, do I believe we’re? I do. However it’s a must to have the particular groups and the offense come alongside for the journey with you. 

“So, I’m very inspired concerning the workforce we’re constructing.” 

— By Eric D. Williams

Houston Gamblers (4-2) vs. Memphis Showboats (3-3)
Sunday, 2:30 p.m. ET on USA

The final time the Houston Gamblers and Memphis Showboats confronted off, neither had received a recreation as each had been off to disappointing 0-2 begins to their 2023 seasons. Houston pulled out an in depth win, and since then, neither workforce has misplaced.

The Gamblers (4-2) have now received 4 in a row, and the Showboats (3-3) have bounced again properly from an 0-3 begin with three straight wins. Each groups are squarely in playoff rivalry with 4 weeks remaining in a robust South division. Solely two groups will make the playoffs, and Sunday’s loser will distance themselves from the winner of Saturday’s recreation between the 4-2 New Orleans Breakers and 4-2 Birmingham Stallions.

That Week 3 battle between these two groups was one of many USFL’s greatest video games to this point this season — Memphis trailed 23-10 within the fourth quarter, rallying to take the lead on two Cole Kelley landing passes, the latter with lower than two minutes left. Houston answered with a 66-yard landing drive, and Kenji Bahar threw the game-winning landing to Justin Hall with 13 seconds left.

Houston received a recreation with out Bahar, who was sidelined by an ankle damage, after which obtained him again final week in a 16-10 win over the New Jersey Generals. That win was sparked by the Gamblers protection, which took a shutout into the fourth quarter — Houston’s main tackler is linebacker Khalan Tolson, an Illinois grad who has 45 tackles by six video games, and Reggie Walker and Ronheen Bingham share the workforce lead with 4 sacks every.

The place Memphis has its greatest benefit Sunday is in turnover margin — the Showboats are at a USFL-best plus-4 for the season, whereas Houston is second-worst within the league at minus-3. Memphis security Troy Warner — the youthful brother of 49ers linebacker Fred Warner — has 48 tackles, nearly twice as many as his closest teammate, and the turnovers have come from throughout, with the Showboats’ 11 takeaways coming from 10 completely different gamers.

Memphis’ main receiver is Vinny Papale, whose father Vince performed for the Eagles within the Seventies and was the principle character within the Mark Wahlberg film “Invincible.” Papale has 21 catches for 248 yards and a landing. The Showboats received final week, nonetheless, with protection, shutting out the Maulers 22-0 and getting a 109-yard landing from Derrick Dillon on a missed area objective. Memphis has pulled off a 3-3 report regardless of sufficient accidents to their working backs that no Showboats participant has rushed for 100 yards over the whole season.

Houston does not have that downside — working again Mark Thompson leads the USFL with 9 speeding touchdowns and ranks third within the league with 374 speeding yards. The Gamblers have good offensive steadiness, with Corridor main the league with 4 landing receptions on the season, one forward of teammate Anthony Ratliff-Williams.

— By Greg Auman

Michigan Panthers (2-4) vs. New Jersey Generals (2-4)
Sunday, 5:30 p.m. ET on FS1 and the FOX Sports app

All 4 groups within the USFL North division are inside a recreation of one another with 4 video games remaining, which ought to make for some entertaining contests the remainder of the best way.

And it creates some urgency for this weekend’s recreation between the New Jersey Generals and the Michigan Panthers at Tom Benson Corridor of Fame Stadium.

This recreation is a rematch from Week 3, when the Generals defeated the Panthers, 28-13.

After beginning the season 2-0, the Panthers have misplaced 4 in a row, whereas the Generals have misplaced three straight.

Here is one factor to observe for when these two groups match up.

Panthers: Why has Reggie Corbin disappeared from the offense?

One of many main rushers within the USFL final season, Corbin has had hassle breaking unfastened over the previous month.

In Week 2, Corbin was on the sidelines on TV asking Michigan’s teaching workers to get him the ball extra typically. That led to his greatest efficiency of the season, a 131-yard speeding effort in a 24-10 over the Philadelphia Stars.

Since then, Corbin has totaled simply 132 speeding yards on 39 makes an attempt throughout 4 video games. Corbin continues to be No. 6 within the USFL in speeding with 289 yards, and he leads the league in all-purpose yards with 820.

Stevie Scott III is second for the Panthers in speeding with 245 yards. However as a workforce, Michigan has managed simply 96.3 yards per recreation, which ranks fifth within the USFL.

Due to their incapability to constantly run the soccer, the Panthers have struggled to get a lot occurring offense, averaging simply 16 factors a contest. Solely the Pittsburgh Maulers are scoring fewer factors per recreation (13.7 per contest).

“We have to attain extra touchdowns clearly, as an alternative of getting area targets,” Panthers head coach Mike Nolan stated after his workforce’s newest loss final week, a 27-13 setback to the Birmingham Stallions. “After we get into that crimson space, we need to be certain that we get factors out of it, and we did not do that each one day at the moment.” 

Three of Michigan’s closing 4 video games are inside the North Division, so the Panthers nonetheless management their very own future in the case of reaching the postseason. 

Generals: Can Mike Riley discover some playmakers?

New Jersey had probably the most dynamic participant within the USFL final season in league MVP KaVontae Turpin. However by six video games, Riley has struggled to seek out gamers to copy that manufacturing.

Alonzo Moore leads the Generals with 17 receptions for 224 yards and two scores, whereas fellow receiver Cam Echols-Luper has 14 receptions for 205 yards and two touchdowns. Tight finish Braedon Bowman has added 11 receptions for 162 yards.

Darius Victor leads the Generals in speeding with 377 yards and two touchdowns.

Nevertheless, New Jersey has struggled with creating explosive performs and holding onto the soccer. The Generals are tied for fifth within the league in scoring, averaging simply 17.7 PPG. New Jersey averaged 23.2 PPG final season.

Even worse, the Generals have 10 giveaways this season, together with a league-leading eight fumbles. 

To try to jumpstart the offense, Riley made a change at beginning quarterback final week, subbing out De’Andre Johnson in favor of Kyle Lauletta

Lauletta completed 17-of-30 for 177 yards, with a landing and an interception. However New Jersey managed simply 10 factors in a 16-10 loss to the Houston Gamblers.

The underside line is that Riley’s Generals want extra guys to step up and make huge performs on offense like Turpin did final season, whether or not it is Johnson or Lauletta at quarterback. 

“Our objective is to get into the playoffs,” Riley stated. “No matter place that’s, it does not actually matter. You simply need to get into the playoffs, however we now have to get a win quickly to try this.”

— By Eric D. Williams

RJ Younger is a nationwide school soccer author and analyst for FOX Sports activities and the host of the podcast “The Number One College Football Show.” Observe him on Twitter at @RJ_Young and subscribe to “The Number One College Football Show” on YouTube.

Greg Auman is FOX Sports activities’ NFC South reporter, masking the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He’s in his tenth season masking the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having hung out on the Tampa Bay Instances and The Athletic. You’ll be able to observe him on Twitter at @gregauman.

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for greater than a decade, masking the Los Angeles Rams for Sports activities Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma Information Tribune. Observe him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

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