Friday, May 27, 2022

USFL Week 4 Power Rankings: Birmingham Stallions new No. 1 as they stay undefeated with win over Breakers

We’re about a month into the USFL’s inaugural season and there’s been a healthy amount of movement in the power rankings over that stretch. 

For the second week in a row, there is a shakeup at the No. 1 overall spot following a clash of the league’s top two teams last weekend, along with a new club entering the top three and knocking on the door to possibly climb even higher. On the other end of the spectrum, the status quo with our rankings remained from the week prior, but there is now a definitive worst team in the USFL after the league’s bottom two clubs went toe-to-toe. 

Before we gear up for Week 4’s action, here’s a look at where each team stands (check out all our USFL news here, including standingsschedule and scores).

1. Birmingham Stallions (3-0)

Previous week: No. 2

The Stallions were able to remain undefeated after taking part in the biggest game of the USFL season thus far as they faced the Breakers. Both teams entered this matchup 2-0 and New Orleans was the top-ranked club in these power rankings a week ago. However, the Stallions defense stepped up in a major way, holding them to just 3.8 yards per play and 13 points in the win, which included a clutch shutout in the fourth quarter. After Birmingham went up 17-13 in the fourth quarter, the defense was able to come away with three turnovers that helped the Stallions pull away and establish themselves as the team to beat right now. 

Next game: vs. Tampa Bay Bandits (Saturday, May 7 at 7 p.m. ET)

2. New Orleans Breakers (2-1)

Previous week: No. 1

While the Breakers have fallen out of the top spot and suffered their first loss of the season last weekend, it’s clear that they are among the elite teams alongside the Stallions. After all, they had the lead over Birmingham heading into the fourth quarter, and had it not been for a few turnovers they may be the ones sitting at 3-0. New Orleans should be able to get back into the win column next week as they face a Gamblers team that is coming off a crushing loss to the Bandits and is allowing the most points in the league. 

Next game: vs. Houston Gamblers (Sunday, May 8 at 3 p.m. ET)

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3. New Jersey Generals (2-1)

Previous week: No. 5

The No. 3 spot on this list has been reserved for the top team in the North Division in recent weeks. While the Stallions and Breakers may be in a tier of their own, they are duking it out in the same division. Meanwhile, the Generals are sitting in a position where they may be able to take control of the North. They are coming off an impressive win over the Philadelphia Stars where they rallied in the fourth quarter to come away with the 24-16 win. 

Trailing by six,  the Generals — who boast the best rushing attack in the USFL — were able to rush for two fourth-quarter touchdowns to pull away from the Stars. New Jersey is averaging 201.7 yards per game on the ground this season, which is roughly 30 yards more per game than the No. 2 club. Defensively, they’ve given up the third-fewest points in the league. With their lone loss of the season coming against the Stallions, the Generals should be looked at as a legit contender. 

Next game: vs. Pittsburgh Maulers (Saturday, May 7 at 2:30 p.m. ET)

4. Tampa Bay Bandits (2-1)

Previous week: No. 4

The Bandits are holding firm at the No. 4 spot thanks to a second-half rally to defeat the Gamblers. Houston led 23-14 at halftime and carried a nine-point lead heading into the fourth. However, quarterback Jordan Ta’amu led the comeback, which included a 33-yard run in the final minute to set up the game-winning field goal with just 13 seconds left on the clock. While Ta’amu has shown us flashes of high-level play in other leagues, this was the first time he truly opened eyes in the USFL. 

While Tampa Bay is above .500, there is still some cause for concern going forward. With three weeks in the books, they are averaging just 15.6 points per game on offense (lowest in the South Division). They are also giving up 21 points per game and the second-most passing yards in the league. 

Next game: vs. Birmingham Stallions (Saturday, May 7 at 7 p.m. ET)

5. Philadelphia Stars (1-2)

Previous week: No. 3

Not only are the Stars taking a tumble in the rankings due to their loss against the Generals, but they may be without quarterback Bryan Scott after he suffered a knee injury in the second quarter. He was the USFL’s top signal-caller entering Week 3, so losing him would be a massive blow to a team that needs all the offense they can get, especially as they are allowing the most years in the league defensively. 

Next game: vs. Michigan Panthers (Friday, May 6 at 10 p.m. ET)

6. Houston Gamblers (1-2)

Previous week: No. 6

Houston came out on the losing end as they blew a nine-point lead entering the fourth quarter against the Bandits. The Gamblers also had the lead with less than a minute to play, but the defense allowed Jordan Ta’amu and the Tampa Bay offense to march down the field to convert what would be the game-winning field goal. While the Gamblers may be at the bottom of the South Division, they’ve scored the second-most points of any team in the USFL. However, passing the football with any sort of efficiency has been abysmal as they have completed just 39% of their passes. Running back Mark Thompson and his league-leading 310 rushing yards has masked those deficiencies a bit, but Houston won’t go far if they can’t complete a pass.   

Next game: vs. New Orleans Breakers (Sunday, May 8 at 3 p.m. ET)

7. Michigan Panthers (1-2)

Previous week: No. 7

Jeff Fisher is in the win column in the USFL. He was able to help lead the Panthers to their first win of the season as they had taken on the Maulers, who were also winless heading into this matchup. This was a game that featured the two bottom-dwellers in the USFL, but Michigan was able to show that they are above Pittsburgh by shutting them out. This was nothing short of an offensive explosion for the Panthers, who dropped 24 points for the game after totaling just 18 points through the first two weeks. The rushing attack was what put a dagger in the Maulers as Michigan totaled 244 yards on the ground on 5.8 yards per carry and three different Panthers were able to use their legs to get into the end zone. 

Of course, beating up on Pittsburgh doesn’t deserve too much praise, so keeping Michigan at No. 7 is the move this week. However, if they can take down a Stars team that may be without QB Bryan Scott, they could be on the rise. 

Next game: vs. Philadelphia Stars (Friday, May 6 at 10 p.m. ET)

8. Pittsburgh Maulers (0-3)

Previous week: No. 8

Even with multiple teams winless a week ago, we had Pittsburgh listed as the bottom team in the USFL. That proved to be the correct call as they were shelled by the also-winless Panthers in Week 3. Through the first three games, the Maulers have been outscored 71-26. That’s not going to get you any higher than No. 8 on this list. 

Next game: vs. New Jersey Generals (Saturday, May 7 at 2:30 p.m. ET)

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