USFL Week 8 Recap: Three of Four Playoff Spots Set

By Jordan Meneo

The United States Football League’s playoffs are nearly set with a thrilling finish to week eight.

With three of the four playoff berths now finalized, it’ll be an exciting end to the regular season. Fans got a mix of everything this past weekend. Whether they were looking for high-scoring offensive football or an old-school hard-nosed defense, this week it had all.

Let’s take a look back at all four games.

New Jersey Generals (7-1) 29 – Pittsburgh Maulers (1-7) 18

Generals WR Alonzo Moore #13 evading Pittsburgh Maulers defender

Week eight kicked off Friday night with an incredible offensive performance by New Jersey.

The Generals were in control the entire four quarters as they never fell behind. After going on a 16-0 run in the second quarter, it was safe to draw this one up as they headed into the locker room up 23-7. The Maulers added a field goal in the third quarter to narrow the lead to 23-10 but New Jersey effectively put the game away with an early score in the fourth. Pittsburgh finally found the end zone again, but it was too little too late.   New Jersey was carried by a strong offensive performance from running back Darius Victor who had 87 yards and a season-high three touchdowns. This is the third time this season in which Victor finished with multiple scores.

With the 29-18 victory, the 7-1 Generals punched their ticket to the playoffs meanwhile the 1-7 Maulers were officially eliminated. However, there is something for Pittsburgh to hang their hat on. Kicker Ramiz Ahmed made an incredible 61-yard field goal in the third quarter. For comparison, the NFL record is 66-yards held by Justin Tucker.

Birmingham Stallions (8-0) 10 – New Orleans Breakers (5-3) 9

Birmingham Stallions celebrating

On Saturday we saw the two best teams in the southern division in action as the unbeaten Stallions took on the Breakers.

The defense was the winner in this game which audiences should’ve seen as the opening drive ended with a Stallions fumble. Birmingham would eventually score a touchdown in the first quarter giving them a 7-0 lead. However, New Orleans chipped away at that lead. After a field goal in the second, the Breakers took the lead following an Anthony Jones touchdown. The celebrations didn’t last long though after they missed the extra point, a play that would come back to haunt them. The Breakers held a 9-7 lead early in the third with neither team scoring the rest of the period. New Orleans looked like they had all the momentum after Birmingham’s J’Mar Smith threw an interception to Keith Washington. Unfortunately, the Breakers couldn’t take advantage as another missed field goal ended the drive. It was a rough day for the kickers as between them they missed five field goals/extra points. Finally, after back-to-back three and outs, the Stallions marched down the field on an eight-play 42-yard drive, ending with a field goal giving them the lead 10-9. They would seal the game after the league passing leader, Kyle Slotter, threw a pick in the final 15 seconds.

With the win, the Stallions stayed perfect and clinched the Southern division. The 5-3 Breakers will look to clinch the second Southern playoff spot with a win next week against the Bandits.

Philadelphia Stars (5-3) 46 – Michigan Panthers (1-7) 24

Stars S LaDarius Wiley #4 celebrating

The Philadelphia Stars started Sunday’s game with all-out dominance against the Panthers. They scored a touchdown on their two opening drives thanks in part to Panthers quarterback Paxton Lynch, a former NFL first-round pick, who threw an interception on his second pass attempt of the game. Credit to the Panthers though as despite the hot start, they were able to find the endzone twice and go into halftime only down 21-18. Ultimately, Philly’s three second-half touchdowns were enough to blow out Michigan giving them the 46-24 victory. The biggest takeaway though was the ridiculous outing by Stars‘ quarterback Case Cookus. The former Minnesota Viking had 247 yards passing and four touchdowns through the air on top of 118 rushing yards capped off by a 79-yard rushing touchdown. No, you didn’t read that wrong. It was an incredible day for Cookus.

Thanks to this win, the 5-3 Stars clinched the second Northern playoff spot. The 1-7 Panthers have been eliminated and are struggling to find confidence.

Tampa Bay Bandits (4-4) 13 – Houston Gamblers (1-7) 3

Tampa S Stephen Griffin #40 leaping over ball carrier

This week’s finale, like Saturday’s final game, saw another defensive battle.

After a silent first quarter, the Bandits would go on to score all 13 of their points in the second thanks to a 7-yard Jordan Ta’amu touchdown pass and two field goals. The Gamblers finally scored coming out of the half as they kicked a 44-yard field goal. After the score, they were able to recover an onside kick but unfortunately went three-and-out. We got our final score four and a half minutes into the third at 13-3. Despite the loss, Houston actually outperformed Tampa Bay in many categories including time of possession and the turnover battle. However, the Bandits‘ constant lack of execution came back to bite them again, just like it has all season. Tampa hangs onto their playoff hopes after this win.

To clinch the last playoff spot remaining, the 4-4 Bandits will need to win their final two games of the season. The 1-7 Gamblers will look to end this losing streak and get their first win since week one before the end of the year.

A current student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Jordan grew up playing football. He began writing in high school after creating his own website and hopes to continue his pursuit for a career in sports media.