USFL Week 3: What to know about each game

USFL Week 3: What to know about each game

Apr 28, 2022

Two weeks into the USFL season, things are beginning to sort themselves out a bit.

There are two unbeaten teams, though only one will remain standing after they meet on Saturday. There are also two winless teams, though that will change on Sunday after they meet. And in the middle are a host of tough, competitive squads.

Still, there is a lot of football yet to be played, and it's not too late for these teams to change their fortunes, for better or for worse.

What should we expect to see? 

Here is a primer for Week 3:

Tampa Bay Bandits (1-1) vs. Houston Gamblers (1-1)

Saturday, 4 p.m. ET on FOX and streaming in the FOX Sports app

Last week: The Bandits looked like the class of the USFL after their impressive Week 1 victory against the Maulers. But a 34-3 Week 2 loss to the Breakers changed that, and Tampa Bay is still searching for answers offensively, particularly in the passing game.

The Bandits managed just one passing yard in the first quarter of that loss, and quarterback Jordan Ta’amu completed just 8 of 18 passes for 62 yards overall.

The Gamblers have had offensive struggles of their own. Former Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson has looked solid at times, but has passed for just 214 yards and thrown more interceptions (four) than touchdowns (three) through two games. 

Players to watch: For Tampa Bay, linebacker Christian Sam broke out last week with 11 tackles (seven of them solo) in the loss to New Orleans. The former Arizona State Sun Devil clearly has a nose for the ball. 

The Gamblers' defense has given them a chance to win both weeks, and cornerback Will Likely is a big reason why. The 27-year-old has six tackles and two interceptions already this season, and he returned one of those picks 62 yards for a touchdown.

Birmingham Stallions (2-0) vs. New Orleans Breakers (2-0)

Saturday, 8 p.m. ET on FOX and streaming in the FOX Sports app

Last week: For the second straight week, Stallions quarterback J’Mar Smith came up big when he had to, passing for 229 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 33-28 win over Houston.

Smith's 65-yard TD pass to Marlon Williams was a thing of beauty, and Birmingham also received a nice boost from running back C.J. Marable, who rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.

As for the Breakers, all they did in Week 2 was put together the most dominant all-around showing of the season so far with the rout of Tampa Bay. That earned the Breakers both Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week honors, and the top spot in RJ Young's Power Rankings.

Players to watch: Marable has proven to be a reliable threat in Birmingham's offense, having compiled 98 yards on only 23 attempts (4.3 yards per carry) through two games. It will be interesting to see if head coach Skip Holtz increases his role moving forward.

For New Orleans, you have to wonder what receiver Jonathan Adams will do for an encore after his high-wire act in Week 2 (five catches for 92 yards) caused jaws to drop around the league.

Pittsburgh Maulers (0-2) vs. Michigan Panthers (0-2)

Sunday, 2:30 p.m. ET on USA

Last week: The Maulers improved in Week 2, as QB Josh Love and receiver Bailey Gaither seemed to build some chemistry on the field, combining on seven receptions for 119 yards. Still, the Maulers came up short against the Philadelphia Stars and dropped to 0-2.

The Panthers, meanwhile, have also struggled to create positive momentum, a situation that has hardly been helped by season-ending injuries to safety Warren Saba and tight end Joey Magnifico. QB Shea Patterson also struggled for the second straight week, completing just 48.3% of his passes in a 10-6 loss to New Jersey.

Players to watch: For Pittsburgh, keep your eye on cornerback Jaylon McClain-Sapp, who came up with an outstanding one-handed interception against the Stars. He's already scored more touchdowns (two) than any Maulers offensive player.

For Michigan, coach Jeff Fisher needs Patterson to improve his play. The former Michigan Wolverine ranks just fifth in the league in passing yards (316) and seventh in passing touchdowns (one).

New Jersey Generals (1-1) vs. Philadelphia Stars (1-1)

Sunday, 8 p.m. ET on Peacock

Last week: The Generals racked up six tackles for loss, including a pair of sacks, in last week's 10-6 victory over Michigan. Linebacker Chris Orr led the way with 10 tackles, and defensive end Tyshun Render had seven tackles, including two tackles for loss.

The Stars, meanwhile, rode the passing of Bryan Scott in a 30-23 win over Pittsburgh. Scott passed for 272 yards, the highest total of any passer in the league this season, and is the only QB to top 200 yards in each of his starts so far.

Players to watch: The Generals seem to be at their best when quarterback De'Andre Johnson is keeping defenses honest with both his arm and his legs. Michigan held him in check last week, limiting him to 27 yards on 10 carries. Will he bounce back?

For Philadelphia, it's worth watching to see if the offense gets even better as the season progresses. Stars QB Scott told RJ Young on his podcast, "The Number One Ranked Show," that coach Bart Andrus' offense was not about play-calling as much as a system in which everybody reads and reacts to what the defense presents on each play.

What will the group look like as it gets more time together?