USFL Week 6 power rankings: Gamblers, Showboats lead way ahead of big matchup
The top two teams in the power rankings, Houston and Memphis, are set for a huge showdown on Sunday.
Through six weeks of the USFL season, the South Division rules the landscape.
Every team in the division is .500 or better, with three of the four — including defending champion Birmingham — sitting at 4-2.
That means that the South also rules our latest power rankings, with four teams sitting in the top four spots. It also sets up a great weekend ahead that features two matchups with massive playoff implications.
Let's take a look around the league with our latest edition of the 2023 USFL power rankings.
1. Houston Gamblers (4-2, 2-1 in South)
Last week: Beat New Jersey, 16-10.
Curtis Johnson’s Gamblers are the hottest team in the USFL with four weeks left to play in the regular season. With running back Mark Thompson in the lineup, the Gamblers are undefeated.
But Thompson’s presence isn't the only reason the Gamblers have played outstanding football over the last month. Quarterback Kenji Bahar is one of the league’s most improved players from last year. His relationship with former Ball State wideout Justin Hall has made the Houston passing attack credible. Coupled with defensive coordinator Chris Wilson’s defense, the Gamblers have become formidable.
Houston has already surpassed last year’s win total and can be the first team to win five straight this season with a win on Sunday.
Week 7 matchup: vs. Memphis, Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on USA.
2. Memphis Showboats (3-3, 1-2 in South)
Last week: Beat Pittsburgh, 22-0.
The Showboats are nearly as hot as Houston, extending their winning streak to three last weekend with the franchise’s first shutout victory since June 1985.
Memphis did it in part behind a defense that played its best game of 2023. The unit has turned a complete 180 from earlier this season. After allowing a league-worst 99 points over its first three games, the Showboats have now given up only 20 over their last three (6.7 points per game).
Still, Memphis' defense was overshadowed last weekend by wide receiver Derrick Dillon, a former national champion at LSU. Dillon fielded a missed 59-yard field goal attempt, kept his heels just above the end-line to avoid a touchback, then raced 109 yards to the end zone — the longest scoring play in USFL history and tied for the longest scoring play in pro football history.
Week 7 matchup: vs. Houston, Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET.
3. Birmingham Stallions (4-2, 1-2 in South)
Last week: Beat Michigan, 27-13.
The Stallions got back into the win column against a Panthers team that is still searching for the form it showed through the first two weeks of the season.
What’s clear about Birmingham is that quarterback Alex McGough has full control of the offense and has earned the trust of head coach and play-caller Skip Holtz. McGough completed 19 of 24 passes for 133 yards and rushed for 82 more, while Stallions running back CJ Marable ran for 100 yards on 18 rushes in the win.
The Stallions have shown excellent form in the red zone this season, scoring touchdowns on 79% of their trips inside the 20. The rest of the league is scoring TDs on just 46% of their red-zone trips.
Birmingham carries some winning momentum into a rematch with the Breakers that has massive playoff implications in the top-heavy South Division.
Week 7 matchup: vs. New Orleans, Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app.
4. New Orleans Breakers (4-2, 2-1 in South)
Last week: Lost to Philadelphia, 16-10.
New Orleans' loss to Philadelphia was far from pretty, as the teams combined to commit 24 penalties for 238 yards.
The Breakers are showing signs of cracking up in the fourth quarter of games after earning a reputation for being strong finishers. Quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson completed 22 of 38 passes for 190 yards with two interceptions and one TD.
On the bright side, running back Wes Hills continues to be productive, rewarding a coaching staff that has worked to get the ball in his hands in any way possible. In fact, over the last four weeks, Hills leads the league in both rushing attempts (92) and catches (22).
Week 7 matchup: vs. Birmingham, Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app.
5. Philadelphia Stars (3-3, 1-2 in North)
Last week: Beat New Orleans, 16-10.
Philly’s win against New Orleans — along with losses by every other team in the North — pushed the Stars to the top of their division. The win came despite committing 13 penalties for 144 yards.
Stars corner Amani Dennis enjoyed a fantastic game against the Breakers with four tackles and a touchdown off an interception return that was the difference in the game.
Quarterback Case Cookus completed 17 of 27 passes for 238 yards with two INTs in the win. Former first-round NFL Draft pick and 2015 Biletnikoff Award winner Corey Coleman caught six passes for 76 yards.
Philadelphia has won its last two games despite not scoring an offensive touchdown in either contest. Since the USFL resumed play in 2022, the rest of the league is 1-9 when not scoring an offensive TD.
Week 7: vs. Pittsburgh, Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on FS1 and the FOX Sports app.
6. New Jersey Generals (2-4, 2-1 in North)
Last week: Lost to Houston, 16-10.
While the change at quarterback from De'Andre Johnson to Kyle Lauletta eventually bore fruit, the Generals didn't score until the fourth quarter and the offense didn't find the end zone until there was 3:09 left to play.
While New Jersey scored on every second-half possession, the Generals only had two of them, as both teams put together long, clock-eating drives.
The Generals were hurt by a couple of costly penalties — a center caught downfield twice on a pass play — and a failed fourth-down attempt in the first half.
Week 7: vs. Michigan, Sunday at 5:30 p.m. ET on FS1 and the FOX Sports app.
7. Pittsburgh Maulers (2-4, 2-1 in North)
Last week: Lost to Memphis, 22-0.
The Maulers dropped into a tie for last place in the North with their shutout loss at Memphis.
Quarterback Troy Williams was unable to repeat the kind of offensive performance he mustered in the Maulers’ win last week. Pittsburgh coach Ray Horton yanked him in the second half in favor of former fourth-round NFL Draft selection James Morgan.
Morgan’s first pass attempt was picked, which was indicative of the Maulers' offensive performance in Memphis.
Offensive struggles are nothing new for the Maulers. Saturday’s shutout loss was the third time this season they have failed to score an offensive touchdown in a game, and they only have one game this season with more than one offensive TD.
On the bright side, Maulers linebacker Kyahva Tezino notched 16 tackles, including two for a loss en route to earning Defensive Player of the Week honors. He leads the league in tackles with 62 this season.
Week 7: vs. Philadelphia, Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on FS1 and the FOX Sports app.
8. Michigan Panthers (2-4, 1-2 in North)
Last week: Lost to Birmingham, 27-13.
Panthers wideout Trey Quinn was the best offensive player on the field for Michigan, with seven catches for 108 yards.
On defense, linebacker Frank Ginda tied the modern USFL record with 18 tackles. He also added a forced fumble and half a sack before leaving the game with an injury in the final moments.
But while the defensive play of Ginda and edge Breeland Speaks has been great, the Panthers are searching for an offensive playmaker who can get them back in the win column.
Week 7: vs. New Jersey, Sunday at 5:30 p.m. ET on FS1 and the FOX Sports app.
RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast "The Number One College Football Show." Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young and subscribe to "The Number One College Football Show" on YouTube.