USFL Week 7 power rankings: Showboats, Stars streaking

With three weeks to go in the USFL season, the playoff races are still very much up in the air.

Heading into Week 8, only the Philadelphia Stars have an opportunity to clinch a postseason berth, and they need a win and two of their North Division foes to lose to do so.

[The latest USFL playoff picture]

The Stars have won three straight contests to get into this position as division leaders, rising to No. 3 in our latest power rankings at the same time.

The Memphis Showboats, meanwhile, have done even better, taking four games in a row to move into the top spot. 

Let's take a look around the league with our latest edition of the 2023 USFL power rankings.

[If the playoffs started today]

1. Memphis Showboats (4-3, 2-2 in South)

Last week: Beat Houston, 23-20.

The Showboats entered the fourth quarter with a double-digit lead, blew that lead, then came back to win it late when quarterback Cole Kelley found former LSU wideout Derrick Dillon on a short pass that Dillon turned into a 64-yard, tackle-breaking YAC attack for the game-winning score. I imagine Al Kapone’s "Whoop That Trick" made another appearance at the stadium following the TD.

The Showboats have won four in a row, matching the Breakers and Gamblers for the longest winning streak this season. All of a sudden, the Showboats are putting Ws in the column like Young Dolph put mix tapes in the street.

Memphis is actually the second-worst in the league in converting third downs this season (29%) but the Showboats have made up for that by being the most aggressive and efficient team on fourth down, converting 71% of their league-high 14 tries.

Week 8 matchup: vs. Generals, Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app.

2. Birmingham Stallions (5-2, 2-2 in South)

Last week: Beat New Orleans, 24-20.

The Stallions are 19-2 when giving up 27 points or fewer, proving once again that Birmingham’s strength is its iron curtain. Quarterback Alex McGough came through with 198 total yards and two TDs. As the league leader in passing TDs and points scored, he’s mounting a case for league MVP honors.

Former Ohio linebacker Quentin Poling pulled the Breakers’ voter registration and hit ‘em with 11 tackles, three for a loss, two sacks and a fumble recovery. Birmingham reclaimed the No. 2 spot at the top like Gucci Mane after Droptopwop. 

Meanwhile, running back C.J. Marable has emerged over the last two weeks — averaging a league-best 127 yards from scrimmage in a pair of wins.

Week 8 matchup: vs. Stars, Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.

3. Philadelphia Stars (4-3, 2-2 in North)

Last week: Beat Pittsburgh, 37-31.

Life is good for the Stars. Quarterback Case Cookus and wideout Corey Coleman found one another on the longest play of the year for the offense — a 56-yard TD to lead Philly past the Pittsburgh Maulers last Saturday. Cookus completed 18 of 30 of for 235 yards with two TDs.

The Stars had four offensive TDs on Saturday night, matching their total from the previous five games combined and snapping out of their offensive funk.

The win was Philly’s third-straight and put the city that brought us Meek Mill in position to "Loc" up the North Division title like my hair circa 2020. With a win against Birmingham and losses from New Jersey and Pittsburgh, the Stars can clinch the division this weekend.

Week 8 matchup: vs. Stallions, Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.

4. New Orleans Breakers (4-3, 2-2 in South)

Last week: Lost to Birmingham, 24-20.

The Breakers have gone from Big Tymers to looking like a team struggling to get their roll on. With three consecutive losses, the Breakers need to find the juju that led them to a 4-0 start and a remedy for what has gone wrong in each of the last three weeks.

The Breakers can take solace in knowing their passing game was outstanding with McLeod Bethel-Thompson very much in the conversation for MVP. He leads the league in passing while tight end Sage Surratt leads it in receiving yards.

Turnovers have been a problem during the Breakers’ 3-game losing streak, as they've surrendered a league-worst eight in that stretch, compared to a league-best three over their 4-0 start.

Week 8 matchup: vs. Panthers, Sunday at 4 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app

5. Houston Gamblers (4-3, 2-2 in South)

Last week: Lost to Memphis, 23-20.

Despite the play of quarterback Kenji Bahar (216 passing yards) and running back Mark Thompson (two rushing TDs to stretch his league-leading total to 11), the Gamblers lost their first game since Week 3 — when the Gamblers beat the Showboats with 13 seconds left to play.

However, the Gamblers are still tippin’ toward a playoff run with two of their last three games coming against South Division rivals Birmingham and New Orleans. There are three weeks left to turn it up, show us how they get their shine on, and give us something that’s gonna rattle a big body Chevy trunk.

Week 8 matchup: vs. Maulers, Saturday at Noon ET on USA.

6. Michigan Panthers (3-4, 2-2 in North)

Last week: Beat New Jersey, 25-22.

The Panthers punched back like the Motor City Cobra at the Kronk, adopting the city’s ethos — Detroit vs. Everybody.

No one personified this more than quarterback Josh Love, who began 1-for-5 for six yards and finished 15-for-24 for 259 yards and three TDs. He didn't throw a single INT and put an end to a month-long losing streak.

A five-catch 121-yard performance from wideout Joe Walker, a 78-yard rushing performance from Reggie Corbin, and a 97-yard kick return for TD from Kaden Davis could all be seen as signs that the Panthers are gaining speed down I-94.

Love has played really well in the second halves of the last two games, going a combined 18-for-28 for 261 yards and four TDs. His second-half passer rating in that stretch is 134.1, nearly double his first-half passer rating in those games (71.7).

Week 8 matchup: vs. Breakers, Sunday at 4 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app

7. New Jersey Generals (2-5, 2-2 in North)

Last week: Lost to Michigan, 25-22.

The Generals played down three of their starters in defense — leading tackler Chris Orr, defensive end Tyshun Render and safety Shalom Luani — and still managed to walk into halftime down just 6-3 on Saturday.

After quarterback De'Andre Johnson was carted off with 8:34 left to play after taking a violent hit to the head, quarterback Kyle Lauletta led the offense to within a score of tying the game, but failed to convert a fourth-and-12 attempt to maintain possession.

This Jersey team looks like a stranger to Generals fans, who have lost four straight — all by six points or fewer. The Generals were 7-1 in one-score games last season.

Week 8 matchup: vs. Showboats, Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app.

8. Pittsburgh Maulers (2-5, 2-2 in North)

Last week: Lost to Philadelphia, 37-31.

Get the cardboard out for the Pittsburgh Maulers, who are back to riding Blue Slide Park with their second two-game skid this season.

But that hides the fact that the Maulers looked every bit like finishing Philly like a pirogi at Frick Park Market. They trailed the Stars 34-31 with 2:01 left to play after a 17-yard pass and catch from Troy Williams to Isiah Hennie to set up a fourth-and-12.

A sack ended the Maulers’ attempt to stick a chair in a playoff parking spot, but I'd be shocked if they didn't show over the last three weeks of this season the correct way to pronounce "Carnegie."

There have been seven non-offensive TDs in the league this season and Pittsburgh has three of them. The Maulers are the only team with a defensive TD, a punt return TD and a kickoff return TD this year.

Week 8 matchup: vs. Gamblers, Saturday at Noon ET on USA.

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.