USFL Week 9: What to know about each game

USFL Week 9: What to know about each game

Jun 10

The road to Canton takes a big turn in Week 9 of the USFL's inaugural season, as the Tampa Bay Bandits and New Orleans Breakers collide in one of the league's most important games to date.

With two weeks left in the regular season, both teams control their own playoff destinies. 

The Bandits (4-4) can claim the fourth and final USFL playoff spot if they win their final two games. But to get to Canton, they must first go through South Division rival New Orleans (5-3) on Sunday. If they stumble, the Breakers will clinch the postseason berth.

The playoffs, which will be held at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, begin with the semifinals on Saturday, June 25.

The New Jersey Generals (7-1) and Philadelphia Stars (5-3) have already clinched playoff spots and are set to square off in one semifinal to determine the North Division champion. The Birmingham Stallions (8-0) will face either the Breakers or Bandits to decide the South Division champion. 

The winners will then play in the USFL Championship Game on Sunday, July 3. Tickets for the USFL playoffs and championship games are on sale at United States Football League (USFL) (

For a look at the big picture, check out RJ Young's latest USFL Power Rankings.

Here is a primer for Week 9:

New Jersey Generals (7-1) vs. Michigan Panthers (1-7)

Saturday, 1 p.m. ET on NBC

Last week: The Generals won their seventh straight, cruising to a 29-18 victory over Pittsburgh. Running back Darius Victor led the way with 87 rushing yards and three touchdowns. New Jersey has not lost since Week 1 against Birmingham.

The Panthers, meanwhile, were no match for Philadelphia, surrendering the most points of any team this season in a 46-24 loss. Michigan was outscored 25-6 in the second half.

Players to watch: With a playoff berth already clinched — and even their semifinal opponent having been determined — it will be interesting to see if the Generals give their key players a chance to rest a bit. If he plays, though, bowling ball running back Victor is always fun to watch.

Michigan has had some turmoil at quarterback this season — can Paxton Lynch put himself in good standing for the future?

Houston Gamblers (1-7) vs. Birmingham Stallions (8-0)

Saturday, 6 p.m. ET on USA

Last week: The Stallions didn't play particularly well last week, yet remained undefeated with a 10-9 victory over the Breakers. The Gamblers, playing without several key offensive players, dropped a 13-3 decision to the Bandits.

Players to watch: The Stallions will probably be looking to smooth out some rough edges and get healthy as the playoffs approach. Quarterback J'Mar Smith will want to improve his efficiency over these last two weeks of the regular season.

Gamblers defensive end Chris Odom is coming off a Defensive Player of the Week award after a three-sack game pushed his league-leading total to 11 through eight games.

Tampa Bay Bandits (4-4) vs. New Orleans Breakers (5-3)

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

Last week: The Bandits came away with a victory over Houston despite managing to score just 13 points on 214 yards of offense. The Breakers dropped a 10-9 decision to Birmingham, thanks in part to a three-interception day by quarterback Kyle Sloter.

Players to watch: The Bandits rise or fall behind the play of QB Jordan Ta'amu, who leads the USFL with 11 TD passes, but is also second in interceptions with nine.

For the Breakers, running back Jordan Ellis is second in the league in rushing yards, but managed just 41 in last week's loss to Birmingham.

Philadelphia Stars (5-3) vs. Pittsburgh Maulers (1-7)

Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1 and streaming in the FOX Sports app

Last week: The Stars had the best offensive game of any team this season in a 46-24 win over Michigan, which also clinched Philly a playoff berth. The Maulers' offensive struggles continued in a loss to the Stallions, though they did get a USFL-record 61-yard field goal from Ramiz Ahmed

Players to watch: Hard not to keep an eye on Philly QB Case Cookus, the reigning Offensive Player of the Week. A backup to start the season, Cookus has really put his mark on what is now a playoff team.

The Maulers have struggled to find a quarterback this season. Can Roland Rivers make the position his for the long-term?