Now beyond halfway in the 2023 USFL season, Week 6 of competition gets underway with no clear frontrunner in the competition.
It’s Week 6 in the USFL and teams have begun to find their feet. Where the first few weeks of games showed some teams were yet to bring everything together, it seems that any time is able to pick up a win going into the second half of the regular season.
The New Jersey Generals, Pittsburgh Maulers, Michigan Panthers and Philadelphia Stars are tied for first place in the USFL’s North Division, which is one of the most evenly matched in all of professional sports. The South Division is almost equally competitive. The New Orleans Breakers, who are currently leading the division with a 4-1 record – despite their first loss last week – followed closely by the Houston Gamblers and defending champion Birmingham Stallions, who are both 3-2. The Memphis Showboats trail these teams with a 2-3 record but have shown massive improvement of late.
Who will stand out in Week 6?
Pittsburgh Maulers @ Memphis Showboats
Saturday May 20th – 5:30pm BST / 12:30pm ET
Sky Sports (UK) / USA Network (US)
Our opening contest sets up an intriguing matchup between two teams that started the year terribly but have really begun to turn it around in recent weeks. No team have done that more than the Memphis Showboats, though. After a statement win against the undefeated New Orleans Breakers, the Showboats will be keen to show that it wasn’t a fluke. QB Cole Kelley led his team to victory last week, albeit a bit of a shaky one, but failed to get the running game going with only 1.5 YPC. Ball security was lacking too. Expect those aspects to have been the focus for the Showboats coming into this game.
On the other side, QB Troy Williams has turned around his team’s fortunes with his feet. That said, his passing performance against the Panthers last week wasn’t too shabby. With a QBR of 120.2, he completed 15/19 passes for 184 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. The team will need to shift the rushing focus to a running back and allow Williams to increase the volume of his passing in order to succeed.
Ultimately, this is going to be a close one. I have the Showboats winning by a close margin, perhaps with a walkoff field goal.
Bookies Prediction: Showboats (-2.5)
Our Prediction: Showboats
Birmingham Stallions @ Michigan Panthers
Saturday May 20th – 9pm BST / 4pm ET
Sky Sports (UK) / FOX (US)
One of the strangest storylines of the season is the fact that the Michigan Panthers cannot win at home. This is especially strange considering the Panthers are a ‘true’ home team, actually playing in the place the team hails from (unlike the Philadelphia Stars, for example). That said, I think this is more systemic of an overall lack of offense from the team, as opposed to lacking that homefield feeling. The passing game, which averages 164 yards per game and 5.2 yards per pass, has no spark and the team really struggle to advance the ball down the field. The running game is… fine; they average four yards a carry, which would be enough on a balanced offense but needs to step up more to give the passing game a better opportunity to find success.
Birmingham have, probably, been the most consistent team from year one into year two. On the ground, they’re second in the league and are #3 in passing. Their two losses, to Houston and New Orleans, have been something of a wake up call for them. New Orleans outclassed them by holding on to the ball more, giving them more opportunities to score, while the Stallions struggled in the redzone last week in Houston. Their path to improvement is obvious and with another week of practice, I expect the Stallions to reassert their dominance in Week 6.
Bookies Prediction: Stallions (-5)
Our Prediction: Stallions
New Orleans Breakers @ Philadelphia Stars
Sunday May 21st – 5pm BST / 12pm ET
Sky Sports (UK) / FS1 (US)
The Breakers stumbled last week against the Showboats. QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson has brought a wealth of ‘lower league’ experience from the CFL and has provided consistency at the position that has been missing from other teams. The problem last week was turnovers; far too many and that ultimately cost them the win.
Somewhere that consistency has been lacking at the quarterback position is with the Philadelphia Stars and Case Cookus. Is it Cookus’ fault? Not necessarily. He has been sacked a league high 23 times in just 5 games. An insane number. This isn’t really something you can work out in a week of practice, either. The Stars are in real trouble here and are playing the league’s best team at the worst possible time.
Bookies Prediction: Breakers (-7)
Our Prediction: Breakers
New Jersey Generals @ Houston Gamblers
Sunday May 21st – 9pm BST / 4pm ET
Sky Sports (UK) / FOX (US)
The normally stalwart rushing attack of the New Jersey Generals’ Darius Victor cost them, last week, when the running back fumbled the ball three times throughout the game. One of these turnovers came deep in enemy territory and ending a drive in the redzone that was expected to end in points for the Generals.
The Houston Gamblers are picking up good wins under the radar. They’re getting beaten up on defense and rank last in the league in that regard but they’re winning games against good opponents on the back of their big, bruising running back, Mark Thompson. Thompson has 8 touchdowns on the season and averages 5.8 yards per carry.
The game will be on the backs of the rushers in this one. Darius Victor will be looking to prove to potential NFL suitors that last week’s fumble fest was an anomaly and, if he does that, his ability to run down the throat of the worst defense in the league will be the key. In what could be the most competitive game of the week, I’m going Generals.
Bookies Prediction: Generals (-1.5)
Our Prediction: Generals
Who do you think is walking away with the win in Week 6? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.