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USFL Week 4: What to anticipate in all 4 matchups

Week 4 of the 2023 USFL season is here, with all eight teams in action in two different powerhouse cities this weekend.Saturday’s action features a pair of games, starting with the Houston Gamblers taking on the Philadelphia Stars. That’s followed by a highly anticipated matchup between the Memphis Showboats and the Michigan Panthers. Both games

USFL Week 4: What to anticipate in all 4 matchups

Week 4 of the 2023 USFL season is right here, with all eight groups in motion in two completely different powerhouse cities this weekend.

Saturday’s motion incorporates a pair of video games, beginning with the Houston Gamblers taking over the Philadelphia Stars. That is adopted by a extremely anticipated matchup between the Memphis Showboats and the Michigan Panthers. Each video games will happen at Ford Subject, residence of the NFL‘s Detroit Lions

On Sunday, the USFL can have two video games on the iconic Tom Benson Corridor of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, with the New Orleans Breakers going through the New Jersey Generals, adopted by the Birmingham Stallions towards the Pittsburgh Maulers.

Right here’s a breakdown of this weekend’s matchups, from FOX Sports activities’ Carmen Vitali and Eric D. Williams.

Houston Gamblers (1-2) vs. Philadelphia Stars (1-2)
Saturday, 1 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app

The Houston Gamblers seem like on the rise. The Philadelphia Stars seem like slipping. Is that this the week both of these issues change?

The Gamblers are coming off a spectacular come-from-behind victory over the Memphis Showboats in Week 3 whereas the Stars have misplaced back-to-back video games for the primary time because the USFL returned to motion final season. 

[Inside The Drive: See how Gamblers rallied for win]

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This would be the Stars’ second recreation in Detroit in as many weeks, and after they tackle the Gamblers (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app) they’re going to hope to alter their fortunes from Week 3.

Will the Stars get again to early season kind?

After the primary recreation of the season, it regarded just like the Philadelphia Stars would don’t have any drawback making it again to the USFL championship. The subsequent week ended up as a little bit of a actuality examine as Philadelphia misplaced to the Michigan Panthers, who look to be a lot improved over final season.

Issues actually went off the rails final week, when quarterback Case Cookus threw two interceptions for the second recreation in a row. Philadelphia had a complete of three turnovers within the recreation, which proved an excessive amount of to beat.

The Stars are averaging a league-worst 2.75 yards per carry, not permitting Cookus any form of run recreation to lean on.

That being mentioned, the Stars are holding their very own within the passing assault, averaging 220.3 passing yards per recreation, which ranks third within the league. Their main receiver, Corey Coleman, already has 311 all-purpose yards this season, 211 of that are as a receiver. Philadelphia additionally has the third-best third-down conversion fee of any group within the league, changing at a 44.4% fee. If they’ll complement that with a extra balanced offense, the Stars ought to have the ability to return to kind.

Can Gamblers hold rolling?

Working again Mark Thompson returned to his 2022 requirements in Week 3. After main the league in speeding yards final season, Thompson discovered that kind towards the Showboats, ending with 84 yards on 21 carries and a pair of touchdowns. The Gamblers leaned closely on their floor recreation to make sure final week’s win, ending with a complete of 132 speeding yards total.

Whilst Memphis mounted a comeback late within the recreation, the Houston protection held on simply sufficient to present the Gamblers offense one final possession. Quarterback Kenji Bahar then drove his unit the size of the sphere, successful the sport on a landing move to broad receiver Justin Hall, his second rating of the sport.

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“I glanced, and the nook had left,” Corridor mentioned after the sport. “He went with the skin receiver, and I simply knew I used to be broad open. Kenji (Bahar) made an amazing move. The O-line held their very own, everyone did their 1-of-11, and we ended up with the win.”

It was arrange by a wonderful lengthy ball over the center to tight finish Josh Pederson. If Houston can hold its offense clicking, the Stars can have their palms full attempting to get again within the win column.

— By Carmen Vitali

Memphis Showboats (0-3) vs. Michigan Panthers (2-1)
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC

The Michigan Panthers are coming off their first lack of the season whereas the Memphis Showboats are on the lookout for their first win.

That would be the overarching storyline on Saturday when the 2 groups kick off a full weekend slate of USFL video games between Detroit and Canton.

Michigan opened play within the USFL’s much-anticipated return to Detroit final week. Available had been Detroit sports activities legends Ben Wallace and Calvin Johnson, because the raucous crowd cheered on the hometown group. However the New Jersey Generals proved an excessive amount of for the Panthers, exploiting run lanes and amassing 198 yards on the bottom towards Mike Nolan’s squad. Jersey seemingly offered the blueprint for the best way to assault the beforehand streaking Panthers, and the Showboats ought to take discover.

In the meantime, Memphis sits within the cellar of this week’s power rankings, and it’s largely resulting from their lack of a floor recreation. Showboats working backs carried the ball simply 11 occasions for a complete of 4 yards final Sunday. Fixing that must be precedence No. 1 because the Showboats come into Detroit.

Can Panthers’ offensive stars get again on monitor?

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Josh Love got here into Week 3 because the unquestioned starter for the Panthers. Having earned USFL Offensive Participant of the Week to open the season, the hole between him and backup Carson Strong appeared vital.

However Love struggled towards the Generals, ending 15 of 31 for 101 yards and throwing an interception into double protection. In the meantime, Sturdy, who was put in to complete out the primary half, engineered a nine-play, 66-yard drive that was capped off with the Panthers’ solely landing of the sport. Love was put again in to start out the second half however regardless of possessing the ball for 30 of the primary 37 performs, got here up with only one discipline aim to indicate for it.

Not solely was Love’s efficiency missing, however Michigan’s different offensive spark, working again Reggie Corbin, had an uncharacteristically down day. New Jersey held him to simply 38 speeding yards on eight carries.

Offered each Love (or possibly even Sturdy) can get going beneath heart towards a struggling Memphis group with the assistance of Corbin on the bottom, the Panthers ought to have the ability to proper the ship not solely this week however once more in Week 5 towards Pittsburgh, which sits at No. 7 in FOX Sports activities’ newest energy rankings. 

Will Showboats get their first win of the season?

Sure, Memphis is sitting on the backside of the South Division, however there’s a glimmer of hope in former Southeastern Louisiana quarterback Cole Kelley. Regardless of final week’s loss to the Houston Gamblers, Kelley accomplished 21 of 38 passes for a whopping 307 yards and two touchdowns towards one interception.

The Showboats even tied the sport towards the Gamblers final week on a fourth-down trick play that noticed working again Alex Collins take the direct snap and float a move to tight finish Jay Jay Wilson behind the top zone for the rating.

And whereas he received assist beneath heart, the issue was that Kelley didn’t get a lot assist in the way in which of a balanced offense total. If Memphis can work out its speeding woes and Kelley has one other recreation like final week, it gained’t be lengthy earlier than the Showboats present one thing within the win column.

— By Carmen Vitali

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New Orleans Breakers (3-0) vs. New Jersey Generals (2-1)
Sunday, 3 p.m. ET on NBC

The lone undefeated group remaining within the USFL, the New Orleans Breakers (3-0) take their good document on the highway to face the New Jersey Generals (2-1), 3 p.m. ET at Tom Benson Corridor of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio on Sunday.

Led by first-year head coach John DeFilippo, the Breakers have been one of many nice surprises of the USFL to date this season, knocking off the defending champs, the Birmingham Stallions in a 45-31 shootout final week.

The Breakers tackle one other group taking part in nicely within the Generals. After dropping in Week 1 to the Stallions, New Jersey has gained two straight, together with a 28-13 victory over the Michigan Panthers at Ford Subject in Week 3.

Right here’s one massive query for the Breakers and Generals to think about as they head into this weekend’s matchup:

New Orleans Breakers: Can DeFilippo hold this offense rolling?

By means of three weeks, the Breakers have the USFL’s main passer in McLeod Bethel-Thompson (857 yards), the main rusher in Wes Hills (301 yards), and the main receiver in tight finish Sage Surratt (257 yards).

The Breakers additionally lead the league in complete yards (393) and factors scored per recreation (35).

So, what can the Breakers do for an encore?

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“We put ourselves within the place to be on the high of the division,” DeFilippo mentioned. “And clearly that was certainly one of our targets originally of the season, and it is rather attainable. However we’ve got to maintain going. We aren’t even shut. We aren’t even near being there. So, it’s pedal to the metallic.” 

New Orleans will get one other powerful check by taking over a New Jersey protection that’s holding opponents to a league-low 14.3 factors per recreation.

Defensively, the Generals are led by linebacker Chris Orr, who has 28 mixed tackles and a sack via three video games. Becoming a member of Orr in New Jersey’s robust effort on that facet of the ball are defensive linemen Tyshun Render (two sacks) and Toby Johnson (1.5 sacks), together with cornerback D.J. Daniel (two interceptions).

“This man has performed some actually good soccer for us,” Generals head coach Mike Riley mentioned about Daniel. “He has taken benefit of being within the USFL and growing his taking part in abilities. And he takes it actual critical, so I’m actually proud with how he’s performed.

“And defensively, we’ve actually made it arduous on groups.”

New Jersey Generals: Can Darius Victor play stay away from explosive Breakers’ offense?

Whereas the Breakers have the top-scoring offense within the league, the Generals lead the USFL in speeding by averaging 169 yards a contest.

Victor tops New Jersey with 228 speeding yards on 32 carries, for 7.1 yards per carry. Victor additionally has two speeding touchdowns. 

The Offensive Participant of the 12 months within the USFL final season, Victor must run nicely to present the Generals an opportunity to decelerate New Orleans’ high-octane offense.

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Nonetheless, it may very well be powerful sledding for New Jersey’s offense on the bottom, because the Breakers have held groups to simply 76 yards per recreation.

— By Eric D. Williams

Birmingham Stallions (2-1) vs. Pittsburgh Maulers (1-2)
Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET on FS1 and the FOX Sports app

Skip Holtz and the Birmingham Stallions (2-1) want to get again to their successful methods after they face the Pittsburgh Maulers (1-2) within the second recreation of a Sunday doubleheader at Tom Benson Memorial Stadium (6:30 p.m. ET on FS1 and the FOX Sports app).

The defending USFL champions misplaced their first recreation of the season final week towards the New Orleans Breakers, giving up 45 factors within the loss.

The Stallions will look to enhance defensively towards a Pittsburgh offense that lastly discovered a spark final week, with Maulers head coach Ray Horton incomes his first victory, 21-13 over the Philadelphia Stars.

“I hope what occurs is the fellows now belief and imagine within the strategy of what we’re doing,” Horton mentioned. “Clearly, shall be taking part in Birmingham this weekend, and it affords one other likelihood to do one thing completely different, no matter they carry to the desk. So, what is going to attempt to do is construct. Clearly, success and confidence go hand and hand. … For us, it’s belief and perception.”

Birmingham Stallions: How can protection restrict explosive performs?

The Stallions allowed 9 performs of 20-plus yards towards the Breakers in Birmingham’s 45-31 humbling loss final week. So, limiting massive performs shall be some extent of emphasis defensively for the Stallions after they face Pittsburgh on the highway. 

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Birmingham has allowed a league-high 153 speeding yards per contest via three video games.

“I assumed they performed extra bodily than we did,” Holtz mentioned about his group’s loss to New Orleans. “I assumed within the trenches on each side of the ball, they gained the road of scrimmage, and it’s arduous to win a soccer recreation (like that). They’ve received an excellent soccer group, and so they needed it. I informed the group, you put on that crown for some time, and if you happen to begin believing it, it’s going to eat you up.” 

Holtz mentioned he’s hopeful to get a few gamers again on protection — together with linebacker Scooby Wright — to assist tighten issues up on the facet of the ball. The Stallions face a Pittsburgh offense that ran for 137 yards in final week’s win over the Stars, led by quarterback Troy Williams, who rushed for 65 yards on seven carries.

Pittsburgh Maulers: Can Maulers proceed to journey kicker Chris Blewitt?

It’s uncommon for a group to get a spark from a kicker, however that’s what occurred for Pittsburgh when Blewitt joined the group final week.

“When Chris first got here in, he was simply warming up, and he saved transferring again, and again and again,” Horton mentioned. “We introduced the entire group up simply to place a bit stress on him, and he made a 62-yarder with room to spare. 

“And I feel the fellows thought, right here we go. Little issues imply so much, and Chris means so much to us.” 

Blewitt completed 5-for-5 on discipline targets final week, together with a protracted of fifty yards. However he missed his solely extra-point try.

The Maulers even have benefited from robust returns on particular groups. Isaiah Hennie leads the league in punt return yards with 161. Hennie has 82- and 53-yard punt returns to his credit score already this season, whereas teammate Josh Simmons had a 56-yard kickoff return final week.

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The large returns created quick fields for the Maulers, making it simpler for the offense to get into scoring place final week. Horton additionally made the swap from James Morgan to Williams at quarterback in Week 3, and the Utah product’s added dimension as a runner helped create extra juice for the Maulers on offense. 

“Whether or not it’s dance or music, you’re feeling the rhythm,” Horton mentioned in regards to the improved method his offense carried out final week. “And to me, it simply had a distinct look all through the week. The gamers took possession of what we had been doing, and accountability. And I feel that’s what it was, greater than something.” 

— By Eric D. Williams

Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports activities. Carmen had earlier stops with The Draft Community and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, together with 2020, which added the title of Tremendous Bowl Champion (and boat-parade participant) to her résumé. You may comply with Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for greater than a decade, protecting the Los Angeles Rams for Sports activities Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma Information Tribune. Observe him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

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