By RJ Young
FOX Sports Writer
The Birmingham Stallions proved now resilient once again in Week 3, earning a 22-13 victory in their showdown with the New Orleans Breakers.
That left quarterback J’Mar Smith and his squad as the only unbeaten group left in this USFL season, and also left them perched atop my Week 3 Power Rankings.
Birmingham Stallions headline the USFL Week 3 Power Rankings
RJ Young breaks down the best teams in the USFL from top to bottom. The undefeated Birmingham Stallions remain at the top of his list, but there was a lot of movement elsewhere.
Let’s take a look at how the rest of the field shakes out:
1. Birmingham Stallions (3-0, 2-0)
After going down 13-10 in the second half of their game against the Breakers, the gritty Stallions battled back to win 22-13.
Like every game the Stallions have played this season, the offense was slow to start, but the defense had its back.
Linebacker Scooby Wright was everywhere with 17 tackles and a pass defended. He was one of four Stallions with double-digit tackles, including a linebacker and Defensive Player of the Week candidate Demarquis Gates, who added 10 tackles, an interception, a fumble recovery and a tackle for loss.
How Stallions linebacker Scooby Wright got his name
RJ Young is joined by Birmingham Stallions LB Scooby Wright, who discusses how he got the name “Scooby,” and how it’s stuck with him throughout his life.
2. New Orleans Breakers (2-1, 1-1)
There was a moment in the third quarter when the Breakers looked ready to summon a tsunami when Larry Fedora’s offense mounted a 17-play, 77-yard TD-scoring drive, eating up nearly nine minutes of the clock.
Wideout Johnnie Dixon is still a YAC monster, and he accounted for seven catches for 86 yards and both breaker TDs.
The difference, though, was the Breakers’ offensive line, which had not allowed a sack all season before giving up four against the Stallions.
Still, with a big win against the Tampa Bay Bandits under their belts, the Breakers are still in a good spot to earn the second South Division playoff spot in June.
Johnnie Dixon extends for a Breakers TD
Kyle Sloter finds Johnnie Dixon for a touchdown against Birmingham.
3. New Jersey Generals (2-1, 1-1)
Generals coach Mike Riley continued his two-quarterback system against a Philadelphia Stars team that employed the best statistical QB in the league – and Riley won.
With De’Andre Johnson taking now of the snaps in the second half – adding 130 yards passing and 94 yards rushing – New Jersey rushed for a gaudy 269 yards in their 24-16 win to move into sole possession of first place in the North Division .
Defensive coordinator Cris Dishman has made his unit better each week. Against Philadelphia, they gave up just 230 passing yards and 31 rushing yards and held Philly scoreless in the fourth quarter.
Highlights: Generals earn a comeback win vs. Stars
The New Jersey Generals earned a win against Philadelphia behind a ground attack led by Trey Williams and De’Andre Johnson.
4. Tampa Bay Bandits (2-1, 1-1)
Tampa Bay coach Todd Haley implored his squad to win against Houston, telling his players he was missing his daughter’s graduation to coach them.
The Bandits responded.
Down 24-13 at half, Jordan Ta’amu led Tampa to a 26-24 comeback win with 255 passing yards. Former LSU wideout Derrick Dillon caught six passes on six targets for 124 yards and a TD.
We’ve seen what Tampa’s offense is capable of doing. If it can contribute to the team’s effort like this every week, and Pepper Johnson’s defense gets back to playing the kind of ball it did in Week 1, the Bandits stand a chance of working back into the playoff contention.
The biggest test of the season for the Bandits comes this Saturday night when they play the Stallions in what has fast become the best team in the league.
Highlights: Tampa Bay Bandits rally past Houston Gamblers
Jordan Ta’amu completed 21 of 36 passes for 255 yards and two total touchdowns as the Tampa Bay Bandits defeated the Houston Gamblers, 27-26.
5. Philadelphia Stars (1-2, 1-1)
While starting quarterback Bryan Scott was knocked out of the game due to injury, Case Cookus played well in relief.
But it was the Stars’ inability to stop the run that doomed them in their loss to the Generals. Defensive coordinator Brad Miller has his work cut out for him getting his rush defense back to good.
Still, linebacker Jordan Moore acquitted himself well. He led Philly with 10 tackles, including a sack.
The Stars hope to have Scott back for their game against the Michigan Panthers (Friday, 10 pm ET on FS1 and the FOX Sports app) after a short week.
Bryan Scott links up with Bug Howard on a 41-yard TD
Bryan Scott found tight end Bug Howard on a 41-yard touchdown pass to put the Philadelphia Stars up early vs. the New Jersey Generals.
6. Michigan Panthers (1-2, 1-1)
Jeff Fisher’s team has an identity – run the football and play defense.
Choosing to start former NFL first-round pick Paxton Lynch, the Panthers’ offense scored on each of its opening possessions.
Running back Reggie Corbin carried the rock 20 times for 130 yards with a TD, while the defense pitched the first shutout of the inaugural USFL season. Though Lynch needed to leave the game, No. 1 overall pick Shea Patterson played well enough for the Panthers to earn their first win of the season.
Fisher will hope that his old school approach pays off for a consecutive week against the Stars on Friday night.
Stevie Scott, Reggie Corbin carry Panthers to first win
Stevie Scott rushed for 54 yards and a touchdown and Reggie Corbin gained 133 yards and a score of his own as the Panthers beat the Maulers, 24-0.
7. Houston Gamblers (1-2, 0-2)
The Gamblers need to learn to finish games. If they could’ve, they might be sitting pretty at 2-1 instead of 1-2 and in fourth place in the South Division.
Quarterback Clayton Thorson played his best game all season, completing 15 of 24 attempts for 240 yards. Running back Mark Thompson stretched his lead as the best tailback in the league.
Thompson carried the ball 24 times for 147 rushing yards and a TD. His TD came on a 55-yard rush.
With the Breakers up next, Houston coach Kevin Sumlin is going to look to get his offense and defense clicking as they did in the first half against the Bandits last week.
Mark Thompson breaks loose for a 55-yard TD!
Mark Thompson dazzled with a 55-yard rushing touchdown in Week 3 for the Houston Gamblers.
8. Pittsburgh Maulers (0-3, 0-2)
The Maulers are the only winless team left in the USFL and suffered the indignity of being the first to be held scoreless – ouch. But Kirby Wilson’s squad looked good at times, especially running the ball after making the switch from starting QB Josh Love to Kyle Lauletta.
The Maulers averaged 4.7 yards per carry and received a boost on special teams when defensive end Carlo Kemp blocked a punt.
There’s still time for the Maulers to figure out their team, but with the North Division leader in New Jersey on tap this weekend, they’re running out of time.
RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcastThe No. 1 Ranked Show with RJ Young“Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Youngand subscribe to “The RJ Young Show“on YouTube. They are not on a StepMill.
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