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USFL Week 7 power rankings, DFS and betting preview

Birmingham, AL, USA; Houston Gamblers quarterback Clayton Thorson (18) throws against the New Orleans Breakers during the first half at Protective Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Week 6 was another great slate of USFL action. Check out my Week 6 USFL review for full notes on every touchdown scored, offensive and defensive players of the game, key fantasy football workload metrics and overall thoughts. More USFL goodness can be found weekly on The PFF Fantasy Football Podcast.

What follows is a breakdown of the league’s power rankings, favorite DFS plays and best bets. Keep your head on a swivel; let’s get after it.

USFL Week 7 Power Rankings

1. Birmingham Stallions (6-0)

Birmingham is still undefeated after 24 quarters of action. J’Mar Smith is the primary quarterback at this point, although Alex McGough does bring a different look as a run-first option alongside mid-season bowling signing Bo Scarbrough. Ultimately, the Stallions boast PFF's top-graded defense overall as well as in terms of pass-rush and coverage. And as a result, they don’t need the offense to be much better than average to win the game more times than not. The pass rush, in particular, has been a massive outlier: Birmingham has pressured opposing quarterbacks on an absurd 44% of their dropbacks (no other USFL defense has a rate higher than 36.2%).

2. New Jersey Generals (5-1)

Credit to Luis Perez for filling in admirably for an injured De’Andre Johnson last week, snatching victory out of the jaws of defeat with a walk-off quarterback sneak for a score (shoutout Darius Victor for the help). While a hobbled Johnson will be problematic, this offense arguably boasts the league’s best crop of play-makers thanks to the talents of Trey Williams, Darius Victor, Darrius Shepherd, J’Mon Moore (when healthy), Alonzo Moore and especially KaVontae Turpin, who is PFF’s highest-graded (87.1) offensive player this season. Turpin has emerged as the USFL’s version of Deebo Samuel thanks to his dual-threat goodness, leading all non-running backs with 13 missed tackles forced on the season and has done so at a blistering 0.29 rate per touch. The man is truly a problem in space.

3. New Orleans Breakers (4-2)

Kyle Sloter was playing through some serious pain last week, ultimately dropping back to pass only five times in the second half with the Breakers getting out to a big lead over the Maulers. With both of their losses coming to the top two teams in the league, New Orleans is firmly in the league’s top tier and capable of winning on any given Friday, Saturday or Sunday when Sloter and his abundance of pass-game options are clicking. The Breakers grade out as a top-three offense and defense. The best version of this squad might just carry the USFL’s single-highest ceiling considering the lack of high-octane offenses elsewhere.

4. Philadelphia Stars (3-3)

The Stars are on the verge of clinching a playoff berth thanks to sharing a division with the Panthers and Maulers. While Case Cookus hasn't exactly lit the league on fire in Bryan Scott's absence, the likes of Bug Howard and whichever running back has been healthy enough to suit up (most recently Matt Colburn) have made enough big plays to help the squad overcome PFF’s lowest-graded defense. Ultimately, the Stars-Bandits’ back-and-forth Week 6 affair demonstrated how close these teams really are. I would tier these rankings as 1-3, 4-5, 6-7 and 8.

5. Tampa Bay Bandits (3-3)

Jordan Ta’amu easily put forward his best performance of the season last week, and the Bandits would have sent their Week 6 matchup with the Stars to overtime with a bit better offensive execution on the game’s final drive — which ended inside Philadelphia's 10-yard line. The Bandits’ league-worst defense in coverage grade hasn’t left much margin for error for Ta’amu and company, but this remains a team capable of competing with anybody. Only one of their losses has come by more than a single score.

6. Houston Gamblers (1-5)

The Gamblers are 1-5 with a -10 point differential and have yet to play in a game decided by fewer than seven points. Last week’s loss to the Generals marked the second time in as many weeks that Houston lost on the game’s final play. While the Gamblers aren't as bad as their record indicates, they still field a below-average offense and defense in terms of overall PFF grade, and Clayton Thorson simply hasn't been consistent enough to believe there’s an untapped ceiling here.

7. Michigan Panthers (1-5)

The decision to release Shea Patterson is somewhat puzzling considering he was playing his best football as of late, but it could also simply be a sign that Paxton Lynch (ankle) is ready to return to action. Either way, the Fighting Jeff Fishers join the Gamblers as a team far more competitive than their record indicates (-9 point differential). They actually boast a top-three offense and defense in terms of overall PFF grade, but the league’s second-most pass-adverse offense hasn’t done itself any favors in terms of creating schematic advantages. A victory over the Gamblers in Week 7 would propel the Panthers up a spot, although remember there’s a tier dropoff after the top five teams on this list.

8. Pittsburgh Maulers (1-5)

The point differentials from the Maulers' six games this season: -14, -7, -24, -8, +1 and most recently -10. PFF’s second-lowest-graded offense continues to rotate quarterbacks with wreckless abandon, seemingly hoping that the next man up will magically solve all the offensive issues that coach Kirby Wilson has created this season. This defense isn’t terrible, but the Maulers have looked uncompetitive for most of the season and should be any non-casual’s pick for the worst team in the league.

Point differential and PFF team grades in specific categories are listed below:

DFS DraftKings Preview

One thing to keep in mind ahead of Saturday and the rest of the weekend is the potential for injured players to return to action. This USFL Twitter list includes all eight teams, and they tweet out their injury reports and roster moves throughout the week. Key situations to keep an eye on will be listed in each ensuring section about the best positional targets.

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