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USFL Week 9 power rankings, DFS and betting preview

Birmingham, AL, USA; Birmingham Stallions quarterback J'mar Smith (6) throws against the New Orleans Breakers during the first half at Protective Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Week 8 was another great week to be great in the USFL. Check out my Week 8 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, and let’s get after it.

USFL Week 9 Power Rankings

  • Birmingham Stallions (8-0): Still undefeated despite their offense looking more and more average by the week. Still, J’Mar Smith has demonstrated the ability to put up points in a hurry when clicking, and this remains the USFL's scariest pass rush. Overall, Birmingham has pressured opponents on 40.8% of their dropbacks – the Gamblers (36.8%) are the only other team to disrupt the opposing quarterback on more than 34% of their dropbacks this season.
  • New Jersey Generals (7-1): Continue to look like the league’s toughest team to stop when playing with a lead thanks to their plethora of playmakers in the run game. WR KaVontae Turpin (86.1) and RB Darius Victor (84.8) are PFF’s top-two highest-graded offensive players this season, and De’Andre Johnson's (ankle) return could be enough to push this offense over the edge. Nobody has averaged more yards per play than the Generals (5.6) this season.
  • Philadelphia Stars (5-3):.Bryan Scott’s status on the inactive/injured reserve roster seems to end his chances of returning this season, but that might not matter if Case Cookus’ monster Week 8 performance is a sign of things to come. Overall, this offense has scored 35, 35 and 46 points over the past three weeks, as it sure looks like the Stars are peaking at the right time. The problem is that Philly easily boasts the USFL's worst defense in PFF grade across the board. Overall (64.2), against the run (61.0) and pass rush (60.2), this is the league's worst defense by a decent margin.
  • New Orleans Breakers (5-3): Kyle Sloter has shown off some high highs and low lows this season. This week’s potential playoff-clinching matchup against the Bandits is absolutely crucial, as the Breakers boast a top-four offense (65.4) and defense (76.4) in team PFF grade, something neither the Stallions, Generals, nor Stars can attest to achieving at this point.
  • Tampa Bay Bandits (4-4): The Bandits don’t resemble one of the USFL’s most-complete teams, but they’ve proven capable of staying competitive with just about anyone when Jordan Ta’amu has the offense clicking. Still, their -19 point differential demonstrates the difference when comparing them with the Breakers (+38) or Stars (+21).
  • Michigan Panthers (1-7): The Fighting Jeff Fishers are 1-7 but have lost by more than seven points just twice. PFF’s third-highest graded defense has generally made it difficult for opposing offenses to make too much happen, although it’s worth wondering if last week’s failure against the Stars could be a sign of things to come without anything to play for during the final two weeks. Don’t be surprised if Paxton Lynch and Josh Love rotate more than usual with Michigan eliminated from playoff contention.
  • Houston Gamblers (1-7): Their 11-point loss in Week 7 and 10-point loss in Week 8 marked the first two times Houston lost by more than seven all season. The problem is that Clayton Thorson (elbow) is hurt, and the reality that the Gamblers are eliminated from playoff contention could plausibly lead to lower team-wide motivation over the final three weeks. The Gamblers' modest -31 point differential reflects the reality that they aren't as bad as their record indicates, but things might get worse before they get better without Thorson to steer the ship.
  • Pittsburgh Maulers (1-7): Head coach Kirby Wilson infamously cut his starting running back prior to Week 1 over a pizza request. He's followed this up by posting a league-worst -83 point differential. The offense has rotated through four quarterbacks with Wilson twice benching his starter in the fourth quarter in favor of someone who literally just joined the team that week. The offense has yet to surpass even 23 points in a single game, and only one of their losses came by seven or fewer points. Otherwise, everything is going great!

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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