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2023 USFL power rankings: Birmingham Stallions, New Orleans Breakers on top heading into USFL playoffs

Just months removed from the Birmingham Stallions winning the 2022 USFL Championship, we’re back, divvying up the best and the worst from the United States Football League. With only eight franchises participating, the USFL power rankings are much shorter than what we’d see in the NFL but not too different than what we see in the XFL.

Yet, of course, the USFL is an entirely separate entity with its own coaches, players, and teams. While football is football in some ways, the USFL is truly a unique brand with a growing fanbase.

Let’s dive into our 2023 USFL power rankings, looking at every team after the regular season with the playoffs up next.

8. New Jersey Generals (3-7)

USFL: New Jersey Generals at Birmingham Stallions
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: Ranked sixth
  • Last season’s results: 9-1

Although they couldn’t maintain enough momentum to reach the Championship, the New Jersey Generals tied for the best record in the USFL in 2022. Breakout star KaVontae Turpin moved onto the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys, but Darius Victor, the USFL’s Offensive Player of the Year, returns at running back. The Generals have become the best rushing team in the USFL, with Trey Williams and Kingston Davis playing a factor too.

We saw plenty evidence of the Generals’ strong ground game in Week 1, dashing for 197 yards, but it led to just 10 points from the offense. As the third-place rusher in the league, Victor once again led a strong rushing attack for the Generals, and dual-threat QB De’Andre Johnson has been a factor on the ground. Yet, the Generals didn’t find enough success with their passing attack and had the league’s third-lowest scoring offense while missing the postseason.

Related: USFL games today: 2023 standings, USFL schedule, odds and how to watch

7. Philadelphia Stars (4-6)

USFL: Philadelphia Stars at Memphis Showboats
Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: Ranked fifth
  • Last season’s results: 6-4

After losing to the Stallions by just three points in the USFL Championship, the Philadelphia Stars entered the 2023 season with a massive chip on their shoulders. Yet, once they led the USFL in scoring, the Stars, highlighted by quarterback Case Cookus, appeared to be Championship contenders. Unfortunately, an injury to Cookus in the fourth quarter robbed their chances of hoisting the trophy.

But Cookus is back to 100% now, and head coach Bart Andrus is in his second season leading the Stars. Hopefully, it comes with a better defensive effort, too, as the Stars did finish in a tie for the second-most points allowed in the league in 2022.

We haven’t seen that defensive surge, as Philadelphia has allowed more points than any other USFL team through nine games. Despite leading the North division, the Stars have lost the point differential by 35.

6. Michigan Panthers (4-6)

Syndication: Detroit Free Press
Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Previously: Ranked eighth
  • Last season’s results: 2-8

After finishing with the USFL’s second-worst record, yet winning the final showdown of the season, the Michigan Panthers “earned” the No. 1 overall pick in the USFL college draft. But this isn’t the NFL Draft. How much can Michigan’s talent injection make a difference? Will the Panthers take a leap after Jeff Fisher stepped down as head coach, with the experienced Mike Nolan taking over?

It wasn’t always pretty, but they’re in the playoffs. The Panthers looked dominant in Week 1, scoring a USFL-best 29 points while allowing just 13. We saw Josh Love complete 18-of-20 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns. But the Panthers came back down to earth in Week 3, scoring just 13 points as the offense fluttered. However, despite finishing with the worst offense in the USFL, the Panthers snuck into the playoffs, where they’ll take on the Maulers, who are also below .500.

5. Pittsburgh Maulers (4-6)

USFL: Pittsburgh Maulers at New Orleans Breakers
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: Ranked seventh
  • Last season’s results: 1-9

The 2022 Pittsburgh Maulers scored the fewest points in the USFL while tying for allowing the most. This was easily the worst USFL team a year ago, but now Ray Horton has taken over as head coach. Joining Horton will be the 31st pick from the 2017 NFL Draft, linebacker Reuben Foster. Who knows? Maybe the next USFL star comes from the Maulers? That’s the beauty of the unknown.

The Maulers scored the second-fewest points in the USFL yet still managed to sneak into the playoffs. They topped 20 points just four times this season, but they also had the league’s best defense. Taking on a Panthers team that also struggles to score for the North Division title, we like the Maulers’ chances to advance to the USFL Championship.

USFL power rankings 2023: Best of the best

4. Memphis Showboats (5-5)

USFL: Tampa Bay Bandits at Pittsburgh Maulers
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: Ranked fourth
  • Last season’s results: 4-6 (as Tampa Bay Bandits)

Everything felt different for the Memphis Showboats this season. While many of the same players returned, the team formerly known as the Tampa Bay Bandits became the Showboats, moving cities, changing uniforms, and moving forward with Brady White at QB. After scoring the second-fewest points in the USFL, changes were needed. But the Showboats were unable to generate enough steam.

The Showboats got off to a rough start, losing three in a row, but they then gained tons of momentum by winning five in a row. This felt like a team figuring things out under coach Todd Haley, even making a strong push for the playoffs. But scoring the fourth-fewest (or fourth-most if your glass is half-full) while allowing the fourth-most points shows this team got what they deserved as an average USFL squad that missed the postseason.

3. Houston Gamblers (5-5)

USFL: Houston Gamblers at Michigan Panthers
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: Ranked third
  • Last season’s results: 3-7

After struggling to get anything going in 2022, the Houston Gamblers have a new head coach in Curtis Johnson, along with first-year dual-threat QB Kenji Bahar running the show. Both are unproven.

It took three weeks, but the Gamblers finally got their first win of the 2023 season. Allowing 236 points is far from ideal, but Houston also scored the third-most points this season. Ultimately Bahar couldn’t be consistent enough through the air, and despite finishing with the league’s third-best record, the Gamblers have missed the playoffs.

2. New Orleans Breakers (7-3)

USFL: Pittsburgh Maulers at New Orleans Breakers
Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: Ranked second
  • Last season’s results: 6-4

The New Orleans Breakers were respectable last season, reaching the playoffs while having the USFL’s best defense. Yet, they still swapped head coaches and quarterbacks. Larry Fedora and Kyle Sloter are out, and John DeFilippo and McLeod Bethel-Thompson are in, but will the results be better or worse?

The Breakers were the most improved team in the USFL in 2023. They rank second in the USFL in scoring, and their defense hasn’t fallen off, now ranking second in points allowed. Incredibly, the Breakers had the USFL’s leading passer and the leading rusher in what was a nearly unstoppable offense during the regular season.

1. Birmingham Stallions (8-2)

USFL: New Jersey Generals at Birmingham Stallions
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: Ranked first
  • Last season’s results: 9-1, USFL Championship winners

Proving they were the best USFL team last season, the Birmingham Stallions remained on top of our USFL power rankings heading into the new year. Lou Holtz returned as head coach, and he had his quarterbacks, J’Mar Smith and Alex McGough, with him. Smith, in particular, has been working with Holtz for seven years, dating back to their days at Louisiana Tech.

In addition to having stable leadership, the effective backfield led by running backs Bo Scarbrough and C.J. Marable returned, which led to the third-best rushing attack in the league.

Although the Breakers knocked the Stallions off their stead, Birmingham bounced back and finished with the highest-scoring offense in the USFL and the best scoring differential in the league by far. The Stallions are the USFL’s best team heading into the playoffs, and it’s not even close.

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