Thursday, June 30, 2022

USFL playoff picture Week 9: Breakers, Bandits fighting for fourth and final postseason spot

Just two weeks remain in the USFL’s regular season and the playoff picture is now taking shape with eight weeks of action in the books. This past weekend, we had one team join the playoff fray by clinching their spot with a victory, while three other clubs officially ruled themselves out of postseason contention.

For those who need a refresher on the league’s playoff format, it’s pretty straightforward: the two teams from each division with the best records are in. There will be two semifinal games where the division rivals will go head-to-head (3 and 8 p.m. ET on June 25) and then a championship game will be held for the winners of those matchups (7:30 p.m. ET on July 3). All of those playoff games will be played in Canton, Ohio, at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. 

Now that you know all that, let’s take a look at the playoff picture as we enter Week 9.

Already clinched

  • Birmingham Stallions (top seed in South Division)
  • New Jersey Generals (clinched North Division playoff spot)
  • Philadelphia Stars (clinched North Division playoff spot)

The Birmingham Stallions (8-0) and New Jersey Generals (7-1) had already clinched their playoff spots back in Week 7, and they’ve continued to be among the very best that the USFL has to offer. Birmingham has not only clinched a playoff spot, but its perfect record on the year has also secured the top spot in the South Division following a nail-biting win over the Breakers in Week 8.

While the Generals are currently sitting atop the North Division, they have yet to secure the top spot. That’s thanks to the Philadelphia Stars — who clinched a playoff spot with a win against the Maulers on Sunday — still within striking distance at two games back at 5-3. 

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If the Generals are upset by the Panthers next week and the Stars defeat the Maulers, this race could be determined when these two go toe-to-toe in the final week of the regular season. While that may be the most enjoyable outcome for us at home, Michigan is 1-7 on the season and one of the worst teams in the USFL, so New Jersey will be a heavy favorite to clinch the top seed in the North in Week 9. 

In the hunt

  • New Orleans Breakers

  • Tampa Bay Bandits

With three of the four slots already filled, all eyes will be on that final playoff spot in the South Division. That race will come down to either New Orleans Breakers (5-3) or the Tampa Bay Bandits (4-4). As fate would have it, these two division rivals will square off against one another this weekend, meaning we could very well have the full list of playoff teams secure by next week. 

That’ll only happen, however, if New Orleans comes out victorious on Sunday afternoon. Thanks to a 34-3 blowout back in Week 2 against the Bandits, the Breakers would not only have a two-game advantage over the Tampa Bay with a win, but they’d also complete the season sweep. 

That’d be more than enough to clinch a playoff spot. Even if the Bandits do pull out a win in Week 9, however, it’ll be a tough mountain to climb to leap over the Breakers in the standings. In Week 10, Tampa Bay will face the top-ranked Stallions, who are a perfect 8-0 at the moment. Meanwhile, the Breakers are slated to face the 1-7 Houston Gamblers in the final week of the season. 

While that may be a tough road, it’s certainly on the table, making Sunday’s matchup one of the must-see games of the USFL regular season. 

Officially eliminated

  • Michigan Panthers
  • Pittsburgh Maulers
  • Houston Gamblers

At 1-7 on the season following Week 8, the Panthers, Maulers, and Gamblers are all mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. The Maulers have consistently been considered the worst of the trio, scoring the fewest amount of points in the USFL and allowing the second-most points in the league. The Panthers and Gamblers’ defenses haven’t been much better (allowing nearly 24 points per game), which is why it’s not too surprising to see them on the outside looking in at the playoffs.

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