April 14, 2024

The inaugural playoff schedule for the new United States Football League (USFL) is set. Looking to clinch a spot in the South Division semifinal of the 2022 postseason, the New Orleans Breakers did just that Sunday, rolling past the Tampa Bay Bandits in a 17-6 decision in Birmingham, Alabama. The Breakers’ victory, which eliminates the Bandits from playoff contention, finalizes the semifinal matchups ahead of the USFL’s July 3 championship.

The Bandits entered the season, the first of the new USFL (no official association to the original 1980s version), as betting favorites to win the 2022 title. But the Breakers were the better team from start to finish Sunday, with Larry Fedora’s squad riding a defense headlined by former North Carolina State linebacker Jerod Alexander (one sack, two forced fumbles) and former NFL cornerback Adonis Alexander (one interception, one fumble recovery).

New Orleans also got contributions from two different quarterbacks, with starter Kyle Sloter, an ex-Vikings backup, briefly exiting due to a knee injury but returning to close the game. During Sloter’s absence, former Tulsa QB Zach Smith took over under center, going 5-for-6 for 51 yards and a touchdown. On the other side, former XFL standout and NFL prospect Jordan Ta’amu struggled in the elimination game, going 22-of-39 for 288 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for the Bandits.

Running back Anthony Jones (59 yards) and tight end Sal Cannella (34 yards, one TD) also chipped into New Orleans’ win.

USFL PLAYOFFS SET: After winning Sunday, the Breakers (6-3) are set to take on the Birmingham Stallions (8-1) in the South Division semifinal on June 25 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio. The New Jersey Generals (8-1) and Philadelphia Stars (6-3) will meet on the same day in the North Division semifinal in Canton, with the championship to be held the following weekend on the same field.

ALSO IN USFL WEEK 9, the Stallions’ hopes of a perfect season came crashing down in a 17-15 loss to the Houston Gamblers, while the Generals chalked up their eighth straight victory with a 25-23 win over the Michigan Panthers. In Sunday’s Week 9 finale, the Stars won their fourth in a row with a 17-16 victory over the Pittsburgh Maulers.

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