The sixth week of the 2022 USFL season will open up with two teams who still have postseason aspirations. The weekend begins with the Tampa Bay Bandits taking on the Philadelphia Stars. The Bandits (3-2) got back in the win column with last week's 27-20 victory over Michigan, while the Stars' (2-3) second-half woes continued as they fell to Birmingham 30-17. Tampa still has a chance in the very competitive South Division, while just one game separates Philly from last place in the North Division. This game could set the tone for both teams moving forward.
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Tampa Bay (3-2) at Philadelphia (2-3)
Kickoff: Saturday, May 21 at 1 p.m. ET
Where: Protective Stadium (Birmingham, Ala.)
Spread: Bandits -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Philly's second-half struggles
It's been well documented that the Stars are a completely different team between the first and second halves of their games this season. They've been outscored 66-34 in the third and fourth quarters combined this season, including being shut out 16-0 over the final 30 minutes against unbeaten Birmingham last week. The first half is a different story, as Philadelphia outscores its opponents 72-59 over the course of the first and second quarters. The Stars have lost two of their last three games. But if they can play in the second half like they do at the start, they should reverse that trend.
2. The quarterback battle
The Bandits continue to be led under center by Jordan Ta'amu, who's second in the USFL in passing yards (834) and completions (77), tied for third in touchdown passes (5), and he's third among signal-callers in rushing yards (143). Despite the team's back-and-forth season thus far, Ta'amu's consistency gives the Bandits the chance to win every week. Head coach Todd Haley will need another strong performance from his quarterback if the Bandits want to win their second straight game.
As far as the Stars go, it looks like Case Cookus will get the nod again as Bryan Scott continues to work his way back from an ankle/knee injury. Since taking over for Scott, Cookus has completed 54 of 85 pass attempts for 545 yards and three touchdowns. He's also thrown an interception and has taken five sacks. And he'll be going up against a Bandits defense that's posted seven sacks and 12 pass deflections over its last two games combined. Cookus is 1-1 as the starter, and he'll need to play mistake-free football if he wants to get himself past the .500 mark.
3. What's at stake
At 3-2, the Bandits have the same record as their divisional rival New Orleans Breakers. Although the Bandits did lose to them back in Week 2. A win for the Bandits will keep them in contention for the South Division crown, and a Breakers loss to Pittsburgh on top of that will put them in second place alone behind Birmingham. The Stars are currently in second place in the North, but only lead both Michigan and Pittsburgh by one game.
A loss combined with a victory by either the Panthers or Maulers this weekend, will drop the Stars to the bottom of the standings. A much-needed win will keep them ahead of the pack.
Unless the Stars can improve their second-half play, the Bandits will pick up their second consecutive win.
Prediction: Bandits 20, Stars 17
— Written by Gabe Salgado, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He can also be heard on WGN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.