In the brand new USFL, it may seem premature declaring a Week four game as a trap game. But that’s exactly what the Generals’ are facing this coming Saturday afternoon in Birmingham when they square off against the winless and rudderless Pittsburgh Maulers.
In the largest spread of the season, Oddsmakers have the Generals as nine-point favorites over the Maulers. A big reason that New Jersey is the overwhelming favorite is that they are peaking while Pittsburgh is coming off a brutal 24-0 loss to the previously winless Michigan Panthers.
The Maulers’ confidence and morale level are very low right now. By comparison, the Generals are riding high and inspiring confidence because of their performance in Week 3.
A Quick Look Back To The New Jersey Generals Week 3 Triumph
The New Jersey Generals are coming off their best win of the early season. In a showdown for first place, the Generals soared above the Philadelphia Stars to claim the North in a convincing 24-16 victory last Sunday night.
To quote the late great Dennis Green. The Generals are who we thought they were.
And they didn’t let Philadelphia’s poor run defense off the hook. New Jersey’s three-headed rushing attack of quarterback De’Andre Johnson, and runners, Darius Victor and Trey Williams, bludgeoned the Stars for almost 300 yards on the ground.
The Generals’ run-heavy offensive formula might seem like a callback to a bygone era. But it’s what New Jersey has going for itself right now.
Offensive coordinator and O-Line Coach Steve Smith has done a great job incorporating an RPO-based scheme, with his offensive line winning the war at the point of attack. It helps to have a quarterback like Johnson, who has legit 4.3 speed orchestrating the system.
At some point, the Generals will need to find their passing game. But after falling behind 10-0 against Philadelphia, New Jersey ripped up their script and returned to its original rough draft. The Generals outscored the Stars 24-6 once they returned to their bread and butter.
Ironically, the Generals’ next opponent, the Maulers, have attempted a similar style of play but with a tiny semblance of success.
Looking Ahead To The Maulers And Not Past Them
After three weeks, the Pittsburgh Maulers are, hands down, the worst team in the USFL. Kirby Wilson’s squad has been outplayed and outcoached in every facet.
The Maulers didn’t get off to a good start endearing themselves to onlookers after the “Pizza” controversy that led to RB De’Veon Smith’s release. The Maulers insist that Smith’s dismissal was justified and went beyond the player being ornery after not getting Pizza for lunch.
No matter how you slice it, the controversy created a dark cloud over the team right out the gate, and an unnecessary distraction.
The Maulers’ shortcomings on the field have left the longtime offensive assistant, Kirby Wilson, very saucy and in defensive mode. In his post-game press conference after the team’s shutout loss to Michigan. Kirby laid some of his team’s faults at his players’ feet. By saying that the “coaches don’t play,” the players do.
Last week, the Maulers’ defense, which Kirby Wilson mildly praised in his post-game press conference, allowed 244 yards rushing and nearly six yards per run to the Panthers. That type of performance is a recipe for disaster, with the league’s #1 rushing attack, the Generals’, on the horizon for Pittsburgh.
All signs point to an easy victory for New Jersey this Saturday. However, the Pittsburgh Maulers are a desperate and frustrated football team, and the Generals need to avoid coming into Week 4 overconfident.
New Jersey has a prime opportunity to create separation as the mid-way point of the season approaches. On Saturday, a victory over Pittsburgh would mean a three-game sweep in the first round of divisional games. The final three weeks of division play will occur in weeks eight through ten.
Improving to 3-1 overall and 3-0 in the North would give the Generals a nice sized lead going into the final six weeks of the regular season. The Stars and Panthers will face off on Friday night. With the winner improving to 2-2. But because the Generals have beaten both teams head-to-head. New Jersey would effectively have a two-game lead over the winner of that game.
The New Jersey Generals need to take care of business on Saturday. It’s no surprise that the over/under for the game is 35 points. The low point total is not surprising, considering the style of play both teams have. But New Jersey has to avoid playing down to Pittsburgh’s level in Week 4.