As of right now the .500 Stars still stand atop the North, with the Panthers 3-5, Generals 2-6, and Maulers 2-6 at least one game back. With two division match-ups coming up, the Stars control their own destiny. In week 9 the Stars will face the New Jersey Generals coming out of a game that saw Alex McGough look like Patrick Mahomes. If not for a last second walk off touchdown, the Stars might be looking at a 5-3 record, alas these are the drives great quarterbacks complete in big time wins, and that’s exactly what “McGoat” did this weekend when the moment presented itself.
Aside from this last drive that saw the defense allow the Stallions to move the ball at will, the defense honestly did a fairly decent job of containing a very talented Stallions offense. The Stars held the Stallions rushing attack to just 104 yards, although they did allow 5.0 yards per carry. Davis got loose for one huge reception a 71 yard explosion for a touchdown, but otherwise his numbers looked fairly pedestrian with 3 receptions for 53 yards on 7 targets. Tight ends ultimately spelled doom for the Stars in week 8.
The pass rush kept pressure on McGough, with 2 sacks, and several more knock downs, although there is room for improvement in containing mobile quarterbacks. They also continued to cause fumbles which has allowed this defense to create an immediate impact on opposing offenses. However it wasn’t all good in this 27-24 loss.
Allowing Jace Sternberger, LaMichael Pettaway, and Thaddeus Moss to combine for 6 receptions, 102 yards and 2 touchdowns on the day, showed ways to exploit this defense. These three players, and their work in the red-zone proved pivotal in this match-up.
How do these Two Teams Match-up?
In the passing game we have the #3 (Stars), and #7 (Generals) passing offense in the league facing off in this game which could prove to be an interesting match-up. There is a 55 yard difference in average passing yards separating these two teams, and every yard of that and then some is made up in the run game by the Generals. The Stars also just signed a burner of a receiver Cyril Grayson that should see his first action this upcoming weekend after being inactive last week.
The Generals rushing attack despite several down weeks recently still leads the league by a wide margin with 134 rushing yards per game. The Stars are last in the league with 73 yards per game. During the same stretch of time that the Generals have faltered, the Stars have solidified their offensive line and it has resulted in an uptick in the run game. Just a few weeks ago the Generals were averaging over 150 yards per game, and the Stars were barely topping the 50 yard per game mark. The big question mark here is the Stars rushing attack that lost Matt Colburn to injury and signed
Now these offenses on paper look very even, but it’s up to the Stars’ defense to force this offense to beat them through the air and prevent the rushing attack from gaining momentum. If you can force a couple negative yard runs early, and force the Generals into more 3rd and long situations giving your pass rushers a chance to pin their ears back it will benefit the defense throughout the game. One thing to note, is despite leading the league in rushing yards per game, they have scored just 7 times on the ground, where as the Stars have 5 rushing touchdowns. This could prove to be a crucial stat to watch in the red-zone during this divisional match-up.
The Stars defense currently stands last allowing an average of over 23 points per game, but they stand just 4 points removed from first place, held by the Generals (19.1 points per game). I have no doubt this scoring defense statistic is directly related to the rushing attack, and controlling game flow offensively.
The Generals currently allow a league low 175.5 yards passing per game, but the 5th most rushing yards with 95.3 yards per game. The Stars allow a league worst 128.5 yards per game, nearly 7 yards more per game over second place. This is also over 30 yards more per game than the Generals allow. In the passing game, the secondary is also allowing the second most yards per game. Allowing opposing offenses to average nearly 315 yards per game. These areas need to be shored up and shored up fast. The team continues to make moves defensively, the latest a move to bring in rookie linebacker Ryan Greenhagen, but they also just lost Channing Stribling to the injury list, and brought in Carlins Platel.
As bad as the Stars defense looks on paper, the true issues lie on special teams in the return department. The Stars are just a week removed from allowing 2 return touchdowns in the same game. What better way to display that you need help on your coverage units? Currently the Stars average the second worst average yards per kickoff, and worst average yards per punt. Some of this stems from Luis Aguilar who was handling all three duties up until two weeks ago.
Despite making many moves at linebacker, bringing in guys who are versed in special teams play, the biggest move and possibly part of the issues has been Lirim Hajrullahu the punter and kickoff specialist. The Stallions and Generals game drew the attention of Cowboys Special Teams Coordinator “Bones” Fassel, who just so happened to get to witness the Stars best game from the punter position. Hajrullahu punted 4 times, and averaged 35.5 yards per punt, but did not produce one touchback, and placed 3 of his punts within the 20 yard line.
However in the kickoff department the Stars still allowed 3 returns for 82 yards, an average of 27.3 yards per return, which is just below their season average so far. You guessed it, this is another mark that is near the bottom of the league, placing them second behind only the Maulers. The Generals have been significantly better in the field position battle, and rank 3rd in punt average, and 6th in kickoff average.
One interesting takeaway here is the fact that Khalil Keith is penciled in as the starter at left guard over Shamarious Gilmore who has graded as one of the best players on the Stars per pff.com. At running back Darnell Holland is back! Just in time for us to lose Matt Colburn to injury. This is big news for Stars fans.
As expected neither new signing is active for the Stars this week, they have made a habit of waiting a week to get players involved and this trend continues into week 10. Jamyest Williams, and Carlins Platel will have to wait their turn.
Philadelphia Stars (4-4) vs. New Jersey Generals (2-6) at Canton, Ohio, 7 p.m., FOX and FOX Sports App
Point spread: Stars -2.5(Stars to win by more than 2.5 points, otherwise Generals cover)
Moneyline: Stars -143 favorites to win (bet $10 to win $16.99 total); Generals +110 underdogs to win(bet $10 to win $21 total)
Total scoring over/under: 43.5 points scored by both teams combined
The Stars get back on track in this game against a Generals team that looks like it may have given up on a lost season with win bonuses no longer a factor for the teams not making the playoffs. The Stars have looked better each week, and I would include this past week’s loss to the Stallions. They put up a hell of a fight and I was impressed with their performance overall. They will continue their winning ways and defeat the Generals by 6 points, likely thanks to Luis Aguilar the most consistent weapon the Stars have currently.