Week 6 of the USFL season will conclude this Sunday afternoon when the 4-1 New Jersey Generals look to win their fifth-straight game against the hard-luck 1-4 Houston Gamblers, who are coming off two straight last-second losses.
USFL Week 6 Preview
Houston Gamblers (1-4) vs. New Jersey Generals (4-1)
Sunday, May 22, 4 pm ET/ 3 pm CT, FOX
Protective Stadium (Birmingham, Ala.)
Weather: High 83, Potential Thunderstorms during the afternoon, with strong gusty winds at ten mph
Spread: Generals -7 Point Total: 38.5
New Jersey Generals Key Injuries: OUT, LB Chris Orr (Knee), TE Braedon Bowman (Quad), OL Mike Brown (Calf)
Houston Gamblers Key Injuries: OUT, OL Terrone Prescod (Foot), WR Tyler Simmons (Knee)
The Houston Gamblers and New Jersey Generals are two USFL teams on the opposite side of the spectrum.
Last place Houston (1-4) is on the verge of falling out of the playoff race in the South, and a fifth straight loss would effectively render the rest of their season meaningless. First-place New Jersey (4-1) is edging closer to securing a playoff berth in the North with designs of potentially winning it all in July.
Mike Riley’s troops are marching in the right direction on offense and defense.
After five weeks of play, the Generals are first in the league on offense in yards gained per game. (366.8). New Jersey’s defense is second in points given up (80) and yards allowed per game (249).
A significant reason for New Jersey’s success on both sides of the ball is their rushing attack. The Generals lead the league averaging 180.2 yards per game on the ground. Thanks to the three musketeers of emerging star QB De’Andre Johnson, Darius Victor, and Trey Williams. New Jersey also leads the league in time of possession (36:01). These two specific elements greatly aid the Generals’ defense by keeping them well-rested, particularly late in games.
New Jersey’s formula is simple, seize command of a game early, control the clock, and force opposing teams to play from behind. It’s one of the reasons why New Jersey’s defense has given up a league-low 76 yards per game rushing. Opposing offenses are either not on the field long enough to sustain drives or are forced to abandon the run and play catch-up mode.
The Generals’ front running style in games has worked to perfection, and it’s why they have become front runners in the USFL.
Kevin Sumlin’s Gamblers have been rolling snake eyes for four straight weeks. A significant reason for their misfortune in close games has been two-fold. The offense’s inability to consistently sustain drives and score touchdowns. And their defense’s inability to close out games late. Despite having the league’s best takeaway and turnover margin (+5).
The Gamblers’ offense has scored the second-fewest points in the league (87). Even though RB Mark Thompson leads the USFL with 400 yards rushing. He has only one score on the season. And the team’s passing attack ranks second to last with 150 yards per game. QB Clayton Thorson has completed 52 percent of his passes and has thrown six interceptions.
The Gamblers’ defense hasn’t fared much better. Fittingly, based on their namesake, they have played an all-or-nothing style. Houston has forced 12 turnovers in five games and has produced 11 sacks. However, they are last in yards allowed per game (380.8). And Houston is second to last in rush yards allowed (133.6).
Houston has lost four games by a combined 14 points. Two of their losses have been by a single point. If this were a game of Blackjack, the Gamblers’ first half of the season would equate to taking a hit on 15 and always landing a seven. Houston has no margin for error left in 2022, they have to hit 21 every week, or their season will go bust.
USFL Week 6: New Jersey Generals-Houston Gamblers Prediction
The forecast for Houston and this game heading into Sunday doesn’t look promising. The USFL and both teams would love to avoid the same lighting delay during last week’s Generals’ game.
Rainy conditions could turn this game into a running contest between Mark Thompson and New Jersey’s three-headed rushing attack. The Generals’ defense is tops in the league against the run but will be without their signal-caller on defense, linebacker Chris Orr.
On paper, this particular matchup favors New Jersey. The Generals’ bread and butter is their ground game. And the Gamblers’ Achilles heel on defense is their inability to stop the run. Houston has successfully forced turnovers, but they are playing an opponent that plays a risk-free style offense.
However, this contest has all the trappings of a letdown game for New Jersey. The Generals can’t afford to overlook the Gamblers just because of their record or that they just lost to the previously winless Maulers. New Jersey might be coming into this game overconfident.
For the Gamblers to pull off the upset. They will need to turn turnovers into points, take an early lead and force the Generals to play from behind. It’s a style that New Jersey hasn’t played yet this season.
I expect this game to be relatively low-scoring—bad weather or not. New Jersey will get their fifth straight win, but it won’t come easy.