Only three weeks remain in the 2022 USFL regular season. The New Jersey Generals, winners of six consecutive games, have already punched their ticket to the playoffs in Canton, Ohio. But in Week 8, the Generals will look to win their seventh straight contest and potentially the North division crown.
USFL/New Jersey Generals Playoff Picture
The final three weeks of the USFL regular season feature all divisional matchups. The undefeated 7-0 Birmingham Stallions and the Generals have qualified to fill two of the four playoff seeds for the postseason. But the way things are shaping up in both the North and South. All four playoff spots and the division titles could be locked up before week ten arrives, perhaps even sooner than that.
The Stallions can win the Southern Division outright by beating the 5-2 New Orleans Breakers for a second time this Saturday afternoon. The Breakers snapping Birmingham’s unbeaten streak would not only keep their division hopes alive. But it would get them one step closer to clinching a playoff spot. New Orleans currently holds a two-game lead in the standings over 3-4 Tampa. The Bandits will need to run the table the rest of the way and get some serious help if they don’t want to be kept at bay for the playoffs.
Kings Of The North
As for the Generals and the North playoff picture, New Jersey (6-1) holds a two-game lead over Philadelphia (4-3) with three weeks left to play in the regular season. The Generals will win the North this coming weekend if they beat the 1-6 Pittsburgh Maulers on Friday night. And the Stars fall to the still mathematically alive 1-6 Michigan Panthers on Sunday afternoon.
Barring some unforeseen and unlikely circumstances, Philadelphia appears to be a likely playoff participant in the North. They have a three-game lead at 4-3 over Michigan and Pittsburgh. The Stars are on the verge of punching their playoff ticket but they can still win the North. For that to realistically happen, New Jersey would have to falter the next two weeks and lose to the Maulers and Panthers.
The Generals beat the Stars back in Week three, 24-16, and currently sit at 3-0 within the division. Although not impossible, Philly edging New Jersey out in a tie-breaker scenario will be challenging. Their best bet would be running the table, by beating the Generals in week ten to get to 7-3.
Nothing To Play For In Week 10?
The Stars will be playing the Generals in Week 10. Will both teams arrive at the regular-season finale with something to play for? The way things are presently constituted, no matter who wins the division, it’s likely that both teams will be playing each other in back-to-back weeks—week ten, and then on June 25th in the North playoff semifinal. The latter matchup in the playoffs has much more significant stakes because the winner will play in the USFL Championship game on July 3rd.
The truth is that the New Jersey Generals’ next must-win game isn’t until their playoff game on June 25th. Keeping the momentum going by winning the North division would provide an excellent psychological and morale boost for New Jersey. But it’s not as crucial in the USFL’s 2022 season setup as it would be in other sports leagues. Because netting a division title in the USFL, doesn’t get your team a home playoff game.
New Jersey could face a scenario in their final three weeks of potentially resting key players for the playoffs. One could argue that there is no need to rush back De’Andre Johnson at this point. The Generals don’t need him. Any other dinged-up Generals player could also sit if everything has been decided by the final weekend of the regular season.
New Jersey head coach Mike Riley could have an interesting dilemma on his hands in these final three weeks of the regular season, especially if the team takes care of business and gets to the last week of the season, playing Philadelphia with nothing on the line. Because the Generals will likely be playing the Stars two weeks in a row. It’s possible that Riley and his staff could treat the week ten game like a preseason affair. And save their game-planning for Bart Andrus’s team in the playoffs.
A not so early preview of Week 8 against the 1-6 Maulers
The Generals have a quick turnaround this week. They will be playing the 1-6 Maulers on short days’ rest this Friday night.
The early line by FOXBet has New Jersey as eight-point favorites over Pittsburgh.
Every league has a laughing stock team, sometimes more than one. And the Maulers certainly fit into that category. They have been the butt of weekly jokes on and off the field. However, as crazy as it sounds, Pittsburgh, at 1-6, is still mathematically alive for the playoffs. Whether or not Kirby Wilson realizes, that is another story.
Let’s walk through it just for entertainment purposes; the Maulers would need to beat the Generals on Friday, then defeat the Stars in week nine, followed by a victory over the Panthers. Running the table would get Pittsburgh to 4-6 and 3-3 within the division. However, to complete this implausible playoff-clinching scenario. The Stars would have to lose their last three games and fall to 4-6, putting Philly at 2-4 within the division. Thus giving the Maulers the second playoff spot in the North on a divisional record tie-breaker.
Fantasy world stuff aside, despite Pittsburgh having been in close games this year, even pushing New Jersey a few weeks back. The Generals are worlds better than the Maulers in every single aspect. Anything can happen in sports on any given Sunday. Or, in this case, Friday, but it would be shocking if the Generals didn’t take care of business and officially put Pittsburgh out of their misery in Week 8.