Week 3 of the USFL 2023 season sees the 1-1 New Jersey Generals go into the Lions’, or in this case, Panthers’ den, as they take on a resurgent 2-0 Michigan in their team’s home opener at Ford Field.
USFL 2023 Week 3 New Jersey Generals (1-1) @ Michigan Panthers (2-0) Preview: Sunday, April 30th, 4 PM ET, Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan
A changing of the guard in the USFL North appears to be taking place this season. The Panthers are coming off a convincing 24-10 triumph over last year’s Northern runner-up in the 2022 USFL Championship game, Philadelphia.
Mike Nolan’s Michigan team sent a statement to the entire league in Week 2, trouncing the Stars.
In Week 3, the Panthers can send another message by besting last year’s North division champion New Jersey Generals.
A week after being outclassed by the unbeaten Stallions in the USFL’s opening week. Mike Riley’s troops corrected course in a get-right game, outmuscling the hapless Pittsburgh Maulers 20-3 in Week 2.
Because of off-season player losses, the Generals had many doubters coming into 2023. And still do. And the truth is that it would always be challenging for New Jersey to match what they did a season ago, going 9-1.
The North is a different place than it was in 2022 for the Generals.
New Jersey swept their entire division a year ago in the regular season; however, if you look back at how they got there. The Generals won a lot of close games. Only one of their divisional conquests during the season was decided by more than one score.
New Jersey beat a 2-8 Michigan team twice in 2022; however, it was by a combined total of six points. And this year’s Panthers are vastly improved from last season.
The script has flipped in 2023. Throw 2022 out the window. It’s the Generals who are the underdogs heading into Week 3. The expectation is that the Michigan Panthers will open its Ford Field digs in style after nearly four decades away from the great state. New Jersey will attempt to play the role of spoiler on Sunday.
Week 3 Keys For The New Jersey Generals
It’s challenging to find very many flaws in the Michigan Panthers after two weeks. They have been arguably the USFL’s most balanced team. And that’s saying something considering the tear Birmingham has been on.
Michigan’s most significant strength thus far has been its league-leading plus-five turnover ratio. The Panthers’ defense has four interceptions and has forced six fumbles in two games. They are tied for the most sacks in the USFL with eight. Mike Nolan’s defense has set the tone early and often.
Under offensive coordinator Steven Smith, the Generals were as disciplined and efficient as any team in the USFL a year ago. It’s their formula for success, and they need to repeat that mistake-free style on Sunday to have a chance to beat Michigan.
Sunday’s game is a classic case of rubber meets the road.
New Jersey is predictably leading the league in rushing with over 150 yards per game. (154.5) Michigan’s defense has allowed the fewest rush yards per game (71.5).
On the flip side, the Panthers are third in the USFL in rushing, with 234 yards on the ground. Ted Cottrell’s defense is second in the league against the run (79.4).
Michigan and New Jersey have allowed the fewest sacks in the USFL thus far. Two apiece.
The Generals on defense need to find a way to erase the balance Michigan showed last week, with league standout Reggie Corbin going off for 131 yards and two scores. Disrupting Eric Marty’s offense won’t be easy. But rattling Josh Love and making the Panthers’ offense one-sided has to be on the agenda.
The ultimate key in this game will be New Jersey’s passing attack. Mike Riley’s low-volume pass game only works if there is high efficiency. A year ago, the Generals did just that, making big plays when opportunities to do so presented themselves. Thus far, New Jersey has struggled to be anything beyond pedestrian through the air.
The Generals are only ahead of the bizarrely putrid Maulers in pass yards (165 in two games). New Jersey has thrown for 300—no matter who leads the charge in New Jersey’s two-QB system, DeAndre Johnson or Dakota Prukop. The Generals need to start making plays in their passing game if they want to come out of Michigan alive in Week 3.
USFL 2023: Week 3 New Jersey Generals @ Michigan Panthers Prediction
This feels like the Generals are being led to slaughter on Sunday. Playing the Stallions in Birmingham for their championship coronation in Week one was certainly drawing the short end of the scheduling stick. However, you could argue that playing the Panthers in their home opener at Ford Field is just as daunting, if not more.
The winner of this game will have a strong one up in the North. The Generals can retake their claim to the top spot resoundingly by beating the Panthers. But it’s going to be Michigan’s Day on Sunday.
Prediction: Michigan Panthers 23 New Jersey Generals 15