The 2-3 New Jersey Generals have reached the midway point of their USFL 2023 Regular Season in a precarious position. Mike Riley’s troops, losers of two straight, are in a unique four-way tie atop the USFL North. The Generals are technically in first place due to tie-breakers, but they are in a dead heat with Pittsburgh, Michigan, and Philadelphia.
USFL 2023 North Standings/Division Overview
New Jersey is coming off their most frustrating loss of the season in Week 5. Not only did they once again succumb to the Stars in a prominent spot. But they did it in a demoralizing fashion.
The Generals held Philadelphia to 160 total yards last weekend and yet still lost, thanks to an out-of-this-world and historic performance by Stars kicker Luis Aguilar, who connected on eight field goals, including a game-winning 55-yarder at the final gun.
As a result of the Generals’ soul-crushing loss to Philly in Week 5, the balance of power within the Northern Division has been turned on its head.
New Jersey leads the pack because of two head-to-head victories over the slumping Panthers and surging Maulers. But their loss to the Stars has opened up the galaxy for all three North rivals to usurp the Generals, with only five weeks left in the regular season.
USFL 2023 Week 6: North Vs. South
After this weekend’s games, things could get even more complex in the North. In Week 6, the entire division battles with teams from the South.
On Saturday, the Maulers and Panthers have games with the Showboats and Stallions. Sunday’s action sees the Stars square off against the 4-1 Breakers. And then the weekend ends with the Generals facing the red-hot Gamblers.
Perhaps this potential scenario will be a moot point by the end of Saturday’s action. However, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that all Northern teams could be 2-4 when the smoke clears on Week Six.
No matter how things shake out, the Generals still control their own destiny. Three of their last four games in the regular season are against divisional opponents.
Nevertheless, it’s pretty clear that New Jersey’s march to the playoffs will be much more challenging than last year’s campaign.
USFL 2023 Week 6: New Jersey Generals (2-3) vs. Houston Gamblers (3-2), Sunday, May 21st, 4 pm ET ET, Simmons Back Liberty Stadium, Memphis, Tennessee, FOX
- Odds per FOXBET
New Jersey Generals @ Houston Gamblers Week 6 Depth Charts/Injury Updates
New Jersey Generals Game Status Report: LB Mike Bell: Probable (L Shoulder) WR Warren Newman: Probable (R Toe, R Hamstring) OL Isaiah Battle: Doubtful (R Calf) OL Brandon Haskin: Full Go (R Elbow) OL Saige Young: Full Go (Back) DT Tyrone Truesdell: Full Go (L Finger) WR Darrell Stewart Jr.: Doubtful (R Hamstring) WR Alonzo Moore: Probable (Illness)
Houston Gamblers Game Status Report: TE Brandon Barnes: Out (L Hand) OT Jordan Steckler: Questionable (L Hamstring) QB Kenji Bahar: Full Go (R Ankle) DL Kristjan Sokoli: Full Go (L Shoulder) WR Justin Hall: Full Go (L Ankle)
The Houston Gamblers are the USFL’s surprise team by this season’s midway point. Curtis Johnson’s team has won three straight games after dropping their first two. They are coming off a galvanizing 27-20 conquest over the defending USFL Champion Stallions.
Under Johnson, the accomplished longtime offensive assistant, Houston leads the USFL in points scored (142). And although their defense is second to last in points allowed, the Gamblers’ play on that side of the ball has also been a catalyst for their current winning streak. The balanced play has helped Houston turn the corner and has them lined up as a legit playoff contender.
The Generals’ defense, led by Ted Cottrell, is playing at a top level; they are second in points allowed (87), only one point behind the Maulers. New Jersey has particularly excelled defending the pass. They lead the league in sacks with 16 and have allowed the fewest pass yards per contest.
However, New Jersey’s offense has struggled this year, despite leading the league in rushing at 168 yards per game. They are not holding up their end of the bargain.
The Generals are seventh in the USFL in passing, with only four touchdowns through the air after five games. They are minus three in the turnover margin and are second to last in third down conversion rate. (28.6%). New Jersey is facing a Houston team that is tops in that department. (54.5%).
The Generals have their work cut out for them in Week 6 against the Gamblers.
Keys To A New Jersey Generals Victory In Week 6
The Gamblers’ offense has taken a more conservative run-heavy approach with quarterback Kenji Bahar out of their lineup. But with Bahar returning to the lineup after an ankle injury. Expect Houston to open things back up in their passing game.
Kenji Bahar had success moving the ball through the air in the first few weeks; however, he showed the propensity to turn the football over. Bahar leads the league in interceptions with six despite missing last week’s game. The Generals defense needs to force Bahar into errors by getting Houston into obvious passing situations.
The Gamblers’ strength offensively is their overall balance. They have been highly efficient in third and short situations. Slowing down potential league MVP Mark Thompson won’t be easy, but if New Jersey can accomplish that, they will make life tough on the returning Bahar.
The two QB system, which Mike Riley has employed since his time in the Alliance of American Football, added a third head last week in veteran Kyle Lauletta. Minus throwing an interception, Lauletta had a decent outing against Philly, connecting on ten of twelve passes for 111 yards. The Generals need to find consistency every week. At some point, the team’s game of musical chairs at quarterback must find its leader.
For what it’s worth, Lauletta is listed as the Generals starter at QB this week.
DeAndre Johnson, who was banged up again last week, is the Generals’ most dynamic player when he is on his game. Johnson has to start making plays down the field with his arm to keep defenses honest. There hasn’t been a progression from Johnson in that area this season.
New Jersey is sorely missing last year’s receiving standouts, KaVontae Turpin and Darrius Shepherd.
The team has always been run dominant under coordinator Steven Smith. However, the Generals are not getting the same bang for their buck with big plays through the air as they did a season ago. Cam Echols-Luper and Alonzo Moore have had their moments. But the Generals’ front office dropped the ball this offseason in not bringing in difference-making talent to replace their two departed stars.
Someone needs to step up in the Generals passing attack. The team can not survive only on a run-centric offense without some semblance of a threat through the air. Despite their recent improvements defensively, the Gamblers are still susceptible to the pass, and New Jersey needs to find a way to exploit that advantage in Week 6.
USFL: New Jersey Generals-Houston Gamblers Week 6 Prediction
Because of both teams’ elite rushing attacks, the clever play here seems to be the under. (45.5)
However, the Gamblers do have something the Generals do not. And that’s explosive playmakers at wide receiver, who can play significant roles in the pass and return game. New Jersey doesn’t have dynamic talents like Justin Hall and Anthony Ratliff-Williams, who are big plays waiting to happen.
Before the season, on paper, this game looked like a cakewalk for New Jersey. Mainly because of the Gamblers’ deficiencies on defense. Primarily due to off-season losses on that side of their roster. In the first few weeks, Houston looked like it would be a punching bag for opposing teams in that department.
However, the tables have turned, and the script has flipped. Houston looks like a team that is peaking on all fronts, while New Jersey appears to be stuck in neutral.
Unless the Generals’ defense carries the day, I have a hard time putting trust into their offense and special teams. Two areas that have not been game-changers to this point. Like they were a year ago.
Houston is the better overall team and will win their fourth straight on Sunday.