Philadelphia Stars VS the New Jersey Generals Round 2….Fight.
The Philadelphia Stars will take the battle to the Generals in Canton. This game may be in a new location for both teams, but the technical home team in this one is New Jersey. Capturing the number one seed following a 9-game win streak, culminating with a win over Philly in week 10.
Philadelphia Has No Chance Right?
Wrong. Last week we saw the New Jersey Generals best the Stars by just 3 points in a close match-up that saw a late interception thrown by Case Cookus seal their fate. In this do-or-die scenario, I expect the Stars to give the Generals everything they’ve got on offense. I would like to see Philadelphia counter the strength of the Generals, their run game, by focusing on the run themselves leaning heavily on Matt Colburn in this one.
Matt Colburn has been the key to victory in every win the Stars have accumulated following their week 5 loss against the Stallions. Colburn scored in this game and started a streak of 9 touchdowns, in 6 games. Including a 3 touchdown performance against the Bandits in week 6. Colburn can take over games, but the Stars need to dedicate themselves to the run game and then not let up.
Colburn has hovered around 100 yards of total offense several times this season. However, the Stars need him to top that mark in this game to give Cookus the help he needs to win this game with a few key throws when called upon.
I’m going to come right out and say it. The Generals don’t have many weaknesses to truly exploit in the conventional sense. It’s no coincidence we find them with 3 members of the team honored with annual awards. That doesn’t mean that the Generals’ battle plan is foolproof.
To beat the Generals in the playoffs, the Stars need to find a way to produce a pass rush outside of defensive end Adam Rodriguez who led the team with 9 sacks. However, behind him, you see a steep drop off to number two pass rusher Freedom Akinmoladun who only managed 3.5 sacks in 10 games.
If you allow Luis Perez and DeAndre Johnson to operate unabated they will shred your defense all game long. To defeat the Generals, you need to get in both of these guys’ faces. Bring pressure up the middle of the line, and move Rodriguez around to maximize his talent. At only 244 pounds it shouldn’t be out of the question to see him stand up as a SAM Linebacker even in a 4-3 alignment.
Get Off the Field on Third Down
The next big key to this game is stopping the Generals on 3rd down. Converting at over a 43% clip is part of what made the Generals so good this season. Anytime you can convert on 3rd down over a third of your offensive drives you are likely going to find success. The thing is, the Generals have had one big weakness on this team. The Kicking game. If you can stop the Generals on third down and force them to attempt field goals you could find victory in the playoffs.
The Generals’ offensive line is no joke, so this isn’t going to be an easy task. Then again if you thought this match-up was going to be easy for the Stars or any other team, you haven’t been paying attention to the Generals’ win streak. Their run game is imposing its will every week. We saw two different runners total over 570 yards on the ground in just 10 games. We also saw Darius Victor lead the league in rushing touchdowns, and later win the offensive player of the year award over fellow teammate Kavonte Turpin who instead won league MVP.
With the Coach of the Year on their side as well, the Generals certainly have an impressive arsenal. Do the Stars have enough defensive firepower to stave off the strong offensive attack the Generals have? Cody Brown will do his best to leave the Generals seeing Stars, in more ways than one, three weeks in a row, when they watch the Philadelphia Stars play in the Championship game.
The Generals seem to struggle to get pressure on the quarterback more than any team in the league, but their secondary is fairly strong in coverage and it has made up for these woes. Currently, Toby Johnson leads the team in sacks with just 2. The Generals as a team produced just 10 sacks, to the 9 that Rodriguez produced by himself. With a host of guys that don’t scare the Stars’ offensive line, it is up to Cookus to move the pocket, buy time and make sure he is making the right choice, or if it comes to it tuck it and run, living to fight another play.
The big thing here is the Stars cannot defeat themselves. With Cookus coming back down to earth the last two weeks after an elite performance featuring 5 touchdowns and over 100 yards rushing, he needs to limit interceptions to collect a “W” in this game. Currently, the betting odds have the Generals at a 3-point favorite following their week 10 win.
The thing is if the Stars don’t bring their best effort, and nearly flawless play….this game could turn into a blowout quickly. The Stars have allowed 215 points this season making for an average of 21.5 points per game. Meanwhile, the Generals and their vaunted secondary have allowed just 17.2 points per game.
Remember that run game we spoke about? The Generals can thank Trey Williams and Darius Victor for salting away victories, and keeping their points allowed per game average very low. As stated multiple times, the Generals are a tough team to beat, and arguably the hottest team in the league right now. If the Stars win this game we might be talking about this being the biggest upset of year one in the USFL.
The Generals are easily one of the most complete teams in the league, which is in stark contrast to the Stars roster that can’t seem to find a consistent balance on either side of the ball. To date, their most consistent unit over the past few weeks has been the field goal kicker Luis Aguilar. The thing is if the 6-4 Stars want to go into Canton and defeat the 9-1 Generals their game plan, and execution will have to be flawless.
Just three weeks ago Case Cookus was able to dice up the Michigan Panthers defense on his way to a 20-26 for 247 yards and 4 touchdowns. This is exactly the kind of game that Cookus will have to have to lead his team to victory in the playoffs. Could we see another backup quarterback lead an underdog team on a USFL Playoffs run, just five years removed from the Nick Foles-led Super Bowl victory?
Stay with USFL News Hub to the road to the playoffs.