It may seem premature to celebrate being in first place this early in the season. After all, it’s only three weeks of games. But in the USFL, with only seven weeks left to play, each divisional game takes on added importance.
The winner of the Northern showdown between New Jersey and Philadelphia will remain undefeated in the division and effectively have a two-game lead because of tie-breakers. And the Stars and Generals won’t meet again until the final weekend of the regular season. Both teams are in the midst of a three-game divisional stretch.
New Jersey Generals-Philadelphia Stars Week 3 Preview
Sunday Night, Protective Stadium, Birmingham, Alabama, 8 pm ET, Peacock Network, (Paul Burmeister/Michael Robinson on commentary)
Spread: Philadelphia Stars -1.5, Over/Under:40.5
The line hasn’t moved much since earlier in the week. On paper, the Stars have looked like the better team, and the Generals squeaked by the struggling Panthers 10-6 in Week 2. In contrast, Philadelphia won a 30-23 shootout with the Maulers. Despite Philly’s high-powered passing attack, the point total is only 40.5. The oddsmakers believe that New Jersey’s conservative style and improved defensive effort a week ago will keep this game close. But that the Generals won’t have enough offense to win ultimately.
Weather: Scattered thunderstorms during the evening, then mainly cloudy overnight. Low 63F. Winds are light and variable. Chance of rain 40%
New Jersey faced a similar forecast heading into their opening game against the Stallions in Birmingham. But as it turned out, the weather didn’t play a role. The Generals’ run-heavy and conservative approach could tilt the game against Philly in their favor. Especially considering that the Stars’ strength is their passing game. Rainy conditions can be the 12th man on the field for New Jersey.
Game Status Report/Roster Updates
The Generals will be without two safeties in this game. Shalom Luani and Mike Bell. Paris Ford has been transferred to the active roster to help aid in safety depth. DT Destiny Vaeao and DL Deyon Sizer will both be out as well. WR J’Mon Moore will remain on the inactive roster.
The good news for the Stars is that QB Bryan Scott (knee), despite being limited by a knee injury is a full go. However, Philly will be without one of its most explosive playmakers in RB/KR Darnell Holland (Hamstring).
Keys to the game for The New Jersey Generals
The Generals’ secondary faces their stiffest challenge of the early season, going up against the league’s leading passer in Bryan Scott. However, the Stars signal-caller is coming into the game nursing a knee injury. A big reason for that is Philly’s struggles in pass protection, and they have given up ten sacks in two games. The Generals’ defense came to play last week and made life difficult for Michigan’s Shea Patterson and the Panthers’ passing attack. Chris Dishman’s defense needs to replicate that effort.
Another way that Mike Riley’s New Generals can slow down Bart Andrus’s passing attack is by continuing to play a ball-control style on offense. The Stars’ offense can’t score if they are not on the field. And it so happens that Philadelphia’s weakness has been defending the run, and Philly’s defense has allowed nearly 300 yards rushing in two weeks.
New Jersey would love to avoid a shootout. But at some point, Riley and offensive coordinator Steve Smith will need to open up their passing attack. Luis Perez has now been with the team for over a month, and the Generals have had two extra days to prepare for this crucial divisional showdown.
Getting an early lead could help New Jersey dictate the pace of this game. If the Generals are forced to play catch up, they might be out of their league against the Stars.
New Jersey Generals-Philadelphia Stars Prediction
It seems like a Philadelphia victory is written in the stars. They have one of the USFL’s best offenses. Bryan Scott is arguably the league’s best quarterback right now. The chemistry and long-term working relationship between Bart Andrus and his quarterback have benefitted Philadelphia in a new league filled with teams who are still getting acclimated.
However, the clash of styles between these teams favors New Jersey. They have the kryptonite to exploit Philly’s weak points. Their pass protection and run defense. New Jersey’s pass rush, while their numbers haven’t been gaudy, has emerged, with the likes of Kolin Hill, and Tyshun Render playing at a high level.
Missing Shalom Luani will be a factor. But defensive backs Dravon Askew-Henry and De’Vante Bausby are coming off an excellent Week 2 and should help slow down the Stars’ passing attack.
The Generals have a three-headed rushing attack, with backup quarterback De’Andre Johnson, Darius Victory, and Trey Williams. Expect New Jersey to lean on them heavily. The Generals’ will need to score more than they did last week to win this game. But they have the formula to upset the Stars on Sunday night and take claim of the North.
Final Score: New Jersey Generals 20 Philadelphia Stars 19