Three weeks into the USFL season, the New Jersey Generals sit atop the North Division, coming off of back-to-back divisional victories over the Michigan Panthers and Philadelphia Stars. The Generals will look to go 3-0 in the division when they square off with the winless Pittsburgh Maulers on Saturday afternoon.
USFL Week 4: New Jersey Generals-Pittsburgh Maulers Preview
Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET on Peacock, Protective Stadium, Birmingham, Alabama
Point Spread: New Jersey Generals -10 Over/Under: 35
The weather in Birmingham isn’t expected to be much of a factor. The temperature will reach up to 72 degrees during the day, with winds at 10 to 15 mph.
New Jersey Generals
The New Jersey Generals will again be without safeties, Shalom Luani and Mike Bell on defense. On a positive note, Defensive Linemen Deyon Sizer and Destiny Vaeao will return to the lineup.
On offense, the most significant injury for New Jersey is that of starting tackle Garrett McGhin (tricep). He will miss Saturday’s game, and OT Brandon Haskin has been transferred from the inactive roster to help provide depth. Calvin Ashley and Robert Myers could both see playing time on the outside opposite Terry Poole.
The most significant absence for Pittsburgh in Week 4 is WR Bailey Gaither. One of the very few bright spots for the Maulers has been transferred to the inactive roster due to an illness. After three games, Gaither is second in the USFL in receiving yards.
The Maulers’ offense will also be without WR Jeffrey Thomas (Hamstring), FB Mikey Daniel (concussion), and TE Matt Seybert (Knee). On the offensive line, Nico Falah (Illness) and Vadal Alexander (arthritis) will miss action against the Generals.
On a positive note, RB Garrett Groshek (quad) is cleared to play, and Pittsburgh will need him and the emerging Madre London to help shoulder the load offensively.
Defensively, one of Pittsburgh’s better players, CB Jaylon McClain-Sapp, is out with a hamstring injury.
New Jersey Generals-Pittsburgh Maulers Matchup
The New Jersey Generals are first in the league in rushing offense, averaging an even 200 yards per game. New Jersey also leads the USFL in yards per rush (4.9) and is tied for the league lead with five touchdown runs.
Thanks to their rushing attack, New Jersey’s offense ranks number one overall in yards per game (373) and time of possession per contest (36:01). As a result, The Generals’ passing game, fourth in the league at 173 yards per contest, has been an afterthought in their weekly game plans.
Quarterback De’Andre Johnson is one of the most dynamic runners in the league. His 4.3 speed has helped spearhead a three-headed rushing attack in the Generals’ RPO-based offensive system.
Johnson leads the USFL in yards per carry (6.5). He is third in the league in rushing with 216 yards. Right behind him at four is running mate Trey Williams (198). Darius Victor leads the league with three rushing touchdowns and is sixth in rushing yards (160).
De’Andre Johnson took most of the snaps at QB in the second half last week and produced 224 yards of total offense (130 yards passing, 94 yards rushing). Johnson’s play could relegate Luis Perez to a secondary role again in week four.
New Jersey might continue to take the air out of the football. Following the old adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Especially considering the Generals’ opponent on Saturday.
The Pittsburgh Maulers’ defense allowed 245 yards rushing in Week 3 to the Panthers. At nearly six yards per rush attempt. It’s going to be a long day for Pittsburgh if they repeat that same type of performance against New Jersey.
Pittsburgh’s offense has had worse struggles this season than their defense. The Maulers’ offense is ranked last in the league in total yards per game (253.7). They have been kept out of the end zone in two of their three contests. The Maulers scored three points against Tampa in their opener, and they were shut out last week in a 24-0 loss to Michigan.
Pittsburgh Quarterbacks Josh Love (54.8%) and Kyle Lauletta (47.8%) have struggled with accuracy. Save for a brief hiccup in week two, the Maulers’ offense has been rudderless and lifeless. Chris Dishman’s Generals defense has only had four sacks in the early season. But they are ranked second overall defensively in yards allowed per game. (239.7)
It’s imperative for New Jersey’s defense that they don’t allow Pittsburgh’s offense to get off to a good start. The Generals will look to get out front early, shake the Maulers’ already shaken confidence, and then dictate the pace of play by grinding their way on the ground to another win.
New Jersey Generals-Pittsburgh Maulers Prediction
All signs point to an easy New Jersey Generals victory on Saturday. However, this matchup has all the makings of your classic trap game.
You can’t blame people for thinking that this contest will be one-sided. After all, Mike Riley’s first place Generals are coming off of an emotional high in their triumphant victory over Philly last week. In contrast, Kirby Wilson’s lowly Maulers have had an ugly start to their season. On and off the field.
Whether or not ‘Pizza Gate’ was overblown. No matter how you slice it, the situation created an unnecessary distraction for Pittsburgh. And their play on the field hasn’t exactly helped erase the team’s negative perception.
Although logic and the oddsmakers suggest otherwise, something tells me that an angry and desperate Maulers team will push an overconfident Generals’ team toward a potential loss.
Pittsburgh has shown very little evidence yet that they are capable of pulling off the outright upset on Saturday. But I have a sneaking suspicion that they will come close at the bare minimum.
Prediction: New Jersey Generals 18 Pittsburgh Maulers 16