Are The Philadelphia Stars The Most Slept On Team In The USFL?

Are The Philadelphia Stars The Most Slept On Team In The USFL?

With only two weeks left to play in the USFL’s inaugural season, three teams have already punched their tickets to the postseason. Birmingham, New Jersey, and Philadelphia will all play in Canton, starting June 25th.

The New Jersey Generals lead the North Division, with a 7-1 record. The Birmingham Stallions control the South, as they have remained undefeated. Meanwhile, New Orleans and Tampa Bay are in a dogfight for the second seed in that division.

As for Philadelphia, the Stars clinched the playoffs this past weekend with a win over the Michigan Panthers. The team has quietly won three straight games, improving to a 5-3 record on the year.

Are the Philadelphia Stars being overlooked? Is this team actually championship material? Let’s take a look and break it all down.

The Offense: Cooking Hot

Philadelphia’s offense had a hard time finding chemistry during the first few weeks. Bryan Scott, the team’s starting quarterback, went down with an injury in week three. Just as the team was beginning to gel with Scott, he was no longer able to play. Unfortunately, Scott will be out for the remainder of the season.

Case Cookus has filled in for Scott since the injury, seeing some ups and downs. However, over the past couple of weeks, Cookus found his footing – making this offense a lot scarier. During week eight’s shellacking of Michigan, Cookus scored five total touchdowns, combining for over 350 total yards of offense.

In general, this offense has been on fire since the halfway point of the season. In the past three games, the Stars have scored 35, 35, and 46 points – something they would not have accomplished without Cookus’ impressive performances. His confidence is growing, which is excellent for this offensive unit.

Feeding The Ground Game

What has given Philadelphia’s offense a major boost, however, is the emergence of a reliable ground attack. When Bryan Scott was the QB, the Stars were a very pass heavy team – and for good reason. Now that Cookus is at the helm, Bart Andrus has adjusted the scheme in the right way.

The Stars have changed quite a bit since they started the season. Interestingly enough, they ran the ball an average of 15.8 times per game in the first five weeks. During that span, they had a 2-3 record. In contrast, Philadelphia has called a running play an average of 28.3 times per game since week six – and they’ve won three in a row.

Matt Colburn has been the key to Philadelphia’s rushing success. It took him a while to get healthy, but now that he’s feeling more like himself, Colburn has seen some excellent performances over the past few weeks. His incredible outing in week six fueled the team to a crucial win over Tampa Bay.

Clearly, Andrus has realized that this team should run the rock more often with Scott no longer active, and it’s proven to be the right decision so far. Hopefully, Darnell Holland’s hamstring injury won’t keep him sidelined for too long, because he will also play an important role in the team’s offensive success moving forward.

The Defense: Underrated?

Don’t count this Philly defense out. While they may not be as aggressive as a team like Birmingham, Philadelphia’s defensive group has been making major improvements week in and week out. The team is tied with the Stallions for leading the league in sacks, with 21.

Over the past couple of weeks, the Stars have been outstanding. Neither Houston or Michigan’s offense were able to get into a rhythm at all, suffocating them from the get go. Jordan Moore has led the efforts in the middle of the field, while the defensive line has continued to increase pressure on opposing quarterbacks with each passing week.

Channing Stribling has arguably been the league’s best defensive back, right up there with ballhawks such as Dravon Askew-Henry. He leads the USFL in interceptions, which is an extremely impressive feat given his missed time this year. Stribling has seen plenty of success in previous spring leagues (AAF, XFL, TSL), and that has been no different in the USFL.

If this unit can continue to pick up steam as we head towards the postseason, who knows what they’ll be able to accomplish.

Championship Material?

The simple answer: Yes. Here’s why. First of all, as previously mentioned, the offense has been playing at a very high level over the past few weeks. Pair that up with a capable defense, and you have all that you need to win a USFL Championship.

On top of that, Luis Aguilar has been a solid kicker for the team. In fact, he’s been one of the most reliable kickers in the USFL, going 6/6 on the year since joining the team.

That being said, one hurdle still remains: the New Jersey Generals. Mike Riley has his squad playing like the best team in the USFL. New Jersey is the victor of seven straight, only losing to Birmingham in week one. Offensively and defensively, the Generals have been statistically some of the best in the league.

With that in mind, Philadelphia has the necessary pieces to get a win in the postseason. All it takes is cohesive efforts from both their offensive and defensive units. If Cookus can consistently play well – and if Andrus keeps running the football like they have since week six, this team is as dangerous as anyone. Heck, they’ve averaged almost 39 points a game in the past three games.

At this point, Philadelphia is more likely to win the Championship compared to teams such as Tampa Bay, and even New Orleans. While Birmingham and New Jersey are the favorites on paper, don’t be surprised if Philadelphia finds a way. They are getting hot at the perfect time.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. With the pieces Bart Andrus has, he should absolutely put this team in a position to win some important ball games.

If Philadelphia can put together a strong performance to get past New Jersey – look out. You might just see the Stars hoisting a Championship trophy on July 3rd.

What do you think of the Philadelphia Stars? Do they have a serious chance at winning the USFL Championship this year? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!