New Jersey Generals vs. Philadelphia Stars | Week 9 Preview

New Jersey Generals vs. Philadelphia Stars | Week 9 Preview

The North Division-leading Philadelphia Stars (4-4) head into Canton on Sunday night to face off against the rival New Jersey Generals (2-6). This is a must-win for the Generals who are holding onto their USFL playoff hopes by a thread. As is the case with the entire league, go 2-0 the next two weeks, make the playoffs. Somehow, New Jersey still controls their own destiny despite a five-game losing streak.

The last time these two faced, we saw the Stars come out on top 24-21 at Ford Field thanks to a historic eight for eight day from kicker Luis Aguilar and four turnovers by the Generals. If New Jersey hopes to come out victorious, they need to turn around their trend of turning the ball over and find a way to slow down the Stars offense. The Stars have had great success as of late beating the Generals in the playoffs last year as well as week five this year. This should be a thoroughly entertaining game with everything on the line for these foes.

Generals Offense vs. Stars Defense

This is a matchup that should favor the Generals when they are on offense. We’re going to see the number one rushing team in the USFL facing the league’s worst run defense. When these two teams met up in week five, New Jersey ran for 164 yards and two touchdowns. They averaged 5.7 yards per carry and controlled the game in the trenches. The problem for them was turnovers. Running back Darius Victor had a day to forget putting the ball on the ground three times, more than he has in every other career game combined.

The Generals will also be welcoming back quarterback De’Andre Johnson following an injury in week seven. He left the previous matchup of these teams with a different injury, but it still isn’t determined how much he will play despite being active. If Victor can bounce back, the combination of him and Johnson can be key against a team giving up 128.5 yards per game on the ground. Despite the loss in week five, the Generals outgained the Stars 354-166. If they can finally take care of the football this week, they should be able to move it with ease on this defense to put up their fair share of points. They’ll also be boosted by the loss of cornerback Channing Stribling on the Stars defense. This is a big opportunity to create balance and find success through the air.

The Stars defense struggles mightily against the run but they’re much better against the pass. They’re fifth in the league in pass defense, but only 11 yards per game off the lead for first. They should have no trouble against one of the league’s worst pass offenses in the Generals, a team that has yet to have a 200-yard passer this season. They’re tied for second in takeaways with 15, which bodes well for them going against the league’s worst team in terms of turnover differential.

As previously mentioned, they caused three Darius Victor fumbles and got an interception when these teams last played. Their offense produced less than 200 yards total, but they gave quarterback Case Cookus a short field constantly and helped directly produce most of the eight field goals they got. They will be hindered without one of the league’s best corners in Stribling, but they have stud Amani Dennis on the other side. I don’t foresee an issue defending the Generals receiving core in the slightest and they should load the box to attempt in stopping the run game from the get-go.

This matchup will be won in the trenches. The Stars give up a lot of yards on defense and thrive on takeaways as previously mentioned. They’ll be looking to do much of the same on Sunday. I expect Philly to put the majority of their manpower into stopping Victor and the ground game, while being the same opportunistic defense they have been all year. Turnovers excluded; this will come down to who can be better on the ground. If the Generals can run the ball similar to last time, they should expect a different result and be able to control time of possession. However, if New Jersey is forced into third and long needing to pass the ball, it will likely be a long day for them. They will attempt to establish the run without a doubt.

Stars Offense vs. Generals Defense

The plan for the Philadelphia Stars is obvious. They want to throw the ball a lot. This is due to having great playmakers on the outside as well as being the worst running team in the USFL. It won’t get easier for them this week without running back Matt Colburn either. He didn’t have much of an impact in week five but he’s always a threat when he’s on the field. The Stars are the third best passing offense in the league with one of the best quarterbacks in Case Cookus.

We’ve watched their passing game transform over recent weeks after they started the year out giving up a ridiculous number of sacks on Cookus. Starting with the Generals game, they have been throwing a ton of short passes and getting the ball out of Case’s hands quickly. This functions as their version of a run game along with using Cookus’ legs and opens up things deep when the defense begins to creep up. They still gave up four sacks in their win against Jersey and their main focus should be protecting the QB and allowing him to beat the Generals blitz.

The addition of wide receiver Cyril Grayson to pair with receiving yardage leader Corey Coleman and Devin Gray is huge as well. That doesn’t even include wide receiver Diondre Overton and tight end Pro Wells. They’re stacked at the skill positions, and they need to take advantage of New Jersey’s lack of depth at cornerback.

The Generals still lead the league in points per game as a defense. They’re only giving up 19.1 points per game and have been the definition of bend but don’t break. New Jersey is also third in yards per game against and have the third most sacks in the league with 18. They played an excellent game in week five and did not surrender a single touchdown to the Stars. The 24 points and eight field goals they gave up were in large part due to the poor position their offense and special teams put them in. Surrendering just 166 yards total to Philly’s offense is an accomplishment and they’ll be looking to duplicate that performance. If they’re able to do that and get more help from the other two facets of their team, they should be in good shape.

The best part of the Generals team has been their defense week in and week out. They have been put in very bad situations due to turnovers but consistently hold teams to field goals rather than touchdowns, especially in the red zone. This matchup has fewer glaring discrepancies than when the Generals offense and Stars defense is on the field and should be fun to watch. The Stars are going to attempt to work their quick game and avoid sacks, while the Generals are going to send heat and try to rattle Cookus.

New Jersey’s weak spot has come in forcing turnovers. They’re dead last with eight takeaways and they’ll certainly need to force some to take control of this game. The Stars offense has turned it over just as much as the Generals offense has this season, so the opportunity will be there on Sunday night. Philadelphia’s goal should be to take care of the ball and score whenever they can, even if they have to settle for field goals again rather than touchdowns.

Final Thoughts

Although the New Jersey Generals have struggled badly during their five-game losing streak, this is a matchup that has the potential to favor them. It sounds like a broken record but if they’re able to take care of the ball on offense, they shouldn’t have to worry about their defense. If De’Andre Johnson doesn’t get the start at quarterback, I believe it should be Dakota Prukop. The ability he possesses with his legs should greatly help the offense and allow the Generals to have a big day on the ground. He had a good game in week eight outside of a bad interception and can build on that in week nine. This is a game the New Jersey Generals need to save their season and getting it done here will likely set up be a win-and-in situation against the Pittsburgh Maulers next week.

For the Philadelphia Stars, a win here could take a lot of stress off of next week’s matchup with the Michigan Panthers. The Stars have been winning with defense and special teams since their 1-3 start and need to continue to do so. Their return game was lethal in week five and a huge component in getting the win against New Jersey. They have a real opportunity to not only secure a playoff berth but knock out their biggest rival from North Division contention. This will be a heated contest without question and can be the catalyst to the Stars fifth-straight USFL championship game appearance.

What are your thoughts on this upcoming USFL matchup between the New Jersey Generals and Philadelphia Stars? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!