New Jersey Generals vs. Pittsburgh Maulers | Week 10 Preview

New Jersey Generals vs. Pittsburgh Maulers | Week 10 Preview

The New Jersey Generals (3-6) and Pittsburgh Maulers (3-6) will face off in Canton on Saturday afternoon in a winner-takes-all matchup for a North Division USFL playoff berth. Despite both teams sporting losing records, a weak division has allowed both squads to stay in the playoff race while giving themselves a shot at a championship. A few weeks ago, most fans would’ve scoffed at the thought of either team being playoff bound but here we are in week ten.

We have a pseudo-playoff game between two of the league’s best defenses in their home hub. Both teams are coming off games they had to win so confidence will certainly be high for both sides. In week two we saw the New Jersey Generals and Pittsburgh Maulers play a game that was fairly one-sided. New Jersey prevailed 20-3 and played one of their best games of the year. They’ll be looking to duplicate that effort in the final week of the regular season.

Generals Offense vs. Maulers Defense

The Generals offense welcomed back their starting quarterback De’Andre Johnson last week in their thrilling win over the Philadelphia Stars. He and the offense had their best outing of the season when they needed it most. For the first time this year, New Jersey had a passer go over the 200-yard mark in Johnson and they scored a season-high 37 points. This week will be a much tougher task going against a stingy Mauler defense. As they were last season and all of this season, the Generals are the number one rushing team in the USFL averaging 135.4 yards per game. Last week they ran for 147 yards against the league’s worst rushing defense, but this week they face the best run defense in the league. They were able to eclipse the 100-yard mark in week two against Pittsburgh but only managed 3.4 yards per carry.

Still, we should expect a heavy dose of Darius Victor and Kingston Davis at running back. Trey Williams is inactive but we are used to Victor’s production every week. Davis has played sparingly this year but showed flashes in a few games. Regardless, the Generals will have their work cut out for them against the league’s best run defense.. They have averaged 152.3 yards per game on the ground in their three wins and will see success if they can hit that number. They’ll likely have to lean on Johnson’s arm at quarterback in key situations and look for another stellar performance like last week. He made the Stars pay when they bit too hard on play-action and hit several deep throws for big gains.

As always, their main focus should be on winning the turnover battle like they did last week, as well as their week two game against the Maulers when they were +2 in that department. They haven’t lost the turnover battle in any win this year and against a defense that thrives on them, they can’t give the struggling Maulers offense a short field.

The Maulers defense has been a force to be reckoned with dating back to last season and is spearheaded by linebacker Kyahva Tezino who is making a strong case for Defensive Player of the Year. He’s surrounded by a lot of playmakers, mainly in the secondary. Defensive backs Mark Gilbert, Keith Gipson Jr., and Bryce Torneden have been fantastic all season. This group is second in scoring defense allowing just 18.4 points per game and has kept their team in virtually every game this season. They’re also number one in total yards allowed as well as rushing yards allowed and are just two yards off the lead for claiming the best passing defense in the USFL.

The statistics tell you what your eyes tell you, this is a dominant defense. They also lead the league in takeaways and have helped their team lead the league in turnover differential at +6. This won’t change heading into week ten and they’ll be looking to shut down the Generals run game. Every team knows they need to do so when facing New Jersey but few if any are as equipped to do it as Pittsburgh is. If they can create third and long situations for the Generals offense and force De’Andre Johnson to become a drop back passer, it’ll be hard to see the Maulers giving up more than their 18.4 point per game average.

Overall, the New Jersey Generals are going to have their work cut out for them against the league’s top defense. Nothing comes easy against the Maulers and even in week two, New Jersey was unable to score a touchdown until the fourth quarter. Their other touchdown was on a one play, one-yard drive set up on a takeaway by their defense, as well. Aside from the turnover battle, this game will be won on the ground. Whether it’s the Generals running the ball like they have all year, or the Maulers stopping the run like they have all year. Whichever side is successful will help their team attain victory in a large way. New Jersey does not want to turn into a drop back passing team but that’s exactly what Pittsburgh wants. That would lead to low efficiency and takeaways by the Mauler defense. One thing is clear when these two sides match up, it’ll be old school football that will likely shorten the game and keep the score low.

Maulers Offense vs. Generals Defense

The Maulers offense has struggled all year, but they have improved since Troy Williams has come in at quarterback. They are still last in the league in passing by a wide margin and are middle of the pack running the ball. Last week they managed just one touchdown that was after a great opening kickoff return by wide receiver Josh Simmons which gave them a short field. They’ll need continued success in the return game and good field position via defense to score points at a decent rate. This offense struggles maintaining long drives and settles for a lot of field goals. Despite having good skill position players like wide receivers Isiah Hennie and Bailey Gaither, as well as tight end Matt Seybert, their offensive line struggles mightily to protect Williams.

They’ve given up a league-high 30 sacks in nine games, including six last week versus the Panthers. It’s extremely difficult to have sustained success when the quarterback is constantly moved off his spot or on his back in the passing game. They’ll be facing a good run defense, so they’ll need to attempt to protect Williams better in obvious passing situations, allowing him to feed his playmakers. It’s unlikely they have success running the ball down the length of the field so that is paramount. The best option for them attempting to establish the run and trying to move the pocket with roll outs.

Luckily for the Generals defense, they’re tied for second in the league in sacks as a team with 22 on the year. Going against a bad offensive line should have them excited at the opportunity to get after Troy Williams. Still, they’ll need to stay in their rush lanes and contain Williams because he can hurt them with his legs, like Case Cookus did last week. In their last matchup in week two, the New Jersey Generals registered five sacks including two strip sacks on quarterback James Morgan. I’m not sure if they’ll hit that mark again, but they’re likely to be disruptive with defensive end Hercules Mata’afa leading the way. He had a strip sack last week on Cookus as well as one on Morgan in week two.

New Jersey will likely have a gameplan similar to Pittsburgh in attempting to make the Maulers a drop back passing team. Their task may be slightly harder due to better playmakers on the outside for Pittsburgh and cornerback DJ Daniel will have his hands full trying to cover Hennie in all likelihood. The Maulers best bet will be to try and attack the Generals secondary. The front seven will continue to be stout with the likes of Chris Orr and D’Juan Hines at linebacker.

The matchup of the Pittsburgh Maulers offense and Generals defense will be very similar to what we will see on the other side when the Generals offense goes against the Maulers defense. Clearly, two great defenses will attempt to make the two worst passing teams, pass the ball. However, I do foresee less success for Pittsburgh’s offense. This is a tough matchup for them with their protection issues going against a terrific pass rush.

Troy Williams’ legs will be the deciding factor in my opinion. If he can do damage when the Generals bring pressure and force defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell to call off the blitz, this may lend to some big plays for Hennie and co. The Generals defense held the Maulers to 166 total yards of offense in week two and Pittsburgh will definitely need to surpass that total if they have any hope of winning. The one big change is Williams being the full-time starter this time, and not splitting time with Morgan. But if the Generals defense can match that great week two performance, they should come out victorious sans a couple defensive or special teams touchdowns by the Maulers.

Final Thoughts

This game is simple, it’ll come down to defense. That’s been the case virtually the whole season for both of these teams. They say defense wins championships and this game is pretty close to that. One of these teams will be going home and the other will be getting ready to play a playoff game in Canton on June 24th. This is what the players, coaches, and fans want all season. A chance to get into the tournament and play for a title.

We should be in for a terrific game on USA at noon eastern time on Saturday, with both teams leaving everything out on the field. Despite the majority of the USFL community not seeing one of these two teams making the playoffs a few weeks ago with their struggles, we will see one team continue on. This should be a physical, hard-nosed game.

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