We successfully navigated an unpredictable Week 10 slate for the most part, fashioning a winning record to prop up our final regular-season mark just a tad.
We’re now set for the two games that will establish the participants in next week’s USFL Championship Game, and in contrast to last week, we should have a much better read on who will and won’t be on the field.
The Generals and Stallions have been the league’s top two teams all season long and seem destined to clash for all the marbles next week, but let’s explore whether there’s an upset in the offing on the part of the Stars, Breakers, or both.
All USFL Playoffs odds are courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook and current as of Thursday, June 23 at 3 p.m. ET.
- Juan Blanco USFL Week 10 Betting Record: 3-1
- Juan Blanco USFL Season Betting Record: 16-24
USFL Best Bets: Philadelphia Stars vs New Jersey Generals
Philadelphia Stars vs New Jersey Generals Prediction
The Stars and Generals had the unenviable task of having to face each other in Week 10 with this game on the horizon. And since USFL rosters are smaller than those in the NFL, both coaches had to play a solid share of regulars, albeit with more vanilla game plans than they’ll roll out on Saturday afternoon.
One particularly encouraging aspect for Philadelphia in the 26-23 loss was that Case Cookus appeared to get back on track in a big way following a worrisome Week 9. Cookus finished with 244 yards and two touchdowns against just one interception while adding 33 rushing yards.
He also continued to demonstrate his burgeoning chemistry with Philly’s impressive array of pass catchers, including tight end Bug Howard, who produced a 5-101 line, and receivers Maurice Alexander and Jordan Suell, who combined for nine receptions.
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The Generals trotted out most of their usual offensive personnel as well in Week 10 and once again ran their high-percentage, ultra-efficient passing attack to near perfection. Luis Perez and De’Andre Johnson went a combined 22-for-28 for 250 yards and three touchdowns.
Their efforts were complemented by another impressive performance by running back Trey Williams, who needed just 11 carries to rack up 114 yards and a touchdown. On the receiving end, New Jersey’s embarrassment of riches was on full display, with Alonzo Moore, Darrius Shephard, and newly minted USFL MVP Kavontae Turpin combining for 18 catches, 231 yards, and two scores.
We can throw out the Week 10 result to a certain degree, but the standout performances on both sides are far from outliers, as all of the players involved have had impressive seasons. When looking back at the first meeting between the teams this season, a 24-16 Generals win, Perez and Johnson were only slightly less efficient (60.9 percent completion rate, 205 passing yards) but Johnson also rushed for 91 yards and a TD while Williams racked up 110 yards on 19 carries.
On the Stars’ side, Week 3 was the game in which former starter Bryan Scott suffered his season-ending leg injury, and Cookus came in and performed well in his stead (13-20, 146 yards, 1 TD). Howard and Suell also thrived against the Generals secondary, combining for eight catches, 139 yards, and a touchdown. Additionally, running back Matt Colburn wasn’t yet being deployed as a true lead back, which is certainly the case now heading into the postseason.
Considering the history between these two teams, it’s clear some points should be scored here. Philadelphia’s run defense remains a significant concern, particularly when facing Williams.
I envision this will be a highly competitive game that should live up to expectations, but one that will ultimately see the more complete team, the Generals, emerge victorious.
New Jersey Generals 28, Philadelphia Stars 21
Stars vs Generals Best Bet: Generals -4.5 (-110)
WAGER: 1 Unit
There’s no question the Stars have become a dangerous offensive team over the course of the season as Cookus and Colburn have blossomed. It’s also clear that players like Howard and Suell know how to find openings in the middle and back end of New Jersey’s defense.
Nevertheless, the Generals’ offensive balance is untouchable by any other team in the league. Perez and Johnson have perfected a true two-quarterback system that has usually been scoffed at in pro football circles.
Johnson is also an elite running threat when he’s in there, and Williams and backfield mate Darius Victor make an electric Thunder-and-Lightning-type duo. There’s simply too much for the Stars’ inconsistent defense to overcome.
As such, I see the Generals pulling away just enough late to cover a 4.5-point spread for our USFL bet of the day.
USFL Best Bets: New Orleans Breakers vs Birmingham Stallions
New Orleans Breakers vs Birmingham Stallions Prediction
The Breakers played without quarterback Kyle Sloter in Week 10 against the Gamblers and looked wholly uninterested in a 20-3 loss.
Meanwhile, the Stallions had nothing to play for in their finale either, but they seemed to take much more of an interest in securing a win to erase the memory of their only defeat of the regular season in Week 9. Birmingham’s effort was rewarded as they squeezed out a 21-18 victory over Tampa Bay.
Sloter is apparently dealing with a knee injury, and it remains to be seen whether he’ll be ready to play Saturday night. Backup Zach Smith was pulled for Shea Patterson after throwing two interceptions against Houston, and it would seem that New Orleans’ only chance of winning comes with Sloter under center.
And, considering Sloter threw four interceptions across two games against Birmingham during the regular season, that’s obviously far from a given even if he suits up.
The Breakers continued to deploy an effective two-pronged rushing attack featuring Jordan Ellis and Anthony Johnson in Week 10, and they could well lean on it again in this matchup. However, the Stallions held the duo to 68 yards on 21 carries in their Week 8 win over New Orleans, and while Ellis did gain 90 yards in the first meeting, it took him 25 carries to get there.
On the other side, J’Mar Smith took a back seat to Alex McGough for the season finale, but it’s the former that’s expected back under center Sunday night on what will almost certainly be a full-time basis. Still, getting McGough work with the offense for most of the game was undoubtedly a prudent move on coach Skip Holtz‘s part, and the FIU alum responded with a strong showing that consisted of 213 total yards and two touchdowns.
Birmingham has its own fearsome RB tandem in Bo Scarbrough and C.J. Marable, who who combined for 17 carries and 85 yards in Week 10, along with a touchdown from Marable. When both have been healthy, the two have generally split the workload, and that should be the case once again this week.
These are two talented teams, but the Stallions have gotten the best of the Breakers twice already and know how to defend New Orleans’ solid group of pass catchers. Birmingham also applies heavy pressure consistently, which has proven a bad recipe for Sloter, who can definitely be goaded into mistakes.
With New Orleans also boasting a formidable defense, I’m predicting a low-scoring Birmingham win.
Birmingham Stallions 23, New Orleans Breakers 16
Breakers vs Stallions Best Bet: Stallions Moneyline and Under 44 Points (+178)
WAGER: 1 Unit
The two regular-season meetings between these teams finished with 35 and 19 total points, as the Stallions emerged victorious by nine points in Week 3 and only one in Week 8. These clubs know each other so well that I’m staying away from the Stallions -5 spread, just in case.
However, I do see the Birmingham defense, which accrued 27 sacks during the season and also picked off nine passes, wreaking plenty of havoc over the course of four quarters. The Breakers defense was an even better ball-hawking unit with 10 picks, so it wouldn’t surprise to see them also short-circuit a drive or two while disrupting Smith and/or McGough.
Ultimately, I see the Stallions as the slightly more talented club, so a parlay of Birmingham to win and the Under seems like a potentially profitable play worth rolling the dice on.