Wednesday, July 6, 2022

USFL playoff picks: Generals and Stallions advance to championship but only one team covers

We’ve made it to the final four of the USFL, and it’s odd to be talking about postseason football that doesn’t relate to the NFL. There are two clear-cut favorites to advance and compete for the USFL Championship in the Birmingham Stallions and New Jersey Generals. Both teams finished the regular season 9-1, and will battle two 6-4 teams this Saturday.

Those 6-4 clubs are the New Orleans Breakers and Philadelphia Stars. Both will be underdogs this weekend, but both certainly have the ability to pull off upsets. The Generals and Stars are up for a rematch, as they played just last week with New Jersey coming out on top, 26-23, while the Stallions and Breakers have been tabbed as the nightcap. These two teams played just over two weeks ago, with Birmingham escaping by a single point. 

The USFL favorites in the Stallions haven’t been playing their best ball as of late, and they won’t have their “home-field advantage” for the first time all season up in Canton, Ohio. Could this change of scenery play a factor Saturday? Let’s jump into some USFL playoff picks.

USFL ATS record: 23-17

USFL straight up record: 28-12

All odds are via Caesars Sportsbook

Philadelphia Stars at New Jersey Generals (-4.5)

Saturday, 3 p.m. ET (Fox)

ATS records: Stars (5-5), Generals (6-4)

The Stars and Generals faced off last week, and most of the starters did indeed play. In the Stars’ loss, Bug Howard shined, catching five passes for 101 yards, while Case Cookus threw for 244 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. While the Stars don’t have the No. 1 passing offense in the league in terms of yardage, they have recorded more passing touchdowns than any other team with 17. Cookus has been a very solid quarterback, as he finished second in the USFL in passing touchdowns with 12, and threw just five interceptions. Philly had won four straight before last week’s loss.

For the Generals, I wonder how much playing time De’Andre Johnson is going to get as opposed to Luis Perez. The two-quarterback system worked for the majority of the year, but will Mike Riley keep it going in the postseason? The bottom line is that the Generals have the better team. They have the No. 1 rushing offense in the league, the No. 1 overall offense in the league and the No. 2 defense as well. They had a total of six players named All-USFL offense and defense, too. I have the Generals winning this game and I’m going to lay the points — but a moneyline play parlayed with another bet is a good idea.  

The pick: Generals -4.5

Projected score: Generals 28-23

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New Orleans Breakers at Birmingham Stallions (-5)

Saturday, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)

ATS records: Breakers (6-4), Stallions (6-4)

The Stallions began the season 6-0 ATS, but have lost their last four games from an ATS perspective. That’s not exactly what you want to see from the No. 1 seed entering the postseason. It’s kind of like the Arizona Cardinals last year, who were the last undefeated team in the NFL, but faltered down the stretch and were completely destroyed in front of their home fans in the postseason by the rival Los Angeles Rams. 

This Stallions team is still solid, and I think it’s possible it could find some new life in a new “season.” DeMarquis Gates and Scooby Wright are a legitimate dynamic duo at the linebacker spot, and captain the No. 1 defense in the league in yards allowed per game with 268.8. The Breakers have lost two out of their last three games. They had three offensive players named All-USFL including quarterback Kyle Sloter, but he threw nine touchdowns compared to 11 interceptions in the regular season. Larry Fedora even started bringing in Zach Smith for a change of pace, but after his poor performance against Houston, I’m not sure he’s going to be utilized much on Saturday. In this instance, I think five points is a pretty big spread. I think I’ll take the points with the Breakers and this solid defense, but I’m not calling an upset. 

The pick: Breakers +5

Projected score: Stallions 27-24

ML Parlay: Generals ML, Stallions ML (+118)

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