We've finally reached the end of the 2022 USFL regular season. And Week 10 will begin with two teams that are already set to battle one another in playoffs when the Philadelphia Stars take on the North Division champion New Jersey Generals.
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The Generals (8-1) avoided a scare last week, as they needed a late touchdown and an interception to put away one-win Michigan. The Stars (6-3) also had a flair for the dramatic in Week 9, as they overcame a second-half deficit to defeat Pittsburgh. This game should give us a glimpse of what to expect during the playoffs.
Philadelphia (6-3) at New Jersey (8-1)
Kickoff: Saturday, June 18 at 12 p.m. ET
Where: Legion Field (Birmingham, Ala.)
TV: USA Network
Spread: Generals -2.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Taking nothing for granted
Although both teams have already secured their spots in Canton, they'll be able to use this game to get back on track after nearly losing last week. The Generals trailed Michigan by one point entering the fourth quarter, and the Panthers increased that lead to four in the final frame. Jersey needed a six-play, 54-yard drive (that took 4:09 off the clock), capped off with a 17-yard touchdown pass by Luis Perez, to take the lead. The Generals would get an interception on the Panthers' final possession and then run the clock out to win the game.
The Stars had a similar scare against Pittsburgh. They trailed the Maulers 10-3 at halftime, then trailed 16-10 midway through the fourth quarter. Philly caught a break by recovering a Pittsburgh fumble with less than five minutes remaining, and then Stars running back Matt Colburn II ran it 51 yards for a touchdown on the very next play. The Philadelphia defense held court the rest of the way by forcing another Pittsburgh turnover, then holding the Maulers to a missed 49-yard field goal, and wrapping the game up by running out the clock. Both teams showed that they're always competitive despite the opponent.
2. Giving the starters a break
Both teams took their feet off the gas pedal to some degree last week and let some of the other players get important snaps. The Stars gave some reps to backup QB K.J. Costello, who completed four of 10 passes for 69 yards. They also rotated a number of players on both sides of the ball, since they want the starters to be fresh for the postseason. The Generals took a similar approach against Michigan during Week 9.
Quarterback De'Andre Johnson returned to the lineup after missing the previous week with an ankle injury, but he only took the field for a total of 10 snaps (5 runs, 5 passes, 64 total yards). Running back Darius Victor, the USFL's second-leading rusher (543 yards), also got a bit of a break as he only recorded nine total touches against the Panthers (7 carries for 19 yards, 2 receptions for 5 yards). Considering that these teams have to play each other in consecutive weeks, it wouldn't surprise me if they take this approach again to keep everyone healthy for the playoffs.
3. What's at stake
Simply put, both teams need momentum and pride because they'll take on one another again next week. And that game will have a spot in the inaugural USFL Championship Game on the line. It's crunch time for both teams. The Stars also look to end the Generals' winning streak at eight games, which ties Birmingham for the longest streak this season. A win would mean the Stars end the regular season with five consecutive victories. The Generals hope to surpass Birmingham by winning their ninth straight game on Saturday, setting a new league record.
New Jersey won the first meeting between these teams back in Week 3. Since then, the Generals have dominated the North Division, while the Stars navigated a tough stretch before finishing strong. Expect a very competitive and close game between both teams, but the Generals have the more talented team, and they win out in the end.
Prediction: Generals 20, Stars 17
— Written by Gabe Salgado, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He can also be heard on WGN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.