Week 1 of the 2022 USFL season will continue Sunday afternoon when the Philadelphia Stars and New Orleans Breakers kick off their respective campaigns. Both teams existed in the original iteration of the league, with differing levels of success. The Stars won a USFL championship in 1984 after losing a heartbreaker to the Michigan Panthers in the 1983 USFL Championship Game. Meanwhile, the Breakers were a bit of a roller-coaster ride as they played in Boston, New Orleans, and Portland, embodying one of the reasons why the league eventually folded after three seasons.
Related: What You Need to Know About the USFL
Bart Andrus brings plenty of experience to the table as head coach of the Stars. Andrus has been a head coach at multiple levels of football that haven’t always had unlimited resources at the college and minor league levels. He also coached with Jeff Fisher with the Tennesee Titans, and those two coaches should be very familiar when they meet later this season. Philadelphia will be led at quarterback by Bryan Scott, who has a chance to emerge as one of the best quarterbacks in the league by the season’s end. Defensive lineman Freedom Akinmoladun leads the defense that has to find a way to control the line of scrimmage from the opening snap.
New Orleans welcomes veteran college coach Larry Fedora as its head man for the 2022 season. Fedora has been a head coach at Southern Miss and North Carolina and tends to be more of a high-octane offensive-minded head coach. Kyle Sloter is the starting quarterback and, like his seven counterparts at the position, has to find a way to play smart, productive football.
The old USFL in its heyday had quarterback talent like Jim Kelly, Steve Young, Bobby Hebert, and others, which gave the league a chance to make it through three seasons. The defense has a solid mix of playmakers, which should keep this team in contention for a playoff spot all season long if they stay healthy.
Philadelphia at New Orleans
Kickoff: Sunday, Apr. 17 at 4 pm ET
Where: Protective Stadium (Birmingham, Ala.)
TV: USA Network
Spread: Breakers -2.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Philadelphia offense
The Stars will have some continuity on this side of the ball. Nine of the 20 offensive players played for Andrus with the Spring League's Generals. Scott must set the tone by getting the ball in the hands of his playmakers such as Brennan Eagles, Jordan Shell, Bug Howard, and others. Matt Colburn should be the lead running back, and it will be up to him to keep the chains moving on Sunday running the ball. The offensive line play is something to watch because the last thing that Andrus and his staff want is to get behind the sticks due to needless presnap penalties. If the offense can steadily move the football, they will be in great shape. On the other hand, it will be a long afternoon if they face long-yardage situations against an aggressive New Orleans defense.
2. New Orleans defense
Defensive end Davin Bellamy must hit the ground running and cause havoc defensively by getting some pressure on the quarterback, which could lead to a turnover. In addition, the defense must do a great job of getting off the field on third down to get the ball for the offense as quickly as possible. Penalties are another thing to watch because this defense can't afford to give any quarterback extra opportunities to extend drives and put the ball in the end zone. Red zone defense is another thing that could swing this game the Breakers' way if they can force the Stars to kick field goals regularly inside the 20-yard line.
3. Philadelphia defense
Akinmoladun has a nice mix of NFL experience after spending time with the Giants, Bengals, and New York Jets. Akinmoladun can move all over the defensive front and you should see him turned loose to go after the quarterback. There will be plenty of continuity on this side of the ball as well for the defensive staff since seven players were a part of the spring league’s Generals back in 2021. This level of continuity should set the Stars up to avoid having a bunch of blown coverages and other assignments this week.
Look for a bit of a higher-scoring affair between these two teams, as they will be looking to make a strong first impression on Sunday. Philadelphia will get Scott rolling in the passing game early, which will set them up to go to work running the ball in the second half. Expect the Stars to take advantage of their continuity over the Breakers and grind out their first win of the season on Sunday.
Prediction: Stars 25, Breakers 22
– Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Contributor Network.