USFL Playoffs Odds & Preview: Best Bets for Generals vs. Stars & Stallions vs. Breakers
Photo by Michael Reaves/USFL/Getty Images. Pictured: J’Mar Smith
The USFL playoffs begin on Saturday, with the New Jersey Generals taking on the Philadelphia Stars and Birmingham Stallions against the New Orleans Breakers.
Just as we’ve done all season, we will break down both games with our best bets.
The Stars and Generals play in the first game on Fox at 3 p.m. ET. The Breakers and Stallions follow at 8 p.m. ET.
New Jersey Generals (-4.5) vs Philadelphia Stars
The Generals haven’t lost a game since April, in large part, due to the star-studded offense. Quarterback Luis Perez isn’t going to “wow,” you with big plays that jump off the screen. However, his highly-efficient style of play has been a key factor in the team’s success.
Perez threw for 1,200 yards in six starts, completing 71.7% of his passes with nine touchdowns and just one interception. He succeeds by not making mistakes and giving his playmakers the opportunities to win. Kavontae Turpin, who has been his main target all season, led the league with 540 receiving yards.
The concern for New Jersey is that De’Andre Johnson will likely be unavailable for this game. The offense ran best when Johnson and Perez led a two-QB attack that utilized Johnson’s dual-threat ability as a rusher to keep defenses guessing.
Without Johnson’s added production on the ground, the ground game will run through Darius Victor. Victor has been a workhorse for this offense all year; he finished third in rushing yards (577) and led the league in rushing touchdowns (9).
The Stars will have their work cut out for them if they hope to upset their way into the championship game next weekend. Luckily for fans of the Philadelphia team, Case Cookus has been a revelation.
For the first three weeks of the season, Stars QB Bryan Scott looked like the best player in the league. His season-ending injury initially felt like an early end to the Stars season. However, as Cookus began to lead this offense, things changed. Hope was restored.
The Stars have gone 6-1 in Cookus’ starts. When this offense is clicking, it has the highest ceiling of any in the league. The teams three highest-scoring games have been with Cookus leading the way.
This game has the makings of an absolute shootout. The Stars have the league’s worst defense in both points and yards allowed. The Generals scored 26 and 24 points against them in their previous two matchups. Any hopes of victory for Philadelphia will depend on the offense’s ability to tap into the elite ceiling.
Ultimately, I believe this game is closer to a pick than what the 4.5-point spread indicates. For that reason, I lean Philly to cover. However, the bet I’m even more willing to make is on the total. The Stars defense is just plain bad and the Generals will put up points. The Stars have been one of the most resilient teams in the USFL and Cookus won’t let them lose without leaving everything they’ve got on the field.
The Bet: Over 47.5
New Orleans Breakers vs Birmingham Stallions (-5)
New Orleans is coming off a meaningless 20-3 loss against Houston last week, a game in which it rested many key starters on offense. Throughout the season, New Orleans has been largely average from an offensive efficiency standpoint. The Breakers are fifth in the USFL in points and fourth in yards gained.
New Orleans is led by Kyle Sloter at quarterback, who finished the season second in passing yards. Even though Sloter has been disappointing in other statistical categories, he is a competent starter and should move the ball. In two games against the Stallions this year, Sloter averaged 246 passing yards, 1.5 touchdowns and two interceptions. He should find some success against the Stallions defense, but will he convert those opportunities into points?
The Stallions also rested starters in last week’s win over Tampa Bay, so health shouldn’t be a negative factor.
The Stallions were consistently the best team in the USFL. They finished second in the league in points, yards, and overall offensive efficiency. Led by standout QB J’Mar Smith, Birmingham averaged 23.4 points-per-game, second best in the USFL.
The biggest question for the Stallions might be how they fare away from home. Some speculate that the USFL regular season being played in Birmingham gave the Stallions an advantage that no other team could experience, thus leading them to a 9-1 record. I think it’s a valid concern, but it’s hard to quantify if there was actually an impact or not, especially in a 10-game sample size.
While both offenses in this game are solid, it’s the defenses that stand out to me.
New Orleans and Birmingham boast the two best defenses in the USFL. New Orleans is first in defensive efficiency and points allowed, and third in yards allowed. Birmingham is second in efficiency and points allowed, and first in yards allowed. These are two stout defenses that should be relatively healthy and ready to go for this semi-final matchup.
Birmingham won the first two meetings by an average of five points, so the spread has little-to-no value. In the NFL, we know second and third matchups between teams are generally lower scoring, and I think we will see that in the USFL as well. These teams are familiar with each other, and I think a low scoring affair is definitely within the range of outcomes here.
In the previous two matchups, they combined for 35 and 19 points, for an average of 27 total points per game. Offensively, Birmingham averaged 23.4 points per game, and New Orleans averaged 19.6 for a total of 43 points between both teams. I think this is a perfect spot to bet the total. You have two teams traveling to a new city, playing each other for the third time this season, with the best two defenses in the USFL. Take the under and don’t look back.
The Bet: Under 44.5
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