For the third time this year and the sixth time in two years, the Birmingham Stallions will be taking on the New Orleans Breakers. The stakes could not be higher as the winner will advance to the USFL Championship in Canton, OH next weekend. The Stallions are looking to repeat as champions, and the Breakers are looking to get over the hump.
Stallions know their opponent for the 2023 South Division Championship and it’s a familiar one: the New Orleans Breakers 🌊
These teams split their regular season meetings with the Breakers taking the first one. Despite scoring 31 points, the Stallions gave up a whopping 45 points in that game. The Birmingham Stallions rebounded in round two, winning 24-20. Looking back at those two games, what do the Stallions need to do to emerge victorious in round three?
1) Efficient Defense
The Breakers boast one of the best offenses in the league. They average the second most yards per game behind the Stallions, and they average the most passing yards per game. They have scored the second most points in the league behind the Stallions. It’s impossible to completely stop the Breakers’ offense—you just hope to contain them. That’s what the Stallions did in their second matchup but failed to do the first time.
In the first outing between these two teams, the Breakers put up 483 yards of offense (283 passing and 200 rushing) on their way to 45 points. They scored touchdowns on four of five red zone trips and only turned the ball over once. They averaged 7.3 yards per play while running 22 more offensive plays than the Stallions. Needless to say, they had their way with the Stallions’ defense.
The second game was different, however. The Breakers still outgained the Stallions, putting up 370 yards to Birmingham’s 261. However, they turned the ball over three times and only scored one touchdown on four red zone trips. They averaged two fewer yards per play too.
Stallions defense week 3 vs NOLA:
0 sacks 1 INT/0 FR 4/5 red zone TDs 45 points allowed
If the Stallions’ defense can have an outing more like the latter than the former, the odds of the Stallions winning increase immensely.
2) Establish the Run
At the beginning of the year, the Birmingham Stallions were having a tough time running the ball. In their week three matchup with the Breakers, they only ran for 46 yards on 14 carries (3.3 yards per carry) with one touchdown. It’s never easy on an offense when they are forced to be one-dimensional.
However, starting in week four against Pittsburgh, Stallions running back C. J. Marable and the offensive line began to find their stride. By the time these teams played again in week seven, it was a different result up front. The Stallions rushed for 110 yards on 25 carries (4.4 yards per carry), adding two touchdowns. Marable had the majority of that, going for 86 yards on a day he produced 183 all-purpose yards.
MVP Quarterback Alex McGough will engineer the offense, but his life is always easier when Marable gets going. Expect the Stallions to try to feed him early and often against a good Breakers front seven.
3) Start Hot but Finish Strong
In the first matchup between these two teams, the Stallions started hot. So hot, in fact, that the score was 7-0 after the first play of the game when Deon Cain took the opening kick back to the house. The Stallions could not have asked for a better start. However, as they say, it’s not how you start; it’s how you finish. Despite scoring 24 points in the first half of that game, the Stallions only mustered seven points in the second half on their way to a 45-31 defeat.
In the second matchup, the Stallions started slower. They only scored 10 points in the first half but led at halftime 10-6. They came out red hot in the second half, jumping out to a 24-9 lead heading into the fourth quarter. However, they did not score at all in the fourth and allowed the Breakers to claw their way back into the game.
This time, with so much at stake, the Stallions cannot afford to take any plays off, especially late in the game. If they can play a complete game from the opening kickoff until the final snap, they should emerge victorious. However, if do not come out ready to play for four quarters, they could be in trouble. The Breakers are too good of a team to fall asleep at the wheel, wind up in a hole, and then have to dig your way out of it. The Stallions have won twice in the past three weeks despite losing the turnover battle. That is not a streak they want to perpetuate.
SHOWDOWN IN BIRMINGHAM
This will be a great game, and I expect it to be a close one. Be sure you are there in person at Protective Stadium to see all the action live or tune in on FOX. Kickoff is at 7 pm EST. This is not one you want to miss.
What are your thoughts on this upcoming USFL matchup between the Birmingham Stallions and New Orleans Breakers? Which team is headed to the USFL Championship? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!