The USFL released all eight team schedules on February 7th and allowed fans the chance to start planning out when and where they would attend to watch season two. Naturally, this got a lot of people talking about where each team would land by seasons end. Before that could happen, teams had to make roster transactions, mainly the New Jersey Generals.
Getting down to 58 players took several moves, including some which were thought to be barred by league rules. At one point the Generals roster ballooned to 72 players so 14 cuts were needed. At the time, it was circulating that only players who were on a USFL roster in 2022 could be released, not off-season signings. The Generals quickly disproved that notion and were able to retain most of their players from year one, unfortunately having to drop players who never got a chance to compete in camp.
The North Division seems to be clear cut as the stronger of the two going into this season, with the top staying strong and the bottom improving dramatically, at least on paper. A bad team with a lot of turnover on the coaching staff and roster doesn’t guarantee success, but many have lauded the moves the Michigan Panthers and Pittsburgh Maulers have made. The Philadelphia Stars got back an MVP favorite in Case Cookus and have retained a large chunk of their roster as well. All in all, the path won’t be as easy this year for the New Jersey Generals.
We haven’t even started training camp, so a lot is subject to change but it’s a fun exercise. The question remains whether the Generals will continue to dominate the North like last season or if the rest of the division has caught up to them.
The Generals lone regular season loss last year was in the inaugural game against the Stallions in Birmingham. In front of a ruckus crowd, the Generals controlled the game and the lead from early on but faltered in the final minute with a phenomenal game-winning drive by J’Mar Smith. This year is expected to have a lot of juice as well with Birmingham kicking off their title defense on opening night. We haven’t gotten word yet but expect a banner and/or ring ceremony prior to kickoff. I get the vibe that New Jersey would love nothing more than to ruin the celebration and start off the year strong behind a big De’Andre Johnson performance.
For the second consecutive week, the Generals try to play spoiler to a team’s home opener when they face the Pittsburgh Maulers in Canton. Although both teams will be playing their home games in Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, the Maulers are the ‘home’ team. The league hopes to use Canton to attract the “Greater Pittsburgh area” and drum up support for the Maulers. As I mentioned earlier, Pittsburgh is vastly improved with Coach Ray Horton now calling the shots and infusing the roster with talented players such as Rueben Foster. Still, I like the matchup for the Generals, and I think they continue their success against the Maulers much like last season.
Yet again, the Generals go up against a team playing in their home opener when they travel to Ford Field to take on the new-look Michigan Panthers in Detroit. The Panthers have come a long way from Shea Patterson and Jeff Fisher at the helm, and now they’re in front of their home crowd. I assume we see a sizable crowd and true home-field advantage for the Panthers to go along with a beefed-up roster. Mike Nolan and co. can turn this team around and push them for a serious playoff run. I don’t see the Generals playing spoiler for a third consecutive week.
The Generals have their own home opener in Canton when they host the New Orleans Breakers. Last year the Generals had one of their best performances of the year from De’Andre Johnson when they beat the Breakers 27-17. DJ accounted for over 250 yards and 2 touchdowns while playing the whole game, which was a rarity. With a new coach, several key losses such as Jordan Ellis and Davin Bellamy, and an unproven quarterback room, I see another win for the Generals.
A matchup of the top two North Division teams from last season and a rematch of the North Semifinal. Philly stifled the Generals rushing attack in the playoffs last year after getting swept in the regular season by New Jersey. The Stars will look to make the Generals a drop back team and force turnovers like they did in their last game. I expect a high scoring shoot out in the dome that sees Philly come out on top in the first of this two-game series.
New Jersey won this matchup in a thriller last year on the last play of the game. I see the same result this year, but I don’t think it will be quite as close. Houston is my pick to have next year’s number one pick in the draft and although I like some pieces, the coaching staff and defense were ravaged by the other league, and Coach Sumlin heading for Maryland. They also have the biggest question mark at quarterback in the league. Darius Victor and Trey Williams go off, and the Generals cruise to victory in Memphis.
The second game of two between these North Division foes is in Canton this time and I don’t see the Panthers sweeping the Generals this year. I think these teams share a lot of similarities and this could be a potential playoff preview. This begins four straight home games for Mike Riley and co. and it feels like at this point in the year they’ll be humming and starting to come into their own for the most part.
Todd Haley and the Showboats jumped on Ryan Willis very quickly when he became available, and I think he will wind up being their starter. I like their QB room a lot but don’t completely trust Haley leading the troops. A good quarterback can steal you a game or two though and that’s what happens here. Playing in Memphis with a great crowd, the Generals could certainly drop one here to Willis and his squad.
After dropping two straight to the Stars, the Generals take this one and take the head-to-head record to 3-2 overall since 2022. The Generals will probably need this one to not have to sweat a playoff spot the following week. I trust Coach Riley in a big spot with revenge on his team’s mind. This rivalry is shaping up to be one of, if not the best in the USFL. I see the defense making a big play against Cookus who could have the MVP award wrapped up at this point in the year.
Last season the Generals averaged 25 points per game against the Maulers. That’s something we see carryover despite Pittsburgh’s improvements. The Generals are the ‘home’ team despite playing in Canton against the de facto home hub team. I believe the gap was too large for the Maulers to cover over one off-season and New Jersey fully ensures their spot in the playoffs and play a fifth straight game in Canton.
Generals record: 7-3
How do you think the New Jersey Generals will do in season 2? Let us know your record prediction below in the comments or join the conversation on Discord.