Previewing The USFL 2022 Playoffs: Keys To Success

Previewing The USFL’s 2022 Playoffs: Keys To Success

Folks, we’ve finally made it. Playoffs, in spring football, exist. The USFL kicks off its postseason this Saturday, with a double header on FOX and NBC.

First, the New Jersey Generals (9-1) take on the Philadelphia Stars (6-4), to determine who comes out of the North Division. Then, the 9-1 Birmingham Stallions go head to head with the 6-4 New Orleans Breakers, to see who takes the crown of the South.

Let’s take a look at each of these matchups, and what you can expect in the USFL’s 2022 playoffs.

New Jersey vs. Philadelphia

This matchup is going to be electrifying. Both offenses have been playing at a very high level for most of the year. If either one of these games is going to hit the over, it’s probably going to be this one.

When these two teams faced off during the season, New Jersey won both affairs – but not by much. In week three, Bryan Scott went down with an injury, which made it difficult for Philadelphia to find a rhythm. Then, the Generals topped the Stars again in week ten, as Luis Perez and Trey Williams dominated Philadelphia’s defense.

Quarterbacks: Can Cookus Outplay Two QB’s?

New Jersey runs a two QB system, and it works quite well. Luis Perez and DeAndre Johnson have both seen plenty of success against Philadelphia’s defense this year.

Cookus has a lot of weight on his shoulders, having to go up against both quarterbacks. However, if anyone in the USFL can get the job done, it’s Case. He has come into his own during the course of the season, with some magnificent performances down the stretch.

Obviously, quarterback play will have a major role in which team comes out victorious. Cookus, Perez, and Johnson are arguably three of the league’s top athletes, so we should see plenty of action from all three of them on Saturday.

Defense Wins Championships

Clearly, both offenses are two of the USFL’s best. Which means, whoever plays the best defense, will have a much better shot at winning the ball game.

Generally speaking, New Jersey’s defense has been more consistent throughout the season. Guys like Toby Johnson, Shalom Luani, D’Quan Hines, Dravon Askew-Henry, etc. have been spectacular. If I had to bet on either unit, I’m definitely taking this group just because of how good they’ve been this year.

That being said, Philadelphia’s defense is no joke. They have been playing solid football in the second half of the year, improving in many aspects. If they can find a way to slow down the Generals incredible ground game, that will make things a lot easier for the rest of the team.

Players To Watch

DeAndre Johnson: While he didn’t see much playing time in week ten, expect Johnson to be more involved on Saturday. His presence on the field opens up so many options for Mike Riley’s offense.

Trey Williams: Williams quietly finished the USFL second in rushing yards, after trouncing Philadelphia’s defense last weekend. If he continues to play at this level, he might just be the x-factor that puts the Generals into the Championship.

Jordan Suell: As the season has progressed, Case Cookus has been relying more and more on the height and length of Jordan Suell. This will likely be the case once again. If Philadelphia is presented with multiple red zone opportunities, it will be Suell’s time to shine.

Cody Brown: Brown has laid a couple of huge hits over the past weeks, and that should be no different against New Jersey. If Brown can be a spark plug for Andrus’ defense, he could ignite this unit into doing something we haven’t seen before: stopping the Generals offensive attack.

Generally speaking, there are dozens of players to keep an eye on for both teams. Without a doubt, Saturday’s final showdown between New Jersey and Philadelphia will be electrifying. It will be an uphill battle for the Stars, but anything is possible in the postseason. If Cookus can get off to a good start – and get support from the rest of the crew, Philadelphia will give themselves a chance to knock off the USFL’s best team.

Birmingham vs. New Orleans

Now this is going to be interesting. Both times these teams played in the regular season, Birmingham won in a defensive slugfest. Week eight in particular was extremely messy, as neither offense could figure out the opposing defenses.

What will be intriguing to see is if either offense can finally get it done through all four quarters. While New Orleans has lost both games against the Stallions so far, if their offense gets hot at the right time, they are capable of playing excellent football.

Quarterbacks: Inconsistency

Kyle Sloter has, at times, looked like the USFL’s best quarterback. But, then he will follow those moments up with some of the worst mistakes we’ve seen all year long. The key to the Breakers success will be Sloter. His decision making is critical in running Larry Fedora’s offense smoothly. After an up and down year, we’ll see if Sloter can settle down against an elite Birmingham defense.

As for Birmingham, they’ve got a bit of a dilemma on their hands. While J’Mar Smith has been the primary QB all year, he has shown some weaknesses over the past few weeks. When Alex McGough replaced him last week against Tampa Bay, the offense finally found a rhythm again.

That being said, Smith is a very talented quarterback. If Birmingham wants to find consistent success against the Breakers defense, it might make sense for Skip Holtz to use a mixture of both athletes. This will keep the defense on their toes – and gives Holtz multiple game plans to implement, if one of his QB’s isn’t performing at a high level.

Ground Game: Essential

With how solid both of these defenses have been all year long, a solid rusher is going to be needed for both teams. To be honest, whichever pair of backs performs better could decide how the rest of the game goes.

On one hand, you have CJ Marable and Bo Scarbrough with the Stallions. Each running back has taken turns having excellent games this season, but neither one has been consistent year round. Skip should look to get at least one running back going early, otherwise it could be tough sledding for his offense.

New Orleans is faced with a very similar situation. Jordan Ellis (USFL rushing leader) and Anthony Jones have had some spectacular outings in 2022. Both are sensational backs, with potential to dominate opposing defenses.

If either back can provide Sloter with consistent support, it makes life so much easier for the offense as a whole. However, if Birmingham’s defense suffocates the rush, things could get ugly for Sloter and Co.

Players To Watch:

Kyle Sloter: This one feels pretty obvious. Sloter has to perform well for this team to win. They can get away with mediocre performances against teams like Pittsburgh – but it won’t cut it against the Stallions. Hopefully, Sloter is feeling healthy on Saturday, so we can watch him reach his full potential.

Jonathan Adams: Adams has gone quiet for large portions of the second half of the year. After an incredible start, he has been contained by opposing defenses for a few weeks now. A great sign for Fedora’s offense would be seeing Adams getting involved early, and efficiently.

DeMarquis Gates: While Scooby Wright III has been an amazing leader for Birmingham’s defense, Gates has done the same – and more. Gates has been out there almost every single week, leading the Stallions to victory time and time again. His aggressiveness will be key in deciding Saturday’s victor.

Marlon Williams: Williams has consistently made big plays all year for Birmingham. Something tells me that they’re going to need him to do that again in the postseason. He has a unique ability to make something out of nothing, and can give Holtz some juice when his offense is looking stale.

At the end of the day, it feels like this game could go either way. While Birmingham is a slight favorite (and has won both games so far), New Orleans has been right there every single time. If the small things that went wrong for the Breakers in the season can be avoided, there is a good chance that this team can ride the wave to the Championship. While it may be a defensive standoff, this game is going to come down to the wire.

Final Thoughts

There is no doubt about it: spring football playoffs are here, and they will be very entertaining. You do not want to miss out on all the action, coming this Saturday!

Make sure to tune in to FOX, and then NBC, to watch both games at 3pm and 8pm EST on June 25th. This is history in the making, folks.

Are you excited to watch the USFL’s inaugural postseason? Which teams do you think will face off in the Championship? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!