By Geoff Schwartz
FOX Sports NFL Analyst
The most exciting time of year for any sport is always the playoffs. And after 10 thrilling weeks of playing football, we have reached that point in USFL season as four teams have proven that they have things worth fighting for in the postseason.
After playing the entire regular season in Birmingham, Ala., the league is on its way and all playoff games will be played at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio — right next door to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
And speaking of legends, which teams and players will become USFL legends during this inaugural postseason? Well, I can’t predict that, but I can give my best bet for the semifinals.
I’ve done the research for you, so check out my best bets for this first week of the USFL playoffs, with all odds via FOX Bet.
Philadelphia Star (6-4) vs. New Jersey General (9-1), 3pm ET Saturday, FOX
Let’s run again.
I gave it my all in this fight last weekend, and it happened so easily. The Generals beat the Stars 26-23 to finish the season hitting overs in seven of their 10 games. You should also know that this New Jersey team has scored the third most points in the league and last weekend ranked first in offensive efficiency. Not shabby at all.
Since Generals were rushing machines, they always left this former offensive lineman with a smile on his face after watching their matches. New Jersey sits at 160.6 yards per game with a three-headed rush approach. Running back Trey Williams and Darius Victor have nearly identical rushing yards this season, with Williams at 579 and Victor at 577, second and third in the league. Also, double threat quarterback De’Andre Johnson has added 310 yards this season.
Luis Perez, the Generals’ starting quarterback, leads the league in completion percentage (minimum 100 attempts) at 71.7 and has a QBR of 145.9. It should come as no surprise that they are the best team at converting third and fourth downs and have turned the ball just eight times in 10 games.
When it comes to the fight, this NJ offense takes on a poor Philadelphia defense. The Stars have awarded the most points in the league as opponents have scored at least 24 points in seven of their last 10 matches. The Stars also allow 151.2 yards rushing per game, which ranks last in the league. It wouldn’t be ideal against this powerful General’s incursion attack. Expect NJ to put up some points in this fight.
Now, let’s look at Philly.
Philadelphia’s defense may be poor, but its offense has scored the most points in the league with a second-placed foul. The team has a balanced offensive line, averaging 184 yards of passing and 103 yards of rushing per game. Quarterback Case Cookus completed 62.5 percent of his passing attempts at a 6.4 yards-per-try clip.
The Stars offense faces an opponent in Generals that will allow points in the bunch, as the New Jersey defense ranks seventh in expected points added. The Generals only have 10 sacks this season and, like last weekend, the Stars will have time to cook. Also, it’s worth noting that over has hit seven out of 10 Stars games as well.
I was expecting a lot of points, so I like it here.
CHOOSE: More 41.5 points scored by both teams combined
New Orleans Breaker (6-4) vs. Birmingham horse (9-1), 8 p.m. ET Saturday, NBC
The Stallions started the season hot, winning and covering their first six games. While the team’s winning streak continues, the cover has not. Stallions finished 9-1 straight but failed to cover the last four weekends, winning by one, two and three points three last weekend.
While the Stallions have scored the second most points in the league, they have scored just 16 points per game over their last three games, including just 10 points off the Breakers three weeks ago. Birmingham have averaged 324.3 yards per game but have only hit that mark once in the past month. Now, the team is facing the best defense in the league.
It’s entirely possible that the Stallions mentally shut it down after clinching their playoff spot after Week 7, or perhaps they retreated to the middle. Birmingham’s numbers and his on-field play suggest the latter is likely.
On the other hand, the Breakers came in last weekend with the most efficient defense in the USFL. They rank first in defending scores, allowing only 14.6 points per game. New Orleans allowed slightly faster yards than passing yards, which might have helped Stallion’s excellent rushing attack, but that was all Birmingham would get. The Stallions only completed 51% of their passing attempts and that wasn’t good enough to move the ball consistently against the Breaker’s passing defence.
These two teams will play quite evenly. New Orleans offense against the Birmingham defense did not give much advantage. The Breaker offense is fourth in expected points added while the Stallions defense is second. The Breakers are averaging just one tick over 300 yards per game and have scored 19.4 points per matchup. But, the Stallions defense allows 16.1 points per game.
In a match as tight as this, always get points. This is why I like Breakers for covering field goals plus hooks. Look for their defenses to carry the workload.
I believe the bottom is also worth sprinkling with both defenses being elite.
CHOOSE: Breaker (+3.5 on FOX Bet) lose by less than 3.5 points (or win outright)
CHOOSE: Under 42.5 points scored by both teams combined
Geoff Schwartz played eight seasons in the NFL for five different teams. He started with right tackles for the University of Oregon for three seasons and was his second All-Pac-12 team senior year selection. He is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffSchwartz.
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USFL Playoffs Odds: Best bet for semifinal
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