The New Jersey Generals are a wagon. They’re like the Leicester City of start-up spring football leagues.
The Generals were projected to be one of the new USFL’s worst teams in the preseason. They’ve proven to be one of its best instead, winning their eighth straight game over the weekend.
The Generals (8-1) have clinched the North Division title with one week to go in the 10-game single-site regular season in Birmingham. The top two teams in each division make the playoffs, which will be played in Canton, Ohio. The Philadelphia Stars have clinched second place in the North, which means they will be the Generals’ first-round opponent.
And that’s where things get interesting. Because the Generals and Stars are going to play each other in the regular season finale as well. We’ve seen Week 17-to-Wild Card Round rematches before in the NFL, but rarely (if ever?) has the back-to-back been predetermined prior to kickoff of the regular season game.
It’s not like the Generals want to win to protect home field advantage. Or the Stars need to win to clinch a berth. Everything has already been decided. The Generals and Stars have no reason to play this game other than to get paid and to fulfill a television broadcast contract. Wild stuff.
Do both teams mail it in? Do the Generals rest all their starters and give up on extending the streak to nine games? Does Stars coach Bart Andrus play to win like Tom Coughlin did against the 15-0 Patriots? This can go so many ways.
The Birmingham Stallions won the South Division (they were upset by the also-ran Houston Gamblers last week) and the New Orleans Breakers clinched the other playoff spot in the South. The USFL playoffs open June 25; the title game is July 3. No word on where the Generals plan to hold the parade after they avenge their loss to the Stallions.
James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]