As we enter the 10th and final week of the USFL's regular season, the postseason field is already set.
And because all playoff games will be held in the neutral site of Canton, Ohio, there is no home-field advantage left to play for. Even the seeding of the four teams has been set. Here is the schedule:
Semifinals: Saturday, June 25
The winners will then play in the USFL Championship Game on Sunday, July 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX. Tickets for the USFL playoffs and championship games are on sale at United States Football League (USFL) (hofvillage.com).
While it's easy to get excited for the playoffs, there are still four regular-season games left to play this weekend, including three of the playoff teams in action on Saturday — Generals vs. Stars, and Stallions vs. Tampa Bay Bandits. On Sunday, the Breakers wrap up their regular season against the Houston Gamblers, while the Michigan Panthers and Pittsburgh Maulers battle in the only contest not involving a postseason squad.
Interestingly, the league has added a wrinkle to the rules to increase the importance of that Panthers-Maulers contest. The winner between the 1-8 teams will be rewarded with the first pick in every round of the 2023 draft.
As far as the games involving playoff teams in Week 10, however, there isn't much up for grabs. With that in mind, how do coaches approach the game? Do they rest starters? Do they trim their playbook?
Those ideas might make sense, but for Stallions coach Skip Holtz, it's going to be business as usual.
"We’re trying to win," he said. "That’s what we want to do. We want to win. And that’s how we’re going to approach it."
Breakers coach Larry Fedora echoed that sentiment, saying: "We want to win the football game. It’s as simple as that. We’re going to put 11 guys out there that want to win the football game, on every side of the ball."
For the Stars and Generals, things are a bit more complicated. As the top two teams in the North Division, they meet in the semifinals on June 25. But they also meet on Saturday. How do Stars coach Bart Andrus and Generals coach Mike Riley balance making sure their players are sharp without revealing too much to their postseason foe?
"I haven’t made a determination as to how we’re going to handle it," Andrus said. "Playing a team back-to-back, I’ve got experience doing that before."
Andrus said that both he and Riley got a taste of their current situation while coaching in the Canadian Football League. Teams play each other more frequently in the CFL, which has only nine teams (the USFL has eight).
"You play teams five times up there because for a long time they only had eight teams," Andrus said. "So, you play everybody in your division at least three times, and everybody outside of your division at least twice.
"I was just talking to one of our assistants, Marcel Bellefeuille," Andrus continued. "And he was the head coach at Hamilton when I was at Toronto. And we played each other five times in one year, and a couple of them were back-to-back, too."
The other factor in play is that USFL teams carry only 40 players on their game-day rosters, compared to 53 players on NFL rosters. So it's not so simple to just rest your starters ahead of the playoffs.
It will be interesting to see how it plays out this weekend, and certainly worth checking out how the playoff coaches handle things ahead of the playoffs.
"It’s just something you have to do," Andrus said. "It will be fun."