The final act of week five in the USFL sees two teams at a crossroads. Even though this contest looks like a mismatch on paper, this spring football game will be an interesting watch.
Memphis Battles New Orleans to Close Week Five
Week five of the season ends when the Memphis Showboats (1-3) head to the Birmingham hub to clash with the league’s last undefeated team, the New Orleans Breakers (4-0), from Protective Stadium. A week ago Saturday, Memphis finally got into the win column with a victory over the Michigan Panthers.
Less than 24 hours later, New Orleans bested the New Jersey Generals in the Canton hub. Live coverage of the late game in the USFL begins just past 3 pm ET/ 2 pm CT on FOX Sports.
Much like Saturday’s Houston/ Birmingham clash, it’ll be another day for a barbecue outside of the stadium. Summery conditions are expected for the second half of the weekend, as well.
Another Hot Day in Birmingham
The weather forecast for Birmingham on Sunday calls for high temperatures to top out right at 90 degrees under sunny skies. With the hot temperatures expected, a pop-up shower or thunderstorm cannot entirely be ruled out, especially as the day wears on.
Chances of precipitation rest at 17 percent. A slight north-northwest breeze of 15 MPH is projected, as well.
Memphis Showboats vs. New Orleans Breakers Betting Odds
As of late Friday afternoon, the oddsmakers have the New Orleans Breakers installed as a -7-point favorite on the points spread and a -303 favorite on the money line. Memphis counters as a +225 underdog on the line.
The over/under for Sunday afternoon’s ballgame is set at 48 1/2 points. If you plan on betting on this or any other game this weekend, please wager responsibly.
Look For Cole Kelley to Take Off
Sometimes in the world of football, the quarterback needs to be a dual-threat. Just throwing the ball in the hopes that your No. 1 receiver can come down with a nice catch isn’t enough.
While Showboats starting quarterback Cole Kelley was unable to get his team on the scoreboard through the air, the ground attack got the job done last weekend on NBC. Kelley scrambled for two touchdowns on six carries in the victory.
If the New Orleans D-line causes havoc up front and Kelley’s protection starts to collapse, expect him to tuck the football under his arm and try to find daylight. All he needs is just a little bit of room to run.
Butler Hungry for Another Pick
While the Showboats face a tall order this Sunday afternoon with quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson on the other sideline, their defense was stout a week ago, recording two interceptions. Linebacker Anthony Butler, in his second season with the Bandits/Showboats, notched his third interception since joining the USFL last week.
During the final minute of the first quarter, Butler, a product of Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA by way of UNC-Charlotte, picked off a Josh Love pass and returned it 26 yards. Although Bethel-Thompson has only been picked off twice this year, both of those interceptions have come in the past two weeks.
This is a vulnerable quarterback. Can Butler make Bethel-Thompson pay for a bad throw?
Look For Eli Stove to Bust Loose on Kickoff Returns
While kickoffs have been derided by some football fans for being the most tedious part of the game, they can also be made exciting with the right return man. Wideout Eli Stove put the Breakers in prime field position last week, highlighted by a 40-yard kickoff return.
Aside from Deon Cain of the Birmingham Stallions, who is inactive this week due to illness, no other returner has taken a kickoff all the way back to the end zone. This could be the week where everything changes.
If New Orleans throws some blocks Stove’s way, he could be gone.
Can Diggs Replicate Great Performance?
A major cog for the Breakers on the defensive side of the ball last week was linebacker Vontae Diggs. The UConn alum and teammate of McLeod Bethel-Thompson on the Toronto Argonauts in the CFL secured the USFL Defensive Player of the Week honors last Monday in a Twitter vote.
Alongside his 12 tackles last Sunday, Diggs picked off a pass and assisted on a sack of Generals quarterback DeAndre Johnson. It’ll be a challenge for Memphis to try and neutralize him, but if the Showboats can make Diggs trip up, they’ll take him out of the picture.
As we mentioned at the top of the breakdown, this game looks like it might end up a one-sided affair, but as Chris Berman used to say “That’s why they play the games.”
Drew Zuhosky has been writing about combat sports since May of 2018. A graduate of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, Drew enjoys a good game and a better fight. When he's not writing, you can find him playing video games and listening to music.