What to expect in Birmingham Stallions vs. Memphis Showboats

The Birmingham Stallions already clinched their spot in the USFL playoffs with a game left, but the Memphis Showboats have an uphill climb to do the same in the final week of the regular season when these two teams meet on Saturday at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium (4 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app).

The Stallions lead the South Division at 7-2 overall, while host Memphis is two games back at 5-4. Birmingham easily handled Memphis 42-2 in Week 2.

The Showboats had their five-game winning streak snapped with a disappointing, 31-3 loss to the New Orleans Breakers (6-3) in Week 9, while the Stallions boat raced the Houston Gamblers (5-4) last week, 38-15.

The Stallions can clinch the South Division title with a win, or a New Orleans loss. Memphis needs a win, along with Houston defeating the Breakers to finish in a three-way tie for second place and a faint opportunity to go to tiebreakers for the second playoff spot.

Here's one thing to watch for the Stallions and the Breakers entering this weekend's contest.

Stallions: Will Skip Holtz rest his star players?

The Stallions are already in the playoffs and know that they'll be playing for the South Division Championship in their home stadium. So, there's little for Birmingham to play for against the Showboats this weekend.

However, Birmingham already has lost impact players due to injuries at different points of the season, including quarterback J'Mar Smith, running back Bo Scarbrough, receiver Marlon Williams and linebacker Scooby Wright, so perhaps Holtz will rest some key starters to make sure they are ready for the playoffs?

For now, Holtz isn't divulging what he plans to do on Saturday.

"We can talk about maybe getting some people healthy with where we are at some positions," Holtz said after his team's victory over Houston last week. "We don't have enough to sit everybody down and bring the ‘B' team, so to speak. But we've got to look at it. I don't know how we'll play it right now, but there's one more game. I'll talk to the leadership council about how they want to handle it, and then we'll make some decisions as a team."

If last year is any indication, Holtz chose to play most of his frontline players in a meaningless, Week 10 game last year with his team already in control of the top spot of the South Division. So, it seems likely that keeping the momentum and rhythm going and playing at home will be more important for Holtz and the Stallions than resting players for the first round of the playoffs.

"The fans have been great," Holtz said. "They've been unbelievable. They've been awesome at home. What a treat to know that we're going to get one more chance to play in Birmingham one more time in the 2023 season." 

Showboats: Can Memphis offense hold onto the football? 

Showboats head coach Todd Haley probably didn't waste much time watching the film on how his team performed last week, which included a weather delay of more than three hours.

Memphis turned the ball over five times in a loss to New Orleans and didn't get on track offensively. And the Showboats face an opponent that held them to two points earlier this season.

Still, with a slim chance to make the postseason still within reach, not to mention playing at home, Haley expects his team to play much better in the final regular-season game. 

"I don't care about any of that stuff — I really don't," Haley said, when asked about the playoff scenarios. "We have to play better football. We were doing a really good job in the plus/minus area, the defense was doing a good job of taking away the football, but the offense was still careless in a few areas, and that reared its head. 

"The bottom line for our team is, I love our team. I love our guys. I want everybody to get healthy, obviously. But we've got to play a lot better than that to think of anything beyond this regular season." 

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.