What to expect in Memphis Showboats vs. New Orleans Breakers
The Showboats are looking for momentum after notching their first win of the season, but now they face the undefeated Breakers.
The New Orleans Breakers (4-0) are the last unbeaten team in the USFL, and coach John DeFilippo doesn't want to call it a bull's eye on his team, but he understands they're getting everyone's best game until they're knocked off that perch.
"I don't call it the bull's eye. I just say we're the hunted," DeFilippo said he prepares his Breakers for a game in Birmingham against the Memphis Showboats (1-3) (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app). "There are certain things that come with being the hunted. You're getting everyone's best shot. I'd rather be 4-0 than 0-4. There's a responsibility that comes with being the hunted: your attention to detail, the way you practice, all of that has to be on point."
New Orleans has the league leaders in passing and rushing yards, with quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson passing for 1,116 yards and six touchdowns while throwing only two interceptions, lowest among the league's starting quarterbacks. Running back Wes Hills has been the league's top rusher, both with 389 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.
"That's what good teams do — they complement each other," DeFilippo said. "There are some games you'll win 20-17 and some games you'll win 49-48, and that's OK. The bottom line is having one more point than the other team ... I'm pleasantly surprised the way we can run the football."
On the other end of Sunday's matchup is Memphis, which just secured its first win of the season last week, pulling out a 29-10 win over the Michigan Panthers. They're allowing the most yards in the league and are tied for the most points allowed with 109 in four games, but last week's win was a much-needed step in the right direction, punctuated with a defensive touchdown to seal the win.
"We needed it desperately, and now the key is start stacking wins," said Memphis coach Todd Haley, pleased to see his defense step up with three takeaways after totaling one in their first three games. "We created pressure and finally the ball came to us, or we made it come to us. Sometimes when you're working so hard to get turnovers, and they're not coming, you finally get those first couple, and it opens the floodgates a little bit. Guys start gaining confidence and they just start feeding off each other."
Memphis has gotten improved play from quarterback Cole Kelley, and after losing former Seahawks running back Alex Collins to injury, they got a spark from Kerrith Whyte, who had been among their final cuts but compiled 54 yards rushing and had another 27 receiving in the win against Michigan. That defense will have quite a challenge in keeping the Breakers in check.
"It's a great challenge," Haley said. "Their quarterback is the most experienced quarterback in the league, and it shows. He's very efficient. They've got a good running back and they're obviously being coached well. We're going to have to make the quarterback uncomfortable, and we can't allow him to keep completing balls at a 70-percent clip. He'll pick you apart, so we have to find ways to get our hands on the football, someway and somehow."
Greg Auman is FOX Sports’ NFC South reporter, covering the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He is in his 10th season covering the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having spent time at the Tampa Bay Times and The Athletic. You can follow him on Twitter at @gregauman.