What to expect in New Orleans Breakers vs. Houston Gamblers

The playoff-clinching scenario for the New Orleans Breakers is straightforward heading into the final week of the USFL's regular season. At 6-3 and standing alone in second place in the South Division, if New Orleans defeats the Houston Gamblers on Sunday, the Breakers are in the postseason.

New Orleans could even claim the No. 1 seed with a victory over the Gamblers on Sunday (4 p.m. ET on FS1 and the FOX Sports app) at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, and if the Birmingham Stallions also stumble vs. the Memphis Showboats.

But for now, the Breakers will be content with a "W" and moving on.

"Yeah, playoffs are dope," New Orleans linebacker Vontae Diggs said. "But Coach (John DeFilippo) says it every week — the most important game is the next game. It doesn't matter about the playoffs. Yeah, that's in the back of our mind and that's what our goal is, but we're seeing this as just the next game.

"We're not worried about it. We know what we've got to do. But as long as we play New Orleans Breakers football in all three phases, we're not worried about clinching." 

At 5-4, Houston also has a chance at the playoffs with a victory over the Breakers and some help from other teams. 

That said, here's one thing to watch for the Breakers and the Gamblers heading into the final week of the regular season.

Breakers: Can McLeod Bethel-Thompson get back on track?

While he remains the USFL's leading passer with 2,206 yards, New Orleans quarterback Bethel-Thompson threw for a season-low 88 yards in his team's decisive win over Memphis last week.

However, while New Orleans struggled to move the ball on offense, Bethel-Thompson didn't turn it over.

"Did we execute like we wanted to? Absolutely not," Bethel-Thompson said. "But when you have a defense like this, sometimes you just got to not get in your own way and let them go win the football game." 

The 34-year-old signal-caller now matches up with a Houston defense he had some success against in a Week 2, 38-31 victory in Birmingham. In that game, Bethel-Thompson completed 67.6% of his passes for 251 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Running back Wes Hills also had a big game, totaling 110 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries.

The Gamblers have allowed 24.3 points per game this season. Only the Philadelphia Stars allow more (26.1 PPG).

Houston: Can the Gamblers find the end zone?

Houston kicker Nick Vogel had an impressive day at the office last week, finishing 5-for-5 on field goals with a long of 47 yards. But playing against perhaps the best offense in the USFL in New Orleans, much like last week against Birmingham, the Gamblers will need touchdowns instead of field goals to earn the victory.

Houston running back Mark Thompson had trouble getting anything going against stacked boxes last week, finishing with just 56 rushing yards on 17 carries. The USFL's leader in touchdowns with 13, Thompson needs Houston to create some balance on offense with the passing game to loosen up opposing defenses. 

But Thompson said he will continue to make the most out of his opportunities. 

"I've already put that game behind me," Thompson said afterward. "We're moving on to next week. It's a very important matchup. It really determines what happens with us the following week, so we're all focused on New Orleans right now." 

Houston also could look to get Justin Hall more touches. An explosive playmaker after the catch, Hall managed six catches for 45 yards on nine targets in last week's loss.

Houston faces a New Orleans defense that has allowed an USFL-high 2,047 passing yards this 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.