What to expect in New Orleans Breakers vs. Memphis Showboats

With both teams tied at 5-3, Saturday’s contest between the New Orleans Breakers and the host Memphis Showboats (Saturday, 3 p.m. ET) could go a long way toward determining which team makes the postseason in the stacked USFL South Division.

The Showboats won the earlier contest between the two teams, a 17-10 Week 5 victory in Birmingham. That started a league-high five-game winning streak for Memphis, while New Orleans has lost three of its last four.

The Breakers ended a three-game losing streak with a 24-20 victory over the Michigan Panthers last week, while the Showboats handled the New Jersey Generals in Week 8, 25-16.

"Our goals are still intact that we set at the start of the season," Breakers head coach John DeFilippo said. "And that’s all you can ask for in professional football, is to be in it. In the NFL when I was there, you wanted meaningful games in December. So, for us, it’s meaningful games in June." 

Here’s one thing to watch for each team with two games remaining in the regular season.

Breakers: Wes Hills looking for a breakout game

Through the first half of the season, Hills led the league in rushing and was one of the top candidates for offensive player of the year.

However, Hills and the Breakers have struggled to find any consistency in the running game over the second half of the season, and it has affected their ability to move the football.

Hills averaged 130 yards a contest and scored eight total touchdowns through the first four games of the season as the Breakers raced out to a 4-0 record. But during his team’s 1-3 stretch over the last four games, Hills has averaged just 57 yards a contest and has one total touchdown.

The Showboats held Hills to a season-low 38 yards in their Week 5 win over New Orleans. Memphis is holding opponents to 99 yards per game on the season, No. 5 in the USFL.

Hills still leads the league with 613 rushing yards, but he also has fumbled three times, with two of those recovered by the defense.

Showboats: Defense leading the way

Memphis defensive coordinator Carnell Lake has his group playing well when it matters most — at the end of the season.

During the Showboats' five-game winning streak, Memphis has held opponents to 11.2 points a contest. That's a huge improvement from the team's first three games of the season, an 0-3 start where they gave up 33 points a contest.

Memphis head coach Todd Haley says the difference was his team stayed together during some adversity at the start of the year.

"Starting 0-3, and the only people that like you are your mom, dad, girlfriend or wife — I mean nobody else is talking about you," joked Haley. "We chose to pull together as a group and to continue to fight and work hard. It just makes me happy as the head coach to be able to enjoy these moments and keep ourselves in position where we can continue to play games." 

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.