United States Football League
What to expect in Memphis Showboats vs. Houston Gamblers
United States Football League

What to expect in Memphis Showboats vs. Houston Gamblers

Published Apr. 28, 2023 10:27 a.m. ET

MEMPHIS — Two teams still looking for their first USFL win this season face off when the Houston Gamblers (0-2) take on the Memphis Showboats (0-2) on Saturday (7 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app) at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium in Memphis.

Gamblers head coach Curtis Johnson remains in search of his first victory with his new team, while Showboats head coach Todd Haley is working to earn his first win in his team’s new city of Memphis.

"We just got to get back to work," Haley said after his team’s 42-2, humbling road loss to the Birmingham Stallions in Week 2. "As I told the coaches, we’ve got to figure out what we need to do in all three phases to give ourselves the best chance to win because obviously, that result is not acceptable in any way, shape or form. 

"When you take an ass kicking like that, you’ve got to go take a long shower and move forward because they’re not canceling the season, and we’ve got to figure out a way to put ourselves in a position to win another game.

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That said, here’s one big question for the Gamblers and Showboats to address heading into this weekend’s matchup:

Houston Gamblers: Can the offense take better care of the football?

It’s hard to win games when you have needless penalties and are not careful with the football. Through two games Houston has a league-high seven turnovers and a league-worst minus-6 turnover differential.

The Gamblers also have 12 accepted penalties for 106 yards, tied for third in the league.

Quarterback Kenji Bajar has been the main culprit for Houston, with five interceptions and a lost fumble in his first two games. Houston is averaging a respectable 22 points a game but giving up nearly 34 points a contest defensively.

"I thought last week (Week 1) we ran the ball well, but turnovers really killed us," Johnson said. "This week, we just stubbed our toe. When it’s first and long, you get penalties that back you up and it’s just hard to overcome some of those things."

Johnson said the Gamblers have put the loss behind them and are focused on preparing for the Showboats.

"We’ve just got to get back home and put this one to bed," Johnson said. "We’re going to watch the film and go over some of the mistakes we made. After that, we’re going to put together a good game plan. I think Memphis has a heck of a team."

Memphis Showboats: Defense must show improvement

Haley should have no problem getting his team’s attention after losing by 40 points on the road to the defending USFL champs from Birmingham. 

However, for Memphis to turn things around, the Showboats need to get more consistent production from the defense. The Showboats are giving up a league-high 34.5 points per contest and allowing a USFL-high 239 passing yards a game.

Memphis is tied for the league lead with eight sacks. However, the Showboats have not forced a turnover in two games.

"I think we’ve got to look inward," Haley said about his team. "How we respond to this type of adversity will tell us a lot about the men in that locker room. How we react and respond is going to be a critical thing for us. It’s less about opponents and more about what we need to do to play better." 

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.

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