Week 4 of the 2022 USFL season will conclude with the Houston Gamblers and New Orleans Breakers looking to keep pace in the South Division. A win could create a logjam at the top, while the loser runs the risk of potentially falling three games behind.
Related: Week 4 Picks for Every USFL Game
New Orleans (2-1) came up short against Birmingham last week, falling 22-13 in a matchup of undefeated teams while Houston (1-2) lost to Tampa Bay, 27-26 thanks to a fourth-quarter rally by the Bandits that was capped by a late field goal. Depending on what happens on Saturday night when the Stallions take on Tampa Bay, there could be a three-way tie atop the division after four weeks. But a win by Birmingham and a loss by the Gamblers also could create a three-game gap between first and last place.
Houston (1-2) at New Orleans (2-1)
Kickoff: Sunday, May 8 at 3 p.m. ET
Where: Protective Stadium (Birmingham, Ala.)
Spread: Breakers -4.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Thorson vs. Sloter
As these quarterbacks go, so do their teams, at least in the early part of the season. So the matchup between Houston's Clayton Thorson and New Orleans' Kyle Sloter should be fun to watch. Sloter leads the USFL in passing yards (657) and completions (68), and he trails the leaders in touchdown passes by one (he has four). He's thrown two interceptions and been sacked just three times, which is one of the reasons for his early success.
Sloter's favorite target will most likely be wide receiver Johnnie Dixon, who is the reigning Offensive Player of the Week. Against Birmingham, he posted seven catches for 86 yards and two touchdowns, albeit in a losing effort. Dixon led the USFL in receiving yards (165) entering Week 4. The Breakers also can run the ball, led by Jordan Ellis, who is second overall with 243 rushing yards. This balance has helped New Orleans manufacture the league's second-most productive offense at 339 yards per game.
On the other side, Thorson is tied for the league lead with five touchdown passes, is fifth in yards (454), and has only been sacked once. The Gamblers are fourth in yards per game (286.3) and Thorson is supported by the current rushing leader, Mark Thompson with 310 yards. Thompson (53 att.) and Ellis (64) have been the workhorses thus far, ranking second and first, respectively, in carries.
Thorson's favorite target thus far has been wide receiver Isaiah Zuber. He's sixth in receiving yards (136) and is tied for the league lead with three touchdown catches. As productive as both of these offenses have been, it's possible there could be plenty of fireworks on Sunday afternoon.
2. Defenses won't go down without a fight
While both teams' offenses have certainly been doing their share of damage, don't discount either defense entirely. New Orleans is third overall in total (251.0 ypg) and rushing (108.7 ypg) defense while ranking second against the pass (142.3 ypg). The Breakers have surrendered the second-fewest points (14 per game) as well.
Houston hasn't fared as well in most statistical categories, but the Gamblers' defense has been able to get after the quarterback, registering seven sacks (second in the USFL, New Orleans is No. 1 with 11), and has forced seven turnovers, tying them with Birmingham for the league lead. So despite the shortcomings of this unit, their ability to create havoc and come up with some game-changing plays are reasons why they have been outscored by just one point through the first three games.
This matchup also features the top two in sacks thus far with the Breakers' Devin Bellamy and Gamblers' Chris Odom tied at 4.5.
3. What's at stake
Essentially, control of the South Division is on the line in this game. On Saturday night, Birmingham (3-0) will take on Tampa Bay (2-1). A victory by the Stallions keeps them firmly atop the division, while a win by the Bandits results in a two-way tie. So then a victory by New Orleans on Sunday would make it a three-team logjam at the top and drop Houston two games behind the pack. Likewise, wins by the Stallions and the Gamblers would give Birmingham a two-game cushion in the division.
Both offenses should have their moments, but in the end, New Orleans makes enough plays on both sides of the ball to earn the close, hard-fought victory.
Prediction: Breakers 24, Gamblers 20
— Written by Gabe Salgado, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He can also be heard on WGN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.