Tank Bowl Preview: Memphis Showboats vs. Houston Roughnecks | Josh Love

Tank Bowl Preview: Memphis Showboats vs. Houston Roughnecks

In the final game of the 2024 UFL regular season, the Houston Roughnecks will travel to Liberty Bank Stadium to take on the Memphis Showboats. It’s a matchup between two teams who both sit at 1-8 and haven’t seen each other since week one, when Memphis won 18-12 at Rice Stadium. However, this one has a special twist. The winner will be awarded the first overall pick in the 2025 UFL Draft and all subsequent rounds. Typically, the team with the least number of wins would be granted the pick, but the UFL has taken a page out of legacy USFL’s playbook.

This was previously done in 2022, in a week ten game, between the Pittsburgh Maulers and the Michigan Panthers. It’s an innovative idea that adds some intrigue to an otherwise bland affair. Now let’s take a look at these two teams’ final game of the season.

Roughnecks’ Offense vs. Showboats’ Defense

The Houston offense has played their two best games of the season in the last couple of weeks. Against Birmingham and Michigan, they put up 28 and 22, respectively, and have moved the ball much better than they had in the previous seven weeks of the season. A huge part of that has been the emergence of quarterback Nolan Henderson. He’s thrown the ball fairly well, but where he separates from former-starter Reid Sinnett is the use of his legs. He’s run for 100 yards and a touchdown in the last two games, which has helped running back Mark Thompson and wide receiver Justin Hall find more open space. Despite ranking last or second-to-last in all major offensive categories, Houston’s offense is on the upswing. They’ll have a much more advantageous matchup in week ten against the UFL’s worst defense. Over the last two weeks, Thompson has run for 92 yards and three scores while Hall has 10 catches for 182 yards and two touchdowns. Expect big games from them and Henderson.

Carnell Lake’s defense had a fantastic stretch last season in the USFL during the Showboats’ five-game winning streak. During that run, they only gave up 11.2 points per game and also pitched a shutout in week six. This year, it’s been catastrophically bad. They’re giving up 28 points per game and 359 yards per game this season, both are the worst marks in the league by a wide margin. They’ve allowed 30+ points five times and allowed 47 to the Renegades in week seven. Safety Lamont McPhatter has been a bright spot totaling 42 tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble but players like edge rusher Greg Reaves (3.5 sacks, 18 tackles) haven’t built on last season’s successes. Memphis does lead the league in fumble recoveries and Thompson lost a fumble for Houston last week against Michigan. They’ll have to look to create takeaways to get off the field, rather than continuously allow the long drives they have all season.

Showboats’ Offense vs. Roughnecks’ Defense

As bad as it’s been on defense for Memphis, it hasn’t been much better for the offense. They’re second worst in scoring this season at 18.8 points per game, and are last in total yards, passing yards, and rushing yards. They’ve allowed a league-worst 38 sacks, 14 more than Houston, who is second worst in the UFL. They’ll be starting their third different quarterback on Sunday as Josh Love gets the nod in their final game. Last week against DC he went 9/14 for 105 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. He added another nine yards on the ground and a garbage-time touchdown when the game was far out of reach. Running back Darius Victor finally bounced back with a 100-yard day and a score. He ran the ball ten times for three yards when these teams matched up in week one, so he’ll be looking to make up for that performance.

Houston’s run defense is stout, and Memphis hasn’t run the ball well this season, so we should expect the Roughnecks to win the battle in the trenches. They only allowed 34 yards in their week one matchup, 15 of which came on a Daewood Davis run. On the other 18 carries, they held Memphis to 1.1 yard per rush. A lack of running game will lead the Showboats to dropping back more and that could mean a big day for defensive end Chris Odom. He has 5.5 sacks, 28 tackles, and two forced fumbles this season. Going against the worst offensive line in the league, he’ll have a chance to cap the season off well. Safety Markel Roby leads the team in tackles and interceptions with 48 and two, respectively. Despite so many injuries, Houston continues to play admirably. However, they’ve given up 30.5 points per game over their last two games, but this is a much less potent offense than the Stallions or Perkins-led Panthers. We should expect an effort similar to their dominance against a good Arlington offense in Houston’s lone win this year.

Final Thoughts

The Tank Bowl, the Toilet Bowl, or whatever you want to call it, these two teams play the UFL regular season finale on Sunday night. Despite their seasons ending, all of these players will be looking to put out good tape and prove they should be back next season. Roughnecks’ head coach CJ Johnson and Showboats’ head coach John DeFilippo have both disappointed this year. They’ll also be looking to show that they should be back for a third season in 2025. In the last iteration of this game, the Panthers defeated the Maulers 33-21 to secure the first pick in the 2023 USFL Draft. We’ll see who does it this time on Sunday night.

Full Roster Breakdowns: Houston, Memphis

What are your thoughts on this upcoming UFL matchup between the Houston Roughnecks and Memphis Showboats? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!