The Houston Gamblers look to continue their hot streak as they prepare for a showdown with the New Jersey Generals.
Houston is coming off their third straight win as they took down division rivals Birmingham Stallions 27-20. Quarterback Terry Wilson stepped in for Kenji Bahar throwing for 117 yards and one touchdown along with 41 yards rushing in the win. Running back Mark Thompson had another stellar game on the ground rushing for 78 yards and three touchdowns. The Gamblers’ defense forced one fumble and got the key interception on the fourth and 12 alternative kickoff conversion at the end of the game.
The win puts Houston to a 3-2 record on the season with the Gamblers riding a three-game winning streak after losing their first two games of the year. They are currently tied for second in the South Division to the Stallions but own the tiebreaker due to having a better division record and winning their head-to-head matchup. Houston will take on the New Jersey Generals who are tied for first in the North Division with a 2-3 record as they are currently on a two-game losing streak after losing to the Philadelphia Stars 24-21 last week.
Line: Generals -5, O/U 45.5
Date/Location: Sunday, May 21, 2023, at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee
Kickoff Time: 3:00 PM CST
Weather Forecast: Partly cloudy, 77 degrees, Precipitation 10%, Humidity 51%, Wind 9 mph
Gamblers Injury/Inactive Report
The only injury that has been announced is that running T.J. Pledger has been placed on the injured reserve list. Pledger had been dealing with a right ankle injury that caused him to miss one game this season before being activated for last week’s game against Birmingham. His timetable for his return or if he will even return this season is unknown. Pledger is ninth in the USFL in rushing yards with 197 and has three rushing touchdowns on the season.
With the news of Pledger being inactive, the Gamblers signed running back Aaron Shampklin who was moved to the inactive list. Shampklin was a starting back at Harvard for 19 games before heading into the NFL. He spent time with the Dallas Cowboys last year and was most recently released by the Indianapolis Colts just two weeks ago.
One of the lingering questions is whether Bahar is going to start at quarterback this week or if the team will go with Wilson again. Bahar has been seen practicing for Houston this week so that is at least encouraging for Houston fans to see him on the field. Seeing Bahar back on the field should mean more production in the passing game which was lacking in last week’s game as Houston leaned on the run more.
Speaking of running the football, with Pledger out again, it will continue to be Thompson’s show in the backfield as he has gotten off to a fast start with 292 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in just three games played this season. He’s third in the USFL in rushing yards and tied for first in rushing touchdowns in half the time everyone has played. The team will be leaning more toward Thompson to continue his hot streak.
Pass-rushing experts Ronheen Bingham and Reggie Walker will be key factors in the game as they have combined seven sacks on the season. New Jersey’s offensive line has allowed fewer sacks than any other team in the USFL this season with just seven. Bingham and Walker need to find ways to get off the edge and hit Generals quarterback DeAndre Johnson in the backfield.
The back seven on defense will have to prepare for the running game and Johnson’s scrambling abilities. It’ll be important for players like leading tackler Khalan Tolson, Manny Bunch, and J.T. Tyler to contain Johnson in the pocket and not let him loose. There should be a lot of QB Spy plays run on the defensive side for Houston to watch Johnson’s movements in the pocket.
Houston has been the biggest surprise of the season so far as they have put themselves in a position to make the playoffs in the toughest division in the USFL. They took down the defending USFL Champion Stallions last week and that put the league on notice. New Jersey has been up and down this season in a division that won’t be sealed until the last week. Too much firepower on offense with receivers Justin Hall and Anthony Ratliff-Williams at receiver for Houston should give them enough to top the Generals.