As the Memphis Showboats prepare to host their division rival Michigan Panthers, one thing is certain, the winning team on Sunday afternoon is almost certain to have an edge heading into the playoffs. The Panthers currently have a one-game advantage with their 2-2 record over the 1-3 Showboats and the winner of this game would hold the conference tiebreaker.

Showboats Update:

The Showboats are coming off back-to-back losses. For a team that started off the season in such a promising fashion with a solid victory over the Houston Roughnecks on the road, it’s hard to reconcile their downward slide over the past three weeks.

A significant part of the problem is the utter lack of protection afforded by the offensive line. Case Cookus currently has the unfortunate distinction of being one of two quarterbacks with 13 sacks, the most in the league. When Cookus is up against a team with a strong defense such as the Stallions and the Battlehawks, the last two teams he faced, he has taken an absolute pounding. The Stallions’ defense delivered a punishing 7 sacks two weeks ago and the Battlehawks added two more last week, one of which was a brutal strip sack. QB Troy Williams took over for Cookus after Head Coach John DeFilippo relieved him in the later part of both games.

While Cookus suffered a reported shoulder injury last week resulting from the strip sack last weekend, he is scheduled to be the starter against the Panthers. When he’s afforded the time and protection, Cookus has the talent to make things happen. He’s an extremely mobile quarterback who leads the team in rushing yards. Cookus has a great rapport with his receivers when he is on his game. Both Vinny Papale and Jonathan Adams have been favored targets this season. Papale is currently in a four-way tie amongst wide receivers for the most TDs with three and Adams leads the team in total receptions (13 receptions for 174 yards )but has yet to score a TD.

In another positive sign for the Showboats, the ground game is finally starting to take shape. RB Darius Victor, whose rumored ankle injury might have hampered his performance for the first three weeks of the season, looked much stronger last week after scoring his first TD with 74 total yards (58 rushing on 11 attempts and 3 receptions for 16 yards). RB Titus Swen contributed a beautiful kick-off return deep into Battlehawks territory. 

Another stronghold for the Showboats is kicker, Matt Coghlin who currently is 9/10 and in second place in the league with his longest kick at 57 yards.

Panthers Update:

Heading into this weekend’s contest, the Panthers learned the hamstring injury suffered by quarterback E. J. Perry in the game against the San Antonio Brahmas last weekend, was more serious than expected and he has been placed on I.R. for the remainder of the season.

Losing Perry, who was off to a great start for the Panthers, was a bitter blow for a team hoping to make the playoffs. In week three, Perry had his best game against the Houston Roughnecks when he was 16/19 for 208 yards with a 66-yard touchdown to Marcus Simms. Perry finished that drive with a two-point conversion to WR Siaosi Mariner.  Later in the game, Perry added another 60 rushing yards and two TDs.

QB Danny Etling, who relieved Perry in the second half of the game against the Brahmas last weekend, gave a solid performance and was 11/14 for 105 yards with a TD to WR Marcus Simms and one INT. In addition to Simms, who is one of the best receivers in the league with a 76-yard TD to go along with last week’s 66-yard TD, the Panthers have a solid group of receivers including Trey Quinn. In one other roster update; WR Jordan Suell was waived earlier this week.

To back up Etling, the Panthers have Michigan State University graduate, Brian Lewerke, and as of this week, newly signed, former University of Virginia graduate Bryce Perkins. Like Perry, Perkins presents a dual threat, both in the air and on the ground. While at UVA, he passed for 6,200 yards in two years with 47 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. In addition, he rushed for another 1700 yards. In 2020, during the pandemic-shortened season, Perkins signed as an undrafted free agent with the L.A. Rams and appeared in one game in 2022 for the Rams passing 13/23 with 100 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INT’s.

The Panthers have a strong defense led by Frank Ginda, one of the league leaders with 30 tackles, and Kai Nakua, who is credited with 26 tackles and currently leading the league with 2 interceptions in back-to-back games. Breeland Speaks is another strong presence on defense for the team.

Finally, the Panthers’ talented kicker, Jake Bates, is currently providing a master class in field goal kicking over 60 yards with 2 to his credit. However, since Bates had to redo both kicks due to a time-out being called, he kicked 4 FGs over 60 yards.

This game is a high-stakes one for both teams and could turn out to be another thrilling 4th quarter finish that is decided by a field goal in the closing seconds.

author avatar
Sue Levine
Sue Levine spent the past five years creating and producing a successful weekly health and wellness podcast starring a wonderful iconic woman as the program host. As part of Sue's responsibilities, she scripted every episode and discovered a genuine love of writing. When the podcast ended late last year, she shifted the focus of her writing to covering pro sports. A passionate fan of NFL and UFL football as well as fantasy, she is delighted to be able to share her articles with other football fans.

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