USFL Week 4 Preview

Three weeks into the USFL season, the Birmingham Stallions have established themselves as the team to beat.

The Stallions are the only unbeaten team remaining at 3-0, leaving them firmly entrenched atop RJ Young's latest USFL Power Rankings.

That being said, there is still much left to be decided, with plenty of teams appearing capable of challenging Birmingham. And the Stallions have not exactly steamrolled the competition either, having to rally from behind in each of their three victories.

This leaves fans with some enticing matchups this weekend. 

Here is a primer for Week 4:

Philadelphia Stars (1-2) vs. Michigan Panthers (1-2)

Friday, 9 pm on FS1 and streaming in the FOX Sports app

Last week: The Stars are coming off a rough defeat to the New Jersey Generals, a game in which they lost starting quarterback Bryan Scott to injury. Scott has left the team for now but hopes to return later this season.

The Panthers, meanwhile, are coming off their first victory of the season, a 24-0 shutout of the Pittsburgh Maulers, and coach Jeff Fisher may have hit on a formula that works — a fierce rushing attack and stingy defense.

Players to watch: With Scott out of action, the focus will be on Stars quarterback Case Cookus. The 26-year-old out of Northern Arizona was solid in place of Scott last week, completing 65% of his passes (13-for-20) for 146 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions.

With Michigan QBs Paxton Lynch and Shea Patterson struggling, the Panthers turned to their ground game. It paid off, as Reggie Corbin and Stevie Scott combined to rush the ball 33 times for 188 yards (5.7 yards per attempt) and two touchdowns.

New Jersey Generals (2-1) vs. Pittsburgh Maulers (0-3)

Saturday, 1:30 pm on Peacock

Last week: The Generals took advantage of Scott's injury, outscoring the Stars 14-0 in the fourth quarter to pull out the 24-16 victory.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is the league's only winless team and is coming off the shutout loss vs. Michigan. The Maulers still have time to make some noise, and it would be helpful to start off with a win against the North Division-leading Generals.

Players to watch: The Generals got hot last week after handing the reins to QB De'Andre Johnson, who took most of the snaps in the second half and produced 224 yards of total offense (130 yards passing, 94 yards rushing).

The Maulers need to figure out a way to generate offense, and running back Madre London might be the guy to do it. London gained 68 yards on 11 carries last week, and that 6.2 average seems to be a sign that he needs more opportunities moving forward.

Tampa Bay Bandits (2-1) vs. Birmingham Stallions (3-0)

Saturday, 6 pm on FOX and streaming in the FOX Sports app

Last week: The Bandits pulled off one of the most dramatic wins of Week 3, scoring 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to beat Houston, 27-26. Tyler Rausa made all three PATs and two of his three field-goal attempts, including the 46-yard game-winner, to earn Special Teams Player of the Week. 

Meanwhile, the Stallions rallied for a third straight week, scoring 12 unanswered in the fourth quarter to beat New Orleans 22-13

Players to watch: Tampa Bay QB Jordan Ta'amu has seen his share of struggles this season, but he just might be putting it all together. Ta'amu passed for 255 yards and a touchdown last week, and his 502 total passing yards rank fourth in the league through three games.

For Birmingham, don't sleep on a defense that seems to buckle down when the Stallions need it most. Leading the way are Scooby Wright and DeMarquis Gates, both of whom are tackle machines. Gates, the reigning Defensive Player of the Week, is third in the USFL in tackles (27), while Wright is fourth (26).

Houston Gamblers (1-2) vs. New Orleans Breakers (2-1)

Sunday, 2 pm on NBC

Last week: The Gamblers are probably hurting after having a 26-17 fourth-quarter lead evaporate against Tampa Bay last week. They'll be looking to rebound against a tough Breakers squad that is coming off its first loss, 22-13 against still-unbeaten Birmingham.

Players to watch: Mark Thompson is an entertaining player to watch, a 6-2, 235-pound running back out of Florida. Thompson leads the USFL in rushing yards, with 310 through three games, and you never know when he might rip off a 55-yarder.

Breakers wide receiver Johnnie Dixon, is the league's reigning Offensive Player of the Week, and it's not surprising given his production. Dixon leads the USFL in receiving yards (165) and is tied for first in receiving touchdowns (three) with Houston's Isaiah Zuber.