Through Week 5 of the USFL season, the top of the league is beginning to separate a bit from the bottom.
Birmingham, New Orleans and New Jersey have established themselves as the best to this point, while Michigan, Houston and Pittsburgh are struggling to establish some momentum. Philadelphia and Tampa Bay reside in the middle, and it remains unclear which direction they're heading.
All of this means there are some intriguing matchups on tap this weekend, including a heavyweight matchup between two 3-1 squads on Saturday (3 p.m. ET on FOX and streaming in the FOX Sports app).
Here is a primer for Week 5:
Friday, 8 p.m. ET on USA
Last week: Both of these teams are coming off difficult losses in Week 4.
The Panthers were in great shape to knock off the Philadelphia Stars and even their record at 2-2, but Michael Carrizosa's 21-yard field-goal attempt — even shorter than a PAT, as coach Jeff Fisher pointed out — bounced off the upright.
Tampa Bay, meanwhile, did everything it could do defensively to hand Birmingham its first defeat, but mustered little offense in a 16-10 loss.
Players to watch: For Michigan, reigning Offensive Player of the Week Reggie Corbin is the man to keep an eye on. The running back has racked up 308 rushing yards — the third-best total in the league — despite playing in only three games and starting only once. Corbin rushed for 152 yards on only 12 carries against Philly, including an 88-yarder for a touchdown.
Travis Feeney hasn't received a lot of publicity this season, but he has quietly been a key factor in the Bandits' defense. He's tied for the team lead in sacks (two), is fourth in tackles and even has a pass defensed. He'll have to play a key role if the Bandits are going to slow down Michigan's running game.
Saturday, 3 p.m. ET on FOX and streaming in the FOX Sports app
Last week: The Breakers stole the show in Week 4, producing a late-game drive that ended with a gutsy 29-yard TD pass with 10 seconds remaining to beat the Houston Gamblers. The exclusive video of the dramatic drive put the coaching of Larry Fedora and Noel Mazzone on display, and also made stars of quarterback Kyle Sloter and receiver Jonathan Adams.
The Generals quietly won their third straight in Week 4, a 21-13 victory over Pittsburgh. The two-QB system set in place by coach Mike Riley — De'Andre Johnson and Luis Perez — seems to get a little bit better each week. New Jersey's only loss was in Week 1 to undefeated Birmingham.
Players to watch: Sloter and the passing game get all the pub in New Orleans, but don't sleep on running back Jordan Ellis. Ellis leads the USFL with 347 rushing yards through four games, and Sloter has praised his all-around skills, including his help in pass protection.
For New Jersey, Johnson is the most dazzling player to watch on offense. Not only does he share passing duties with Perez, but he's also the Generals' leading rusher. In fact, his 230 yards on the ground ranks fourth in the entire league.
Sunday, 12 p.m. ET on NBC
Last week: The Stallions aren't bullies who run their opponents off the field each week. In fact, they tend to start slow and then figure out how to win in the end. That's what happened in Week 4 when they spotted Tampa Bay a 10-7 halftime lead before putting the clamps on in the second half.
The Stars had the opposite problem last week, managing to put up points behind the passing of Case Cookus but struggling to stop Michigan's ground game. In the end, they escaped with a 26-25 win when the Panthers missed a chip-shot field goal.
Players to watch: Victor Bolden Jr. has been a hidden gem for Birmingham. The 27-year-old receiver out of Oregon State has 214 receiving yards this season, but that's only part of the story. Bolden is a force in special teams, leading the league in kick return yards (390), punt return yards (103) and all-purpose yards (708).
Philly cornerback Channing Stribling has been a ball hawk this season. The product of the University of Michigan leads the USFL with four interceptions. That's only one fewer than his total tackles this season (five), but if you catch everything the opposing QB throws in your direction, there's nobody there to tackle.
Sunday, 4 p.m. ET on FOX and streaming in the FOX Sports app
Last week: The Maulers continue to struggle to put points on the board — they scored only 13 points last week against the Generals and are averaging just 9.8 through four games. That's going to have to change for Pittsburgh to break into the win column.
The Gamblers, meanwhile, continue to hang their hat on defense. That's kept them in games but hasn't translated to victories. They had a chance to beat the Breakers last week, but that vaunted defense let them down in the final seconds. The Maulers might present a less dangerous challenge this week.
Players to watch: The Kyle Lauletta-Tre Walker is worth watching when it comes to Pittsburgh. Lauletta targeted Walker 17 times last week, more than half of his 32 pass attempts. Walker caught nine of them for 110 yards, so the duo clearly has chemistry.
For Houston, cornerback Micah Abernathy is putting together an interesting season. The 25-year-old Tennessee product had a great game against New Orleans, leading his team with 11 tackles and also notching his first interception of the season.