The final week of preseason action begins tonight and concludes on Sunday before 53-man rosters are set next Tuesday. Here is what I’m watching in each game.
GB @ KC | THU 8:00 PM ET | NFL Network
Patrick Mahomes has seen quite a bit of action this preseason, so I’m anticipating the Chiefs will rest at least some of their key players with Andy Reid being noncommittal about the situation yesterday. Still, the backfield is worth watching (particularly Isiah Pacheco and Ronald Jones II), and one of my favorites in Cornell Powell is hoping to make a strong final impression to earn the final roster spot at wide receiver.
SF @ HOU | THU 8:15 PM ET | Prime Video
Trey Lance will be back under center tonight, and he’ll be matched up against a Houston team that will give extended playing time to the starters. Keep an eye on the pecking order at running back, as Trey Sermon wants to be more efficient (with hopefully improved blocking) to show he’s worthy of a role alongside Elijah Mitchell in the opener.
BUF @ CAR | FRI 7:00 PM ET
Buffalo should fortunately have star safety Jordan Poyer (elbow) back for Week 1, but backup Jaquan Johnson has played great this month, and he’ll be a player to watch once again tomorrow night. For the Panthers, first-rounder Ikem Ekwonu has struggling in pass protection with a couple of sacks allowed, which was a concern for him coming out of NC State; we’ll see if he shows progress against the Bills.
SEA @ DAL | FRI 8:00 PM ET | NFL Network
The quarterback competition for Seattle was essentially put on pause with Drew Lock being out with COVID last week, but he’ll see a huge chunk of playing time tomorrow night (though Geno Smith will again start). Also, maybe we’ll see DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett on the field for more than three plays as the Seahawks prepare for Denver in Week 1.
LAC @ NO | FRI 8:00 PM ET
Zion Johnson for the Chargers and Trevor Penning for the Saints are two players to watch tomorrow night, as the rookie first-rounders can each be a crucial part of the offensive line for a couple of contending teams. LA safety JT Woods is another rookie to watch tomorrow night as the Chargers find a way to overcome the potential absence of star cornerback J.C. Jackson early in the regular season.
NE @ LV | FRI 8:15 PM ET
Mac Jones played well in the second exhibition, but there are still some concerns about the New England offense based on their practice performances. So, if Jones and the starters end up playing tomorrow night, it’ll be their last chance to straighten everything out in game action before taking on a stingy Miami secondary in the opener.
JAX @ ATL | SAT 3:00 PM ET | NFL Network
A 52-yard connection with Kyle Pitts and a dime touchdown pass highlighted Marcus Mariota’s night earlier this week, and another big game to close out the month would really have the confidence soaring for the former No. 2 overall pick. Based on how head coach Arthur Smith carried himself on the sideline versus the Jets, it doesn’t feel like he’ll be eager to rest starters this weekend.
LAR @ CIN | SAT 6:00 PM ET | NFL Network
The Rams will rest their starters, and that’s something we can probably set in stone for the next five years. This Super Bowl matchup will likely be littered with backups, but Cincinnati needs to test out their cornerback depth with second-round pick Cam Taylor-Britt (core) set to miss a few weeks in the regular season. I’d say the depth at corner and wide receiver are two noticeable weaknesses for the defending AFC champions.
WAS @ BAL | SAT 7:00 PM ET
Commanders-Ravens will be one of the top games of the week with Washington’s backfield an area to watch for fantasy owners and Baltimore trying to extend their NFL record for consecutive preseason wins (currently 22). Focusing on the Commanders, third-round pick Brian Robinson Jr. looks like the starter over Antonio Gibson, and he’s an undervalued Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate (+2000).
PHI @ MIA | SAT 7:00 PM ET
Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean were highlighted last week, and they didn’t make too much of an impact against the Browns with the running games for both sides dominating early. I think they will fare much better when running with the starters against the starters (like the first preseason game)—though it’s unclear if either side will suit up key players on Saturday.
CHI @ CLE | SAT 7:00 PM ET
The Bears are set to play their starters for a half in the final exhibition, and that includes All-Pro linebacker Roquan Smith after a holdout concluded with him deciding to play out the final year of his contract. Whether or not Nick Chubb is active for the Browns, it will be a great challenge for Smith and the rest of the Chicago defense.
ARI @ TEN | SAT 7:00 PM ET
If Kyler Murray and Ryan Tannehill remain on ice until Week 1, Cardinals-Titans will still feature an exciting quarterback matchup between Trace McSorley and Malik Willis—both of whom have done damage with their arm and legs this month. Focusing on Tennessee offense, it’d be nice to see them get first-rounder Treylon Burks going with a couple of designed touches.
TB @ IND | SAT 7:30 PM ET
Tom Brady is back with the Bucs, but it’s unclear if he’ll suit up for the third preseason (which he’s done every season since 2008). If he does play, I’ll want to see how the connection with Julio Jones looks and how much team trusts rookie Rachaad White to be on the field in passing situations.
MIN @ DEN | SAT 9:00 PM ET | NFL Network
The pressure is on 2021 third-round pick Kellen Mond after Nick Mullens was acquired from the Raiders, and a change of scenery could end up being a good thing for his career if Minnesota’s new regime decides to move on. The perfect fit for Mond could be as the backup to Trey Lance in San Francisco.
NYG @ NYJ | SUN 1:00 PM ET | NFL Network
A lot of fans for both the Giants and Jets don’t want the starters to play based on the injuries to key players in August, but can they afford to play it safe? The New York’s NFC team has at least gotten work in each of the first two exhibitions, but the Jets can’t come out flat early in the year if they want any chance of competing in the AFC. It sounds like the plan is for new left tackle Duane Brown and others to suit up.
DET @ PIT | SUN 4:30 PM ET | CBS
Jared Goff won’t be playing on Sunday, but many of the starters will be for Detroit as they face a Pittsburgh squad still trying to settle a quarterback situation (and that has played most key players). If Kenny Pickett comes out and lights it up for the Steelers, Mike Tomlin will have a very difficult decision on his hands—but truly a good one to have with all three of Pickett, Mitchell Trubisky, and Mason Rudolph making a legitimate case to start.