It’s the third week of the NFL preseason, which is usually the week when teams put their best foot forward in the dress rehearsals. Coaches often play their starters well into the third quarter, and players ramp up the intensity now that roster cuts are around the corner.
Here are some important storylines to keep an eye on as the regular season quickly approaches.
Can the Bears Defense Perk Up?
The Bears hired head coach Marc Trestman in hopes that he’d be able to keep the team’s elite defense intact while boosting the offense. Last season, the Bears allowed the third-fewest points per game in the NFL, but there have been some disconcerting sights through two preseason games. The Bears have given up a whopping 52 points through two games, and their offense hasn’t looked great, either. They averaged 2.5 yards per passing play in their last preseason game, so they’ll be hoping for better results in Week 3. Bovada has them listed as a 3.5-point favorite in Oakland on Friday night.
Jets Give Rookie the Start
One of the most interesting games to keep an eye on in Week 3 is the all-New York battle between the Jets and Giants. The Mean Green will give rookie Geno Smith the start, and a good outing could pave the way for him to start Week 1 of the regular season.
Recent reports have suggested that Sanchez’ not-so-bad preseason combined with Smith’s ankle injury had secured the job for the incumbent. But Sanchez was peculiarly left to play well into the third quarter with the backups in Week 2 of the preseason. Also, Week 3 is the time when most teams go with their starters, but Smith is starting and Sanchez is second in line.
In any case, the Jets are a three-point dog at “home” to the Giants on Saturday.
Dolphins Offense Searching for Rhythm
The Miami Dolphins spent a ton of money this offseason hoping that a young, rebuilding team can — with the help of some quality free agents — inch closer to the playoffs. Their success or failure will lie with the offense, and the Dolphins would like to get all of their new parts on the same page before the seasons starts.
Last week was the Fins’ third preseason game, but it was the first time that quarterback Ryan Tannehill got to work with new targets Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson. Through three exhibition games, they’ve scored just 21.3 points per game, and they’ll need to do much better in the regular season if they are to compete for a playoff spot.
They host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday.
Peterson Set to Debut
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson doesn’t have to prove anything in the preseason, but even so, all eyes will be on him when he makes his exhibition debut. There should be some intrigue — at least to start the game — as he’ll be running against a very stingy San Francisco 49ers defense.
Keep an eye on the quiet quarterback battle brewing in Minnesota. Christian Ponder is the starter, but so far this preseason, he’s just 6-for-14 for 68 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. Meanwhile, Matt Cassel is 16 of 27 for 241 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
The Vikings and 49ers will square off on Sunday Night Football, which will be on NBC at 8 p.m. ET.
Smith photo via Facebook/ESPN New York