Pre-season Week 3 is upon us. This is the dress rehearsal game where teams play their starters for a half or more and game plan for the game. Let’s take a look at the matchups.
Friday 7 PM ET Patriots at Lions
Detroit finally gets a real test in playing the defending champions. Scott Tolzien/Stephen Morris and Christian Hackenberg/Bryce Petty just weren’t high quality opponent QBs for Detroit’s defense.
Tom Brady comes to town with a healthy Rob Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks, James White/Dion Lewis, Julian Edelman, Dwayne Allen and Chris Hogan/Malcolm Mitchell. Behind Brady is Jimmy Garrapolo (2nd round pick 2014) and Jacoby Brissett (3rd round pick 2016). This will be a good test for the Lions defense with some scheming from OC Josh McDaniels. The Lions have done well in the pre-season dress rehearsal games against New England in 2011 and 2013. We will see if it continues in 2017.
Detroit’s offense played well against a solid Jets defense last week. Now they face a scheming Bill Belichick/DC Matt Patricia and the Patriots defense. Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore against Marvin Jones and Golden Tate will be fun matchups to watch. Can the Lions tight ends (Fells, Roberts) without Eric Ebron get open against the Patriots Linebackers and safeties (Hightower, David Harris, McCourty and Chung)? Can rookie Kenny Golladay be a red zone threat like he did against the Colts?
Will the Lions be able to run the ball with Ameer Abdullah with a gelling offensive line? Will Theo Riddick (wrists) play? Will Stafford continue to look great? How will new left tackle Greg Robinson and the struggling Graham Glasgow (LG) look against the Patriots pass rush? Stay tuned for the Friday night matchup.
Saturday 9 PM ET Green Bay at Denver
You want a good defensive test? The Packers got one with the Denver Broncos. Denver has a monster defense with Derek Wolfe, Domata Peko, Jared Crick, Von Miller, Shane Ray, Todd Davis and Brandon Marshall in the front 7. Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, Bradley Roby, TJ Ward and Darian Stewart comprise an excellent secondary to match up against the Packers vast weapons.
Aaron Rodgers scored a TD on his only series with the Redskins. We will see how long he will play against Denver before they try to increase the value of third year player Brett Hundley.
The Broncos offense is less of a test with Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch at QB. However, Demarius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders is a good matchup for the Packers young corners. CJ Anderson can run the ball and maybe Jamaal Charles makes an appearance for the Broncos run game.
The Broncos offensive line has three new faces with rookie 1st round LT Garett Bolles, Ron Leary (former Cowboys guard) and Menelik Watson (former Raiders RT). Max Garcia and Matt Paradisis round out LG and center. The Packers front 7 gets a decent test in this matchup in Denver.
Sunday Bears at Titans 1PM ET FOX
The Bears defense showed against the Cardinals offense and now Chicago will get a decent opponent in Marcus Mariota in the Titans. Rookie Corey Davis, Rishard Matthews, Eric Decker and Delanie Walker are solid weapons to face for the Bears.
Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin are very good tackles for the Bears OLBs in Leonard Floyd, Willie Young and Lamar Houston to try and generate a pass rush. Quinton Spain, Ben Jones and Josh Kline are an average interior for Eddie Goldman, Akiem Hicks and Jonathan Bullard to square off against.
The Bears offense has struggled with Mike Glennon this pre-season; but they have run the ball well. We will see if Jordan Howard plays? Can rookie Tarik Cohen keep running well? Kevin White, Cameron Meredith, Victor Cruz/Kendall Wright, Zach Miller/Adam Shaheen/Dion Sims need to step up and show they can be good weapons. Will Mitch Trubisky get any time with the number one offense after playing well in the first two pre-season games?
Sunday 49ers at Vikings 8 PM ET
Finish off the pre-season with the Vikings on Sunday Night. Minnesota’s offense showed some good things at Seattle in Week 2. Now they will face the lowly but improved 49ers. Brian Hoyer is the 49ers starting QB which shouldn’t be much of a test for the Vikings defense. Matt Barkley and rookie CJ Beathard are behind Hoyer.
Carlos Hyde is a good test for the run defense of Minnesota though. Pierre Garcon can play and Marquise Goodwin is a speedy option at WR and Aldrick Robinson was added from Atlanta. Jeremy Kerley will be in the slot for San Francisco and was productive there last season. Vance McDonald has some talent but hasn’t produced much for the 49ers at tight end. The Vikings should be able to cover them with good pressure.
Joe Staley is a good matchup for Everson Griffen though. Zane Beadles for the injured Josh Garnett, Daniel Kilgore, Brandon Fusco (former Viking) and Trent Brown/Gary Gilliam all leave a lot to be desires along the offensive line for the 49ers. Kyle Shanahan moves on from Atlanta to call the plays and be the head coach for San Francisco.
The Vikings offense faces a team switching to a 4-3 defense. There are a lot of first round picks in Deforrest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas for the 49ers on the defensive line. Tank Carradine is a second year pick switching to end and Elvis Dumervil will play one more year switching to end from OLB in Baltimore. The 49ers still have Navorro Bowman in the middle, Ahmad Brooks at SAM and rookie Reuben Foster will play the weak side at linebacker.
San Francisco’s secondary have some issues with Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson at CB. K’Waun Williams is a decent nickel returning from injury. Eric Reid and Jimmy Ward are first round pick safeties with some talent. Diggs, Thielen, Rudolph and Floyd should have nice days for Sam Bradford if he gets protection from that defensive line.
This is the dress rehearsal and last chance for the starters to practice in live action that doesn’t count. Starters will play maybe one series at best in the final pre-season game next week. Real football that counts is so close.