The NFC North kicks off Week 3 of the pre-season this week. This game is the dress rehearsal game that most simulates a regular season game. Most starters will play half the game or more. However, it’s still pre-season and should be taken with a grain of salt. Many teams will be resting key players despite the “dress rehearsal” status.
Detroit at Jacksonville 8 PM Friday Night
The Lions travel to EverBank Field in Jacksonville for a Big Cat pre-season matchup. This game will be nationally televised on CBS. The Lions starting defensive line and Calvin Johnson (rest) won’t play in this game. Ziggy Ansah and Carraun Reid are nursing ankle injuries and Jason Jones is being eased in after June knee surgery. Haloti Ngata still has a lingering hamstring injury.
The Lions backup defensive line will get to strut their stuff against the Jaguars. This is an important game for backups Phillip Hunt, DT Jermelle Cudjo and DE Larry Webster to make a case for playing time. Defensive end Devin Taylor and Daryl Tapp have earned a roster spot and should get a decent test as well. Left tackle and former 2nd overall pick Luke Joeckel, right tackle free agent from Dallas Jeremey Parnell, and left guard and former Bronco Zane Beadles are decent players for the Lions backup defensive line to matchup against.
Matt Stafford has been sharp in training camp and the pre-season in year 2 of the offense. The Jaguars defense should game plan for Stafford. We will see if Stafford can remain sharp against subpar competition as the Jaguars back 7 is awful other than Paul Posluzney. Stafford throwing to Golden Tate, Lance Moore, Corey Fuller, Eric Ebron and Joseph Fauria should be enough to overpower the Jags’ pass defense
Senderrick Marks, Jared Odrick and Chris Clemons will be a nice test for the Lions offensive line. The Lions’ line will be missing stud right guard Larry Warford due to an ankle injury. The Lions’ right side depth will showcased with veteran right guard Manny Ramirez and Cornelius Lucas at right tackle. Former Seahawk Chris Clemons against Reiff is a nice matchup and left end Jared Odrick against Cornelius Lucas will be could provide some insight if Lucas has developed in year 2. Rookie left guard Laken Tomlinson will be the main focus for Detroit to see if the rookie can hang with the veterans in a real game.
Minnesota at Dallas 7 PM Saturday Night
This game will be the Vikings 4th pre-season game but they will treat this like a dress rehearsal. Adrian Peterson won’t play but it will be a good test for Teddy Bridgewater with Wallace, Johnson, Wright and Rudolph at his disposal. Rookie right tackle TJ Clemmings gets his second start and must run block better than he did against Oakland. Jeremy Mincey and Demarcus Lawrence is a nice test for the rookie. Poor run blocking leading to 2.1 YPC from McKinnon will not be enough in the regular season. Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory will be a good test for the Matt Kalil.
The Vikings defense will be on display with new middle linebacker Gerald Hodges. Rookie Trae Waynes will be pushed to start and we will see how he handles Dez Bryant and Terrence Williams. The Vikings pass rush should be strong and deep the Cowboys offensive line loaded with talent is a perfect test.
Chicago at Cincinnati 7:30 PM Saturday Night
The Bears travel to Cincinnati to face the Bengals on Saturday night. The Bears held their own against the Colts and get another decent AFC road test. Dalton has been one of the most protected QBs the last two seasons. Bears will try to generate some pass rush against good tackles in Whitworth and Andre Smith. Kevin Zeitler and Clint Boling are decent guards to face the rookie Eddie Goldman. Goldman must develop quickly with the suspension of Ratliff.
Jay Cutler led 3 FG drives against the Colts. Can Cutler continue to move the ball and avoid turnovers? This won’t be pretty if Alshon Jeffrey, Kevin White, Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson don’t play. Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson and Geno Atkins is a good test for the Bears offensive line and should settle the right tackle battle between Mills and Leno against Dunlap.
The Bears defense will get a nice weapon defense exercise facing AJ Green, Mohammed Sanu, Tyler Eifert and Marvin Jones. Jeremy Hill had 5.1 YPC and Bernard can be a dangerous back. The Bears defense should be on full alert this week.
Philadelphia at Green Bay 8 PM Saturday Night
The Packers have the lone home game this week. Aaron Rodgers may not play much with the injuries to Bakhtiari, Lang and Jordy Nelson recently. Eddie Lacy should continue his dominance against the Eagles front 7. However, Cedric Thornton, Bennie Logan, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Mychal Kendricks, DeMeco Ryans and Connor Barwin looks like a decent front 7 on paper. Plus the Eagles have Kiki Alonso off the bench.
Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and Richard Rodgers must show they can replace the production of Jordy Nelson. The Packers’ weapons facing Bryon Maxwell, rookie Eric Rowe, Earl Wolfe and Malcolm Jenkins should boost their confidence.
Chip Kelly’s no huddle offense will be on display and should be a nice test for the Packers defense even without Clay Matthews. Most importantly, MKE’s bachelor party will be occurring during the game. I hope it’s a good one.