|Tim Heitman/US Presswire|
|Curtis Painter has struggled in the preseason for the Colts, with no touchdowns and one interception.|
To get a true gauge on how a team or player will perform during the regular season, focus on Week 3 of the preseason.
Teams traditionally treat these games like a regular-season contest to prepare their players for the speed, intensity and tempo of the game. From following detailed game plans to extending the playing time of the starters, coaches want to see how well their players adjust to the pressure.
With the stakes certainly raised, here are five players with the most on the line in Week 3:
QB Curtis Painter, Colts
The possibility of Peyton Manning not suiting up for the season opener puts pressure on Painter to show he's capable of guiding the offense. The results have not been good in the preseason with Painter completing only 50 percent of his passes for 95 yards and one interception. The lack of production prompted the team to lure Kerry Collins out of retirement Wednesday to hold the things together in case Peyton Manning (neck) misses time. Collins, though, will still need time to get up to speed, meaning Painter must deliver against the Packers on Friday night to convince the coaching staff he's ready.
QB Tarvaris Jackson, Seahawks
Seattle has struggled under Jackson's direction despite his familiarity with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. The offense has failed to score a point with Jackson at the helm -- he has completed 14 of 26 passes for 88 yards with one interception in two games. Jackson's ineptitude has fueled a quarterback controversy, as Charlie Whitehurst has performed well during the preseason. With the buzz growing for Pete Carroll to make a change, Jackson needs to put on a show against Denver on Saturday to solidify his status.
RB Daniel Thomas, Dolphins
The second-round pick was expected to be the feature back for the Dolphins, but has underperformed so far and has been replaced by Reggie Bush. The team also signed veteran Larry Johnson as a possible complement to Bush. Given his drop on the depth chart, Thomas must respond with against Tampa Bay on Saturday to improve his chances for a key role.
LB Casey Matthews, Eagles
The Eagles' defense was dominated by the Steelers last week, particularly in the run game. Matthews was routinely overpowered at the point of attack and was far from a stabilizing force in the middle. With the Browns certain to attack the Eagles' vulnerabilities against the run Thursday, Matthews must demonstrate he can be an impact player.
LG Bill Nagy, Cowboys
The rookie has been in a heated competition with David Arkin and Montrae Holland for the starting left guard position. Nagy has been working with the first team for the past two weeks and is coming off a solid start against the Chargers. If Nagy can continue that momentum against the Vikings on Saturday, he can lock up the job.
Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks