The third week of the preseason is the one that matters. Well, for the preseason anyhow. It's the week that feels the most like the regular season.
It's the week when coaches hold their collective breath the longest because starters often play into the second half. I don't read too much into preseason performances for trusted veterans, but it is important for players trying to earn a starting job or a roster spot.
Here's what to watch during Thursday night's two games:
2. With Jonathan Stewart unlikely to be ready for the start of the season, the Panthers will rely heavily on rookie running back Kenjon Barner. Barner is set to have a sizable role in the Panthers' offense early in the season. He's a player to keep an eye on in this game.
3. It appears that the Ravens' top two draft picks, safety Matt Elam and linebacker Arthur Brown, will not open the regular season as starters. Perhaps that storyline will change if they play well Thursday.
5. Baltimore's top cornerback, Lardarius Webb, is expected to play for the first time since tearing his ACL last year.
1. Calvin Johnson is out once again for the Lions, so Matthew Stafford will have to step up his performance without his top weapon. Stafford barely has been able pick up first downs in two preseason games.