The hay is nearly in the barn, as Bill Belichick might say. The end of the third preseason week means that we are essentially ready for Week 1. We will be watching for roster cuts and suspensions, but very little on the field this week will matter.
Geno Smith, New York Jets: He quietly outplayed Michael Vick in practice and during games. Smith had a no-nonsense preseason that lacked huge sparks but also appeared to show maturity in decision-making. We're cautiously optimistic he can take a step forward this year.
Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers: Watching guys like Benjamin is what the preseason is all about. He has strong hands, catches the ball in traffic and can get deep. We'd be surprised if he doesn't lead the Panthers in receiving this year.
Chandler Jones, New England Patriots: He's adapting well to his new position at outside linebacker. Bill Belichick will line him up at defensive end plenty -- and occasionally on the inside. Jones has always been a little raw with his technique, and it appears he's made big strides. This is the best pass rusher Bill Belichick has had since ... Cleveland.
John Brown, Arizona Cardinals: Marc Sessler calls him one of the offseason's "hype bunnies" made good. Every time we watch Brown, we become more convinced that he's going to be a big X-factor for opposing defenses to handle all season.
Knowshon Moreno, Miami Dolphins: He lives! Moreno barely practiced all offseason and was coming off a knee surgery, so we previously wondered if he was a lock to make the team. Now he could be in the mix to start after a strong preseason debut. We will never doubt Moreno again.
Corey Liuget, San Diego Chargers: Expected to be a breakout star last season, Liuget looked lost for most of his second campaign. That has changed during training camp and during a dominant preseason performance against San Francisco. The Chargers' defense is a wild card. We like them to improve.
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars: He was overdue for a down week, yet the No. 3 overall pick keeps delivering dimes. The Jaguars' confidence in Bortles last week was remarkable. They inserted him in to run a hurry-up offense from the opposing five-yard line with 1:43 left in the second quarter with no timeouts. Bortles calmly drove them down the field with a handful of throws that a lot of NFL quarterbacks couldn't make.
Rueben Randle, New York Giants: Odell Beckham is not a threat. And after an offseason of chiding from Tom Coughlin, Randle is now receiving plaudits for his growth in camp. It wouldn't shock us if Randle out-gained Victor Cruz this year.
DuJuan Harris and Richard Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: It's not like Aaron Rodgers needed more weapons. But he has the deepest backfield of his Packers career with Harris looking outstanding behind Eddie Lacy and James Starks. Richard Rodgers, a surprise draft pick in May, looks a lot more athletic as a receiver than we expected.
Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos: Sanders appeared to cause an interception for Peyton Manning when he went the wrong way on one route against Houston. But that didn't stop Manning from continuing to feed Sanders in an electric performance. Sanders is the rare player that can play the slot and get deep.
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers: If Kaepernick wasn't so up and down in the regular season, we wouldn't be as concerned with with an ugly preseason. Kaepernick is used to getting great pass protection, and we'll be watching to see what happens if that doesn't hold true this year. It certainly has been a problem in the preseason.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers: Newton doesn't look totally comfortable in his surgically repaired ankle. Now he has a rib injury to worry about and is likely to be hesitant to run early in the season. Newton is a streaky quarterback even when things are going well. That Week 1 matchup in Tampa will be a big challenge.
Matt Schaub, Oakland Raiders: He's a tough watch right now because of his lack of confidence and arm strength. With an elbow injury keeping him out of practice, we have doubts that Schaub will start Week 1.
Bishop Sankey and Devonta Freeman: The two rookie running backs are still stuck at fourth in their team's respective depth charts. At least Freeman has looked explosive when given the chance and should climb the depth chart soon. Sankey might not have much of a role to start the year.
EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills: It's been a depressing month for Bills fans. Usually one of the most optimistic fan bases in the league, Bills fans were reduced to booing Manuel for his month's worth of ugly performances. There's just no reason to believe Manuel will suddenly become accurate.
St. Louis Rams: You can fault the front office for how they handled Sam Bradford's situation in the offseason, but this organization is just plain unlucky. They can talk up Shaun Hill all they want, but it's rough for fans to know that a team won't be a serious contender before the season starts.