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What to watch for in Week 3 of NFL preseason

A good amount of position battles have been solved, but the most intriguing week of preseason awaits. Week 3 typically brings us the most time with the starters before they all go on ice next week. This is the best first look at each team we're going to get before kickoff weekend.

Here's what we're watching for from each team in games going down this weekend (all game times Eastern). Get the latest preseason news, updates, and highlights with NFL Mobile. Plus live national games and NFL Network 24/7 included only with Verizon.


Bears at Titans, 1 p.m. (Live on FOX)

Bears: The savior is getting first-team reps this week. That's right, Mitchell Trubisky is starting against Tennessee, as coach John Fox has decided to give the rookie a chance to win the gig in his first season. The prospect of Trubisky, now running with the ones, carving up the Titans is deliciously enticing. Excuse me while I wipe away excess drool.

Titans: I'm in the minority here (and it's not yet time for bold predictions), but I'm expecting big things in Nashville this season, starting with this week. Marcus Mariota is back, looks healthy and as good as ever, and is armed with the most weapons he's had as a pro. Derrick Henry has earned praise in camp and got a heavy workload last week, though that might be cut down by DeMarco Murray's potential debut. I'm ready for Exotic Smashmouth, Season Two. Are you?

Bengals at Redskins, 4:30 p.m. (Live on FOX)

Bengals:Joe Mixon by himself continues to be a reason to watch the Bengals in the preseason. The rookie running back has shown flashes of why he could be great in the league. The back end of Cincinnati's defense will be without Shawn Williams, who will miss four to six weeks with an elbow injury. The Bengals will have to find consistency in his absence against a Washington passing attack that is eager to find its footing.

Redskins:Jordan Reed practiced fully Wednesday and coach Jay Gruden is hopeful he can play. Reed adds a versatile weapon to Washington's offense, and it'll be his first test after dealing with a toe injury that kept him out of camp until this week. The Redskins will need his contributions after two subpar showings offensively in the first two weeks. Is this the game in which Kirk Cousins and Co. finally put things together?

49ers at Vikings, 8 p.m. (Live on NBC)

49ers: The highlight of this season for San Francisco will come on the defensive side, as an offense quarterbacked by Brian Hoyer inevitably has a very visible ceiling. There's hope, though, in the defense, with Reuben Foster, DeForest Buckner and even Aaron Lynch, who stood out in Week 1. Back on the offensive side, we'll get to see if the Kyle Shanahan-directed Hoyer can exceed his own bar against a Vikings defense that is unforgiving.

Vikings: Another week of Dalvin Cook is good for everyone, including the rookie, who showed last week he has the chops to immediately start. What's interesting is how the depth chart shapes up behind him. Latavius Murray is on the mend, meaning Jerick McKinnon gets a shot at wrapping a tight grip on the spell back role. This also will be the longest the starting offensive line will be on the field together in the preseason, and we all know how Minnesota's line struggled last season. With new additions Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers, will the Vikings prove their big fellas are no longer a cause for concern?


Cardinals: Bruce Arians went into the film room after last week's loss to the Bears thinking it was the end of times for his team, but after reviewing the tape, realized it wasn't that bad. They'll need a better performance against the reigning NFC champs. Arizona's starting defense, powered by Tyrann Mathieu, has been its stronger unit thus far. We'll see if the offense can catch up.

Falcons: Rookie Takkarist McKinley saw his first game action last week, and will get more reps this week against a Cardinals offense that seems ripe for harassment. The pass rusher should get plenty of opportunities to make an impact. Atlanta's offense, meanwhile, hasn't missed a beat under new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. They'll face their toughest test yet against the Cardinals.

Bills at Ravens, 7 p.m.

Bills:Tyrod Taylor had a rough outing last week, and is now without recently retired receiver Anquan Boldin. Buffalo's offense needs a strong outing heading into the regular season for morale purposes, if nothing more. Also keep an eye on linebacker Reggie Ragland, who has had to tune out trade rumors lately.

Ravens: The running backs. Terrance West was the assumed starter, but Javorius Allen made a strong push for the job with his performance against the Dolphins last week, averaging 4 yards per carry on just 10 totes. Also, keep an eye on the guy handing them the ball. Ryan Mallett has been bad or worse in preseason action, leaving the more-important-than-usual backup QB situation in question as the Ravens await the return of Joe Flacco from a back injury.

Jets at Giants, 7 p.m.

Jets: After a weird week of rotations at quarterback -- Josh McCown was running gassers instead of taking snaps at one point during the week -- the position is the focus of New York's final tune-up with the starters. We're all aware of the current state of the Jets, but this is still an important test for Christian Hackenberg, Bryce Petty and McCown, because none of them have performed at even an average level. Who takes the field first, and who does best, likely will have a large influence on who is starting come Week 1. Rookie safety Jamal Adams, who told me before the draft that he wanted to be selected by either the Cowboys or Giants, gets to face his father's old team in the Snoopy Bowl, too.

Giants: Can Big Blue score an offensive touchdown? They've gone without one in the first two weeks, and though concern hasn't been voiced publicly, a lot of it has to do with a struggling offensive line. The Jets aren't exactly a barometer for NFL defenses, but Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams offer a good test for New York's pass protection. The Giants might also be without Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall, giving an opportunity to other pass catchers (Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard) to make some plays.

Colts at Steelers, 7:30 p.m.

Colts:Scott Tolzien is Indianapolis' best option at quarterback in the absence of Andrew Luck, but after two subpar outings for the Colts, he'll need to rebound to keep the organization from looking outside the building for another option. Defensively, Indianapolis needs to prove it can stop anybody. After two weeks of allowing opposing offenses to flourish, it's time the Colts lock things down, especially with the starting unit.

Steelers: Pittsburgh is still without Le'Veon Bell, but the rest of the offense isn't hurting much. James Conner will get extended playing time, and Martavis Bryant will receive a greater window of opportunity to show he's just as effective as he was before his yearlong suspension. T.J. Watt is one to watch against a Colts offensive line that is dealing with injuries.

Browns:DeShone Kizer is getting the start and what we presume will be all of the first-team reps, meaning he'll have his best chance to prove his case to start in Week 1. An eye should also be kept on the interior of Cleveland's defense, which is missing Danny Shelton and struggled against the run up the middle in Week 1. Plenty of opportunity awaits for Jamie Meder, Trevon Coley, Xavier Cooper, Larry Ogunjobi and Caleb Brantley to make a play and fight their way into the two-deep. After losing Tank Carder to a torn ACL, Joe Schobert won the starting middle linebacker job. Coming off an effective Week 2 performance, we'll see if the former Wisconsin Badger can put together another good game.

Buccaneers:Brent Grimes returned to position drills Tuesday, and if he suits up, he'll provide Tampa Bay with its best chance to see how well its secondary can play. They have a good matchup against Kizer, a rookie who's seeing his first extended action with the ones. On the offensive side, Doug Martin gets another chance to prove he's worthy of the starting running back gig. Kicker is also an important focus in Tampa, where Nick Folk needs a good outing to prove he can be the Bucs' field-goal stud in 2017.

Raiders:Marshawn Lynch only played in one series last week and probably won't see a ton of reps, though it should be more than a single possession's worth. Derek Carr gets another chance to get some game action under his belt coming off a broken fibula, and it will be interesting to see if the Raiders insert Donald Penn in the game, who just made his camp debut on Wednesday.

Cowboys:Dak Prescott will see more action than he has all preseason, offering a chance to tune-up a Dallas offense that will need to score lots of points in 2017. Plenty of carries await Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris, who will need the reps in case they have to take the place of Ezekiel Elliott this season. Dallas' defense faces a Raiders offense that will surely test its ability to stop its opponent. Jaylon Smith will get another game to show he's ready for consistent playing time in 2017. And don't forget about the wave of hype following Cooper Rush!

Chargers at Rams, 8 p.m. (Live on CBS)

Chargers: A team that has been devastated by injuries in recent years and this one, too, will attempt to patch things together offensively. Coming off a game in which the first two units averaged just 2.2 yards per carry in the first half last week, there's really nowhere to go but up. It starts in the trenches for Los Angeles -- the Chargers, that is, as we're talking about the first #FightForLA in the new millennium.

Rams: This one's simple: Sammy Watkins. The receiver opened up opportunities for others in his first action as a Ram, but we're still waiting for more than a pair of catches for less than 10 yards from the wideout. Speaking of receivers, Cooper Kupp continues to exceed expectations while in the spotlight, but he won't play because of a minor groin injury. The continued development of his rapport with Jared Goff is worth keeping an eye on as the Rams aim to surpass their anemic 2016 offense by a wide margin.

Texans: It might not be sexy, but Tom Savage is the guy in Houston. He might end up looking his best this week against a Saints defense that doesn't exactly strike fear in the hearts of opponents. D'Onta Foreman continues to generate buzz for the exact reasons Houston drafted him: He runs with physical purpose. Houston's offense enters the dress rehearsal looking for its best outing yet.

Saints: Two rookies -- left tackle Ryan Ramczyk and running back Alvin Kamara -- should draw the most attention from onlookers, if they know what they're looking for. New Orleans has a loaded backfield with Mark Ingram and Kamara, and Adrian Peterson could also make his Saints debut. They face quite the test in Houston, which ranked first in defense last season.

Packers:Aaron Rodgers' use of his bevy of receivers is always worth watching, but we're going to be looking for how well he continues to jell with tight end Martellus Bennett. The two hooked up for a score last week, but face a better secondary this week. Stick around deep into the third quarter for the walking tease that is Brett Hundley. He might have some suitors outside of Wisconsin in the coming weeks.

Broncos: Now that Trevor Siemian has won the quarterback job, there's no reason to watch this game. Just kidding. Siemian's reintroduction to the first-team receivers, after spending last week with the twos, should produce some familiar, if not better results behind a line that Denver actively tried to improve in the offseason. Garett Bolles won the starting left tackle position this week, so he's one to watch closely as the Broncos attempt to give Siemian a better chance for success the second time around.

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