Green Bay at Cleveland (7:30 ET, NFL Network): The Super Bowl champions take the field after meeting with the nation’s #1 Bears fan this week. Jermichael Finley, Ryan Grant and company return to the field following injury. For Cleveland, I’ll be watching whether the starters on the front seven–including additions Jabaal Sheard and Phil Taylor, and the return of D’Qwell Jackson–can generate pressure when the Packers’ first team is out there. Greg Little is the other player to watch, for a team that needs something at receiver.
New York Giants at Carolina (8 ET): Cam Newton gets to showcase his icon status for the first time in a game with the Panthers. He and Clausen should get opportunities with new acquisitions Shockey and Olsen at tight end. The Giants are replacing veterans on the offensive line, and also have opportunities behind Manningham and Nicks at receiver, so we’ll watch for who emerges there in the preseason.
Buffalo at Chicago (8 ET). The Bears offensive line was an issue last year, they couldn’t reach an agreement, and is the dreaded “work in progress” as rookie Gabe Carimi moves into right tackle. We’ll get a look at the receiver rotation, as Roy Williams is listed as a starter while Johnny Knox is not. For Buffalo, I’ll be interested in seeing whether C.J. Spiller runs with the first team along with Jackson. The defense was bad last year, and with new acquisitions like first round pick Marcell Dareus and LB Nick Barnett, I would expect them to play quite a bit during the first half.
Indianapolis at St. Louis (8 ET). Curtis Painter, anyone? Peyton Manning’s not back, but that’s probably just fine as some young linemen compete to start. The Rams have some new pieces on offense, from G Harvey Dahl to WR Mike Sims-Walker, so I look for the Rams to take this one a little more seriously than the established Colts, and keep the offense out for Bradford to work with for a while in the first half.
Minnesota at Tennessee (8 ET). Two veteran quarterbacks in new spots face off in Nashville. For McNabb, the release of LT Bryant McKinnie and the possibility of Charlie Johnson starting at the position has to be a concern. For the Titans, other than the addition of Hasselbeck (and Javon Ringer in place of holdout Chris Johnson), the offense is fairly stable. The Titans defense, though, has many questions that will create competition right away. The defensive line, particularly replacing Jason Babin at end and replacing the tackle spots, will have Derrick Morgan, Jason Jones, Jacob Ford and William Hayes competing with last year’s starter Dave Ball. OLB Akeem Ayers moves into the lineup along with new acquisition Barrett Ruud, while Alterraun Verner and Devin McCourty’s brother Jason compete for the other corner spot opposite Cortland Finnegan. With so much defensive turnover, I look for the two deep to get plenty of action.
[photo via Getty]