The third week of the preseason is typically the dress rehearsal for teams in their preparation for the regular season. Starters play longer into the game, and there's a little bit of scheming and film prep done the week heading into the game.
Here's a look at some of the headlines surrounding the four teams in the NFC North as they head into the important Week 3 of the preseason:
Preseason record: 1-1
Last game: Jacksonville 14, Minnesota 10
- Vikings settle on kicker
- Mackenzie Alexander injury shakes things up in the slot
- Offense coming off shaky performance
Twentyman: The Vikings have settled on a kicker, Daniel Carlson, after releasing Kai Forbath after he missed a 41-yard field goal against the Jaguars last weekend. Carlson, a rookie fifth-round pick out of Auburn, has a big leg, and is perfect kicking field goals and extra points this preseason. He'll be the third kicker for the Vikings in the last three seasons.
The Vikings avoided a serious ankle injury with Alexander, but he could miss some time with a sprained ankle, according to reports out of Minnesota. If he does, the Vikings will have to turn to rookie Mike Hughes in the slot, or veteran Terrance Newman, who is entering year 16 in the NFL and turns 40 next month.
Minnesota's offense was sloppy vs. a good Jaguars' defense last week. They were 0-for-12 on third down, and quarterback Kirk Cousins was just 3-of-8 passing for 12 yards. Should Vikings fans be worried? The short answer is no. The Vikings were without their starting right tackle, right guard, center and running back. Once the Vikings have all their starters back from injury, they're expected to have a potent offense to go along with that terrific defense.
Quotable: "We just figured it was getting close to the last couple of preseason games," Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer told the Minneapolis Star Tribune of the kicking competition. "Kai did a great job while he was here. He's a great kid. We just decided to go with Daniel."
Next game: vs. Seattle, Fri. Aug. 24
Preseason record: 0-2
Last game: New York Giants 30, Detroit 17
- Should we be worried about offensive line?
- Jake Rudock and Matt Cassel continue to battle it out
- Pass rush needs to pick up
Twentyman: The offensive line has struggled with some inconsistencies the first couple weeks of the preseason. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked twice and hit another time in his three series of action last Friday. The Lions have been without starting right guard T.J. Lang due to injury, but that's no excuse for some of the lapses from the other vets. Rookie left guard Frank Ragnow has probably been the most consistent player upfront for the Lions so far this preseason. I'll hold off on any final judgements until I see all five starters together and the schemes are in place, but it would certainly help for that unit to play well Friday against Gerald McCoy, Jason Pierre-Paul and co. in Tampa.
Rudock looked good leading two fourth-quarter scoring drives against the Giants. This backup quarterback competition is still too close to call. Both players continue to share reps, and the next two weeks should tell us a lot.
The Lions have recorded zero sacks and only three quarterback hits in two preseason games. Defensive end Ziggy Ansah saw his first game action of the preseason last week, and did some good things. He's still rounding into form. Rookie lineman Da'Shawn Hand has done some nice things too. Defensive end Anthony Zettel has been close a couple times. Can those players in the front seven make things uncomfortable for Bucs passers Friday night? That would be a welcome change from the first two weeks.
Quotable: "For me, ideally, you'd like to have everybody always out on the practice field," head coach Matt Patricia said of Lang missing practice and preseason games. "I would say the offensive line is one position that's extremely hard—from a standpoint of, you have five guys that need to see the game through one set of eyes. That is always tricky.
"But, you also embrace the opportunity to get a good evaluation of different guys in those spots and I'll take that now. I'll take that opportunity now to do that when we're working through training camp, as opposed to trying to figure that out on a Wednesday or a Thursday of a game week."
Next game: at Tampa Bay, Fri. Aug. 24
Preseason record: 2-0
Last game: Green Bay 51, Pittsburgh 34
- Aaron Rodgers contract talks ongoing
- No dress rehearsal for Packers' offense
- Jordy Nelson faces old team
Twentyman: The Packers and Rodgers' reps have been in contract talks for months now. Any new deal will likely put Rodgers among the highest paid players in the league, and deservedly so. These big deals are always complicated, but it's nice to have them done ahead of the start of the season to avoid any distractions. The Lions got an extension done with Stafford a couple seasons ago before the season began, and it was the preferred move for both sides.
While we'll probably see the starting defense for an extended period in Oakland, Rodgers isn't expected to play based off the practice reps reported from Packers practice to begin this week. The Packers have dealt with injuries upfront, and it appears the plan could be to play some of the offensive starters on different schedules, with Rodgers not playing at all. If that ends up being the case, and he doesn't play in the final week of the preseason either, he'll have thrown four passes this preseason. Something tells me he'll be OK.
Nelson spent his first nine seasons in Green Bay. He caught 550 passes and accumulated 7,848 yards and 69 touchdowns as Rodgers' go-to target. Now a member of the Raiders, Nelson faces his old team and some familiar faces on that Packers' defense this week.
Quotable: "I'm not trying to screw them," Rodgers told ESPN Wisconsin's "Wilde and Tausch" on Monday about contract talks. "This is a partnership. The only way this is going to work and the best way for this to work is that we're in this together."
Next game: at Oakland, Fri. Aug. 24
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Aug. 21, 2018.
Preseason record: 1-2
Last game: Chicago 24, Denver 23
- Roquan Smith debut?
- Leonard Floyd injury update
- Big couple weeks for Kevin White
Twentyman: Smith finally ended his contract holdout on Aug. 14, and it's expected the No. 8 overall pick makes his debut at linebacker for the Bears' defense vs. Kansas City. Smith is expected to be a big piece in the center of Chicago's defense.
Chicago got less than ideal news in that star edge rusher Leonard Floyd broke his hand and underwent surgery on Sunday. The Bears are "still optimistic" he could play Week 1 vs. Green Bay with a cast.
Wide receiver Kevin White has had a tough start to his NFL career. The former No. 7 overall pick has played in just five games due to injury. At this point, he's the No. 3 or No. 4 receiver on the roster behind Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and the emerging Anthony Miller. Factor in tight end Trey Burton and running back Tarik Cohen, and White is pretty far down the rep chart when it comes to pass-catching options. He needs a big couple weeks to prove himself.
Quotable: "We gotta be able to know, 'Can this guy help us out when it matters most?'" Bears head coach Matt Nagy told the Chicago Sun-Times of White.
Next game: vs. Kansas City, Sat. Aug. 25