Week three of the NFL preseason is usually our best chance to learn things about teams before the regular season starts, as it’s the week when starters play the most before taking it easy in week four. So after the third and most important week of preseason play, here are some things we can take away looking ahead to the regular season:
The Bears offense is showing promise – Yes, it happened against the lowly Raiders, but for a unit that needed to make a lot of adjustments under new head coach Marc Trestman, Chicago’s offense looked quite cohesive and in sync Friday night in Oakland, scoring 27 points in the first half with the starters in the game. Jay Cutler looked sharp and confident, despite being hurt by a few dropped passes; Matt Forte ran freely, gaining 76 yards on just six carries; and Alshon Jeffery was impressive with seven catches for 77 yards. It was one preseason game against a bad team, but it showcased what the Bears could be capable of doing offensively this season with Trestman pulling the strings and Cutler playing well.
The Jets need to start Mark Sanchez – Well, at least if he’s healthy enough to play, Sanchez needs to be the starter when the regular season begins. The Jets gave Geno Smith a fair shot to audition against the Giants Saturday night, and despite showing some promise, he threw three interceptions and gave away two points by stepping out of the back of the end zone for a safety. Smith will be ready to be a starting quarterback at some point, and he may even be ready later this season, but he’s not there yet. If the Jets want to have a chance to win games early in the season, especially against a brutal schedule, they need to hope that Sanchez is healthy enough to play, because starting Smith would be like throwing him to the wolves.
The Bills are in deep trouble at quarterback – What’s worse than starting a rookie quarterback who’s missing the final two games of the preseason, while having Kevin Kolb as the backup? Having both Kolb and the rookie injured and being forced to call Matt Leinart to come try out two weeks before the start of the regular season. Buffalo’s quarterback situation went from bad to a complete nightmare when Kolb suffered a concussion on Saturday against the Washington Redskins. The Bills are hopeful that E.J. Manuel will be healthy enough to play when the regular season gets underway, but he also earned the job based on his performance the first two weeks of the preseason, and had to sit out the all-important third preseason game, so how he’ll perform is still a bit of a mystery. But more importantly, if both Manuel and Kolb are unavailable for week 1, the Bills will be left with undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel and whomever they pull off the street, which could be worse than any worst-case scenario new head coach Doug Marrone may have been planning for.
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Pump the brakes on the Cleveland Browns – After a couple nice wins early in the preseason, the Browns looked more like the Browns we’re accustomed to in week 3 of the exhibition season. Starting quarterback Brandon Weeden completed fewer than 50% of his passes, as Cleveland’s starters failed to score against the Colt’s defensive starters, and even the Colt’s second string defense held Cleveland’s starting offense to a mere three points on a 50-yard field goal. In the closest thing to a regular season game we’ll see this preseason, the Browns were disappointing against a playoff team from last year, killing any momentum they may have gained from wins the previous two weeks.
Peyton Manning will be fine – This was the first extended action Manning got this preseason, and he looked ready for the regular season to begin. It’s possible that Manning will be even better than he was last season, as he’s even further removed from his neck surgeries. He threw the ball with more zip than last season and he had Denver’s offense moving seamlessly in its hurry-up mode, which allowed him to throw 34 passes in the first half alone. Throwing for 234 yards in one half of football is awfully impressive, even in the preseason against a defense that wasn’t tipping its hand at all, as Manning showed why the Broncos are serious Super Bowl contenders this year.