The final week of the NFL preseason has arrived with joint practices being pushed aside in favor of dress rehearsals -- for some teams anyway. Plenty of teams decided to save their battles for the games, even though there were some teams that engaged in joint practice this week (see how the Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts ended up).
With the lack of joint practices, fans will get to see some first-teamers actually appear for more than a series in preseason games. As teams prepare for their final tune-ups before 53-man roster cutdowns and the start of the regular season, here's one thing to watch for each team as the final week of the preseason is underway.
(All times Eastern)
Pittsburgh Steelers at Atlanta Falcons (Thursday, Aug. 24, 7:30 p.m., NFLN)
Steelers: The first-team offense will be playing once again this week, but how long will Mike Tomlin keep them out there? They played one series in the opener and two series in the second game -- scoring three touchdowns in three drives. The strong play from the first-team offense has limited their playing time, so let's see if they actually go a possession without scoring.
Falcons: Desmond Ridder is the starting quarterback, yet it will be interesting to see if he plays in the finale. Ridder went 7 of 9 for 80 yards in his lone series, having an interception on a tipped ball. Going against the Steelers' first-team defense would be very beneficial for Ridder, who needs to take care of the football to keep his job past 2023.
Indianapolis Colts at Philadelphia Eagles (Thursday, Aug. 24, 8 p.m., Prime)
Colts: Anthony Richardson will be playing his first game since being named the starting quarterback, as he sat out last week's preseason game as a result of joint practices. Richardson went 7 of 12 for 67 yards with an interception in his debut, but had a touchdown pass dropped. Just watching him get the reps -- without Jonathan Taylor -- will be critical for his development.
Eagles: Highly unlikely Philadelphia will be playing many starters this week, but it will be interesting to see if Trey Sermon can make a last-minute push for a roster spot. Sermon had five carries for 54 yards and a touchdown last week, but he's on the outside looking in in a crowded running back room. At this stage, Sermon is auditioning for another team.
Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers (Friday, Aug. 25, 8 p.m., CBS)
Lions: Chase Cota is vying for a roster spot as the fifth wide receiver, catching a touchdown pass last week. This comes after having four catches for 60 yards in Week 1 of the preseason. Detroit needs a punt returner, which may be Cota's ticket to make the roster.
Panthers: Bryce Young is playing in the preseason finale, yet his offensive line remains a concern. The interior on the offensive line has yet to gel with Brady Christensen at left guard and Cade Mays or Chandler Zavala at right guard. Austin Corbett's return will help this group, but Young will continue to take huge hits if this unit doesn't improve.
New England Patriots at Tennessee Titans (Friday, Aug. 25, 8:15 p.m., NFLN)
Patriots: Christian Gonzalez has looked the part as a starting cornerback come Week 1, holding his own in the joint practices against the Green Bay Packers (going up against Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs). Preparing for A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith come Week 1 will be the toughest challenge yet for Gonzalez, but he's shown in the preseason he has the traits of a shutdown cornerback.
Titans: Tennessee has a new kicker in Michael Badgley, signing him this week after releasing kickers Caleb Shudak and Trey Wolff -- who both competed for the job in training camp. He was 20 of 24 on field goal attempts last season, so is the kicking job his? Badgley can lock up the job this week.
Los Angeles Chargers at San Francisco 49ers (Friday, Aug. 25, 10 p.m., NFLN)
Chargers: Elijah Dotson rushed for a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter in Week 1 of the preseason, one for 37 yards and one for 40 yards. He was held to just six carries for 21 yards, running behind a susceptible offensive line. Whether Dotson makes the final roster or not is up in the air, but the 2022 undrafted back has made some highlight plays this preseason.
49ers: Ronnie Bell finished with seven catches for 114 yards last week, making his case for a roster spot as a return man with Ray-Ray McCloud out. The drops are a concern, but Bell has showcased enough this preseason to earn a spot on the 53. Being a reliable punt returner will seal it.
Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers (Saturday, Aug. 26, 1 p.m.)
Seahawks: With Jaxon Smith-Njigba out for a few weeks, who will take the reins as the No. 3 wide receiver? Jake Bobo continues to impress in the preseason with five catches for 98 yards and a touchdown in two games, making his claim for that job over the next few weeks. His route running will be crucial over the next several weeks, as Bobo will get an extended look this weekend.
Packers: Who is the starting safety next to Darnell Savage? Jonathan Owens started the preseason opener, then Tarvarius Moore entered the game. Rudy Ford started the second preseason game despite never taking snaps with the first team. Anthony Johnson is also in the mix for snaps. Owens may get the first crack in the finale, but who starts Week 1 is anyone's guess.
Arizona Cardinals at Minnesota Vikings (Saturday, Aug. 26, 1 p.m.)
Cardinals: No starting quarterback for Week 1 has been named yet, meaning the battle is still going on between Colt McCoy and Clayton Tune. McCoy doesn't turn the football over, but he's struggling to ignite the offense. Tune is more aggressive, yet has been inconsistent with his throws and timing. Tune can also ignite the offense with his legs. The preseason finale is the final test for both quarterbacks.
Vikings: Minnesota has the longest active losing streak in the NFL in the preseason at nine games -- yes, this apparently is a thing. Outside of trying to win meaningless games (record wise), the Vikings have to improve their run defense after the Titans gashed the unit for 281 yards as Minnesota allowed 7.0 yards per carry. Running quarterbacks may present a problem for this front, which is why it may be good for the defense to see a lot of Tune this week.
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs (Saturday, Aug. 26, 1 p.m., NFLN)
Browns: Getting the full dress rehearsal for the first-team offense this week, meaning Deshaun Watson will be participating in something other than a joint practice. Watson has completed all three of his preseason attempts for 12 yards, yet could be seeing significant action in the preseason finale. How will the passing game gel? Will the offensive line protect Watson? Will Nick Chubb play? There's a lot to watch this week.
Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes says Rashee Rice reminds him of Sammy Watkins when he arrived in Kansas City, fitting after he finished with eight catches for 96 yards against the Cardinals last week. Rice could be the big-play wideout the Chiefs have been lacking, especially with his ability to generate yards after the catch. He could be the No. 1 wide receiver by season's end.
Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears (Saturday, Aug. 26, 1 p.m.)
Bills: Offensive tackle is an issue behind Dion Dawkins, but even he is coming off a season that's not accustomed to his standards. Spencer Brown struggled in pass protection last week, leaving some question marks among the starting tackles. Tommy Doyle's injury doesn't help the depth of this unit, so the Bills could be active on the waiver wire next week.
Bears: Chicago has a hole at left guard with Teven Jenkins out, and is still looking for a viable starter for a few weeks. Backup guard/center Lucas Patrick has missed most of camp with an undisclosed injury while Nate Davis returned from injury last week. Alex Leatherwood may be the option here, but whoever the Bears play this week will be under close scrutiny.
New York Jets at New York Giants (Saturday, Aug. 26, 6 p.m., NFLN)
Jets: Aaron Rodgers is making his Jets preseason debut this week. This is the first preseason game Rodgers has played since 2018, showing how vital it is for the franchise quarterback to get some significant snaps. Rodgers is looking forward to playing, but how long he plays and how he looks with the first-team offense will be under the microscope. He'll play more than a series.
Giants: Rookie Eric Gray is looking like the primary returner, making good decisions on kick and punt returns. Gray has just 10 carries for 25 yards this preseason, as he is in the running for RB3 on the depth chart. Regardless of how Gray performs, his performance on kick and punt returns will be the key toward making the final roster.
Cincinnati Bengals at Washington Commanders (Saturday, Aug. 26, 6:05 p.m.)
Bengals: The backup quarterbacks are still inconsistent as neither Trevor Siemian nor Jake Browning has thrown a touchdown yet this preseason. The two are a combined 48 of 81 for 418 yards with zero touchdowns and three interceptions for a 57.5 passer rating -- not exactly a huge vote of confidence in case Joe Burrow has to miss a game. Can either Browning or Siemian play better?
Commanders: Where Emmanuel Forbes fits in the overall picture of the defense is starting to take shape, as his tackle on Melvin Gordon on third down in Monday night's game showcased how he plays bigger than his size. Forbes will be a welcome addition to an ever-improving secondary, set to start at boundary cornerback in Week 1.
Baltimore Ravens at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Saturday, Aug. 26, 7 p.m.)
Ravens: With the preseason win streak snapped at 24 games, the focus turns to rookies Zay Flowers and Keaton Mitchell. Flowers has the makings of a very good NFL wide receiver with his route running, while showcasing his talents with gaining yards after the catch and creating big plays. Mitchell may also make the 53-man roster thanks to his burst at the line, having just one carry that went for 31 yards last week. He may make the 53 over Melvin Gordon.
Buccaneers: Trey Palmer has been a welcome addition to the receiving unit, showcasing his speed against Sauce Gardner in the joint practices last week. The Buccaneers need depth behind Mike Evans and Chris Godwin with Russell gage out, and Palmer could be the player to fill that void.
Miami Dolphins at Jacksonville Jaguars (Saturday, Aug. 26, 7 p.m.)
Dolphins: Skylar Thompson and Mike White are in a competition for the backup quarterback job, but White appeared to have the slight edge heading into last week. Thompson went 15 of 22 for 157 yards with three touchdowns (and no interceptions) while White entered concussion protocol. Another strong preseason for Thompson could land him the QB2 role.
Jaguars: More Tank Bigsby, please. Bigsby has been a star this preseason, showing he's going to be a problem with Travis Etienne come Week 1. Bigsby already has 22 carries for 122 yards, averaging 5.5 yards per carry in two preseason games. The number of touches should go up for Bigsby, as his ability to get to the second level is a sight to behold.
Las Vegas Raiders at Dallas Cowboys (Saturday, Aug. 26, 8 p.m.)
Raiders: Rookie second-round pick Michael Mayer played in his first game last week, registering one catch with the first team. Notre Dame's all-time leader for catches by a tight end (180), Mayer played in all of the "21 personnel" snaps being mostly used as a run blocker, basically getting him acclimated to the speed of an NFL game. Might see Mayer get more targets this week.
Cowboys: Kelvin Joseph is fighting to make the 53-man roster at cornerback, one of the deeper positions on the Cowboys roster. His two forced incompletions last week stated his case to make the 53, as he's thriving in the slot. The move inside could be Joseph's ticket toward making the roster.
Los Angeles Rams at Denver Broncos (Saturday, Aug. 26, 9 p.m., NFLN)
Rams: Punters aren't featured much in the preseason, but Ethan Evans has been a mixed bag of sorts for the Rams. Evans is second among punters in punts downed inside the 20 (five) and is averaging 53.5 yards per punt. The low punts have affected the Rams special teams, so he'll need to improve his hangtime. The net yards per punt (36.5) has been affected as well.
Broncos: The passing game is still a work in progress in Denver, as Russell Wilson was just 3 of 6 for 24 yards last week. Wilson played just one series, but the timing and rhythm needs some work in the finale. Giving Wilson a few series to work on his timing wouldn't hurt.
Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints (Sunday, Aug. 27, 8 p.m. Fox)
Texans: Houston has been using a lot of "12 personnel" this preseason, featuring two tight ends in offensive sets. Offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik has been showcasing new wrinkles in the passing game this preseason, and this is a welcome addition with Dalton Schultz, Teagan Quitoriano and Andrew Beck. This personnel will help eliminate mistakes with C.J. Stroud and allow him to get more comfortable in the offense.
Saints: With Alvin Kamara suspended the first few weeks, rookie Kendre Miller appears to be the next version of the shifty veteran back. Miller had 10 carries for 23 yards and three catches for 36 yards last week, as the Saints used him similarly to how they've used Kamara. How Miller is used this week and how he fits with Jamaal Williams will be an interesting development.