2015 NFL Preseason Week 3: Friday Night Preview and Picks
Week three of the 2015 NFL preseason officially arrives on Friday night, as NFL fans get three games with first team offenses trying to work out any remaining issues before week one of the regular season hits us square in the face.
Several star players will remain out as a precaution, but the first team units on both sides of the ball will play roughly a half of football, if not more. In what is deemed the “regular season dress rehearsal game” by many, this is the closest pro football fans get to real, meaningful football during preseason play.
There are three games to be played, so let’s break down what we’ll want to be looking for, while also picking the final outcome:
New England Patriots @ Carolina Panthers
There are two huge storylines in this game, one for each team. Tom Brady is still looking at a four-game ban, so even though he’s going to be the starter for 12 games this year, the Pats would be wise to just sit him and get Jimmy Garoppolo as much action as possible. After all, he’s the one who will be starting in week one against the Pittsburgh Steelers. While that’s good for Jimmy G’s experience, I’m not sure it’s so great for the offense – especially when they’re on the road against a Panthers defense that will keep their first team unit out there for just as long. A good showing from Garoppolo would be really impressive considering the circumstances, but it could get ugly.
On the other side, it’s all about Carolina’s passing game, or lack thereof. Thanks to a season-ending knee injury for Kelvin Benjamin, a ton of pressure is on rookie receiver Devin Funchess, Jerricho Cotchery and tight end Greg Olsen. Olsen is as reliable as they come, but Cotchery isn’t a difference-maker anymore and Funchess is rather raw. The same was said about KB last year, too, and he ended up being quite good. Funchess and Cam Newton’s chemistry will be big in this one.
Ultimately, both offenses have some major issues to work out and we could be in for a bit of a defensive battle. New England’s D has been rather feisty at times during preseason, but they’ve lost a lot of talent and I think Jimmy G is going to have a tough time against the Panthers.
Pick: Panthers 16, Patriots 10
Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs
Marcus Mariota should get a good chunk of playing time tonight, after producing mixed results in his first two preseason contests. Avoiding turnovers and moving the chains is what it’s all about for the rook, but doing both could be tough on the road against a pretty talented Chiefs defense. Elsewhere in Tennessee, starting running back Bishop Sankey should get plenty of chances to prove the lead rushing gig is his to keep, while rookie receiver Dorial Green-Beckham may get his last opportunity in a while to prove he deserves an early season role.
Alex Smith should see the field for about a half for the Chiefs, and we can expect him to try to hook up with Travis Kelce and Jeremy Maclin. Jamaal Charles could be limited, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get him a handful of carries to get him ready for the new year. Defensively, the Chiefs continue to see what they have up front while Dontari Poe (back) is on the mend, and safety Eric Berry will attempt to work his way back from cancer with more impressive play.
KC is at home, has the better defense and has enough on offense to put some points up early, so they should get the win.
Pick: Chiefs 24, Titans 20
Detroit Lions @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Joique Bell remains out, which means we’ll get a nice rookie running back clash between Ameer Abdullah and T.J. Yeldon. Abdullah has the upper hand when it comes to talent and matchup, so we should expect him to dazzle in this one. The same goes for Zach Zenner, as the undrafted rookie has been fantastic and could look to get sprinkled into Detroit’s first team offense. The Lions will likely sit Calvin Johnson in this one, but Matthew Stafford could still play up to two full quarters and sync up with the likes of Golden Tate and Eric Ebron.
Blake Bortles looks a lot more comfortable in his second NFL season and Detroit has lost some studly defensive talent, but this still isn’t the best matchup for him. How he connects with go-to target Allen Robinson could be the key for the Jags in this one, but I think Detroit pours it on thick early before Stafford and co. exit for the night.
Pick: Lions 31, Jaguars 17
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