Let's set up the summer's most important night of preseason football in the NFC North. All three games will be played Saturday.
Opponent: Arizona Cardinals
Location: Soldier Field
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: Starters will play at least a half and possibly into the third quarter. Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher (calf) won't play, and we probably won't see him again until the Sept. 12 opener against the Detroit Lions. Safety Craig Steltz (ankle), receiver Earl Bennett (hamstring), linebacker Nick Roach (knee) and quarterback Caleb Hanie (shoulder) are all expected to be sidelined. It's also unlikely that new quarterback Todd Collins, signed this week as the likely replacement for Hanie, will be ready to play much in this game.
Focal point: The preseason is to be taken with a grain of salt, but it would be nice if the Bears could take at least a granule of optimism with them into the regular season. Their first two outings have been a toxic mix of poor pass protection, special teams gaffes and defensive lethargy. A crisper outing in preseason Week 3 would allow us to file previous efforts in the "learning pains" category. But if it's more of the same Saturday night, Bears fans will have real reason to worry.
Opponent: Cleveland Browns
Location: Ford Field
Time: 5 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: Starters will play at least a half. Place-kicker Jason Hanson (knee) might kick beforehand but isn't expected to participate in the game. Safety Louis Delmas (groin) is expected to make his preseason debut, but it's not clear if fellow starter C.C. Brown (hand) can play. We're not expecting to see defensive ends Jared DeVries (knee) or Lawrence Jackson (hamstring).
Focal point: We haven't given the Lions defense much credit this summer, so it will be interesting to see the impact of Delmas' return. First of all, is he finally healthy? Assuming the answer is yes, how much can he impact the entire group? Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton threw for 177 yards in the first half of last week's game. Let's see if Delmas can help the Lions have a better showing against Cleveland's Jake Delhomme.
Opponent: Seattle Seahawks
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: Starters are expected to play into the third quarter because most will sit out next week's preseason finale for precautionary reasons. As was the case in 2009, that makes this game the primary building block for the offense following the late arrival of quarterback Brett Favre. And like last season, Favre will be playing with a whole new set of receivers. Javon Walker and Greg Camarillo could make their Vikings debut. Receiver Percy Harvin (migraines) isn't expected to play. Neither is defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy (unknown injury).
Focal point: The Vikings' first-team offense hasn't scored a touchdown this preseason, so its development is a crucial storyline Saturday night. So is the continuing competition at right cornerback, where rookie Chris Cook is getting a chance to win the job vacated (temporarily) by the injured Cedric Griffin. Veteran Lito Sheppard and second-year player Asher Allen remain in the mix.