In which we look ahead to preseason football in the NFC North over the next two days. I'll post a dedicated preview Monday afternoon for the Chicago Bears' game at the New York Giants, to be televised Monday night on ESPN.
Opponent: Cleveland Browns
Location: Cleveland Browns Stadium
Day/Time: Friday/7:30 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: Starters could play into the second quarter but coach Jim Schwartz will determine that based on snaps and possessions. ... Tight end Tony Scheffler won't play because he has stitches in his hand, but tight end Brandon Pettigrew should return from an ankle injury that caused him to miss the preseason opener. ... Safety/special-teams ace John Wendling (knee) could be held out, but Schwartz would not dismiss the possibility of an appearance by either of his starting cornerbacks, Chris Houston and Eric Wright. Both have been nursing leg injuries this week.
Focal point: Quarterback Matthew Stafford did everything you could have hoped for last Friday against the Cincinnati Bengals, throwing for two touchdown passes among seven attempts. Except for one thing. Unless I missed it, he didn't take a significant hit. Obviously no team wants its quarterback battered in the preseason, but it's going to happen some time for Stafford. There is some significance to taking the first hit after a long injury recovery, popping back up and symbolically moving on.
Opponent: Arizona Cardinals
Location: Lambeau Field
Day/Time: Friday/8 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: Linebacker Clay Matthews' hamstring injury probably will get a rest Friday night. After all, he's done pretty well in his career with limited preseason work. It's hard to imagine defensive end Mike Neal (knee) or running back James Starks (ankle) playing. ... On the flip side, tight end Jermichael Finley, running back Alex Green and the team's top three cornerbacks -- Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields -- should get on the field. ... Some starters could play a half this week.
Focal point: While their former left guard is in a Cardinals uniform, the Packers will continue their tryout for his replacement. Veteran T.J. Lang will get the start in his quest to beat out rookie Derek Sherrod and replace Daryn Colledge. Not unexpectedly, Lang has provided a steadier presence during practices as well as in last week's preseason opener. Teams always prefer to get their first-round draft picks on the field, but Lang is probably better suited to start right now.
Opponent: Seattle Seahawks
Location: CenturyLink Field
Day/Time: Saturday/10 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: Coach Leslie Frazier expects starters to play into the second quarter. ... Receivers Percy Harvin (ribs) and Greg Camarillo (groin) won't play, giving significant opportunities a number of younger receivers, including Jaymar Johnson. ... Tight Visanthe Shiancoe (hamstring) and guard Anthony Herrera (knee) also aren't expected to play. ... Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder is expected to follow starter Donovan McNabb and work with the second team after serving as the No. 3 quarterback in last weekend's preseason opener.
Focal point: There's no question the Vikings would like to see progress from their offense, particularly the first team, after a three-point effort last weekend at Tennessee. Protection for McNabb is important, but quite frankly, the Vikings just need to find a way to sustain a few drives so they can practice their new scheme in a game environment.