Saturday NFL preview: The return of Beast Mode

Marshawn Lynch posted big numbers in Seattle, highlighted by strong postseason play. Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

NFL Nation reporters look ahead to what Saturday has in store for each team


Buffalo Bills: The Bills will host the Steelers in a matinee Saturday but don't expect the game to be the "dress rehearsal" that most teams consider the third preseason game. The Bills aren't expected to dress injured running backs LeSean McCoy (hamstring), Boobie Dixon (calf) or Bryce Brown (hamstring), nor are injured receivers Sammy Watkins (glute), Robert Woods (hip), Percy Harvin (hip) and Chris Hogan (ankle) anticipated to suit up. It will be a bare-bones offense for the Bills and far from the group they'll use Sept. 13 against Indianapolis. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins will host the Falcons in the third and most important preseason game. The focus will be protecting starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is behind an injury-depleted offensive line and expected to play the entire first half. -- James Walker

New England Patriots: After facing the Panthers in the third preseason game Friday in Charlotte, the Patriots returned home and will reassess in multiple areas. There are a lot of balls in the air -- trimming the roster to 75 by Sept. 1, shifting focus to the Sept. 10 season opener, and Tom Brady's legal fight against the NFL (with another round of settlement talks scheduled for Monday). -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets: The Jets are taking a low-key approach to Saturday night's preseason game against the Giants, downplaying the rivalry. In past years, they talked openly about the importance of beating the Giants. What has changed? The coaches. Rex Ryan always attached significance to the game. Todd Bowles, not so much. -- Rich Cimini


Baltimore Ravens: Baltimore looks to rev up its pass rush in Saturday's preseason game against Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins' porous offensive line. The Ravens finished tied for second in the NFL last season with 49 sacks. But Baltimore has only three sacks in two preseason games (out of a total of 53 pass plays). Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs should play most of the first half in what probably will be the last preseason game for most of the Ravens starters. -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals will look to get several key players like offensive tackles Andre Smith and Jake Fisher going against the Bears on Saturday after they missed the first two preseason games because of injury. Keep an eye on how well Smith and Fisher help protect quarterbacks Andy Dalton and AJ McCarron. -- Coley Harvey

Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel will not take part as the Browns play in Tampa Bay in their third preseason game. With Manziel and Connor Shaw out, and Pat Devlin having been on the team for only one practice, Josh McCown and Thad Lewis will take the quarterback reps for the Browns. -- Pat McManamon

Pittsburgh Steelers: The Buffalo Bills, who host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET, have a stout first-team defense. This will be a major test for the Steelers' running game, which plays its first game of the season without injured center Maurkice Pouncey. New center Cody Wallace and the rest of the line will face a formidable Buffalo front when trying to push through the middle with the run. -- Jeremy Fowler


Houston Texans: Outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney will not play in the preseason, Texans coach Bill O'Brien said Friday. Clowney is still on track to play in the Texans' regular-season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs, and his rehab continues to progress on schedule. -- Tania Ganguli

Indianapolis Colts: The Colts play their third -- and most important -- game of the preseason Saturday at St. Louis. Quarterback Andrew Luck and the rest of the starters will play until possibly the first series of the third quarter. Coach Chuck Pagano says he believes the starters need to play in this game for continuity purposes. -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars will find out Saturday the status of DE Andre Branch, who suffered a left knee injury during the Jaguars' 22-17 loss to Detroit on Friday night at EverBank Field. Coach Gus Bradley said Branch will have an MRI exam Saturday to determine the extent of the damage. Bradley said he's keeping his fingers crossed. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans: No member of the Titans heads out of preseason Week 3 with more to correct than inside linebacker Zach Brown. He missed multiple tackles, some of which would've gotten the defense off the field. It's the sort of sloppy defense the team suffered from last year after losing him early in the first game of the season. -- Paul Kuharsky


Denver Broncos: Montee Ball had hoped he and starter C.J. Anderson would be able to share the ball in some sort of "1A and 1B" running-back scenario. But heading into Saturday night's preseason game against the 49ers, Ronnie Hillman has moved into the second spot and Ball needs a good outing to reaffirm his status. Juwan Thompson can play both running back and fullback to go with his full workload on special teams, so probably would be active ahead of Ball in the regular season if both make the final roster. Ball needs to be more decisive and show he still has a role in the offense. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs: With a day off from practice, the Chiefs will prepare to cut the roster from 90 players to 75. This round of cuts doesn't figure to be the difficult one. The final round, from 75 to 53, could be difficult. -- Adam Teicher

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders are closely watching newly signed safety Taylor Mays. The coaching staff likes his size and versatility, but it also wants to see Mays make plays in the final two preseason games before handing him a spot on the 53-man roster. Mays played for Oakland defensive coordinator Ken Norton at USC. -- Bill Williamson

San Diego Chargers: A spectator for most of the preseason, quarterback Philip Rivers should get a longer look in San Diego's preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks. Chargers coach Mike McCoy would not give reporters a range of playing time for Rivers. But in last year's third preseason game at San Francisco, Rivers played in 19 offensive plays. We'll see if Rivers can talk his way into more snaps. -- Eric D. Williams


Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys play their all-important third preseason game Saturday night at AT&T Stadium against the Minnesota Vikings. They'll be hoping for solid play from key regular-season figures such as cornerback Morris Claiborne, who's replacing Orlando Scandrick (torn ACL) in the starting lineup. Claiborne has been solid on the practice field, and carrying over that same form to the game would certainly reassure the coaches. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants: The Giants will play the Jets in their third game of the preseason. With the starters scheduled to play the entire first half, a lot of attention will be on Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr., who hasn't caught a pass this preseason. But the greater concern is on defense, where fans will get their first extended look at Brandon Meriweather, and the Giants will get a sense of whether it's feasible to field a defense in which he and rookie Landon Collins are the two starters at safety. -- Dan Graziano

Philadelphia Eagles: For Saturday night's third preseason game, Chip Kelly says he will handle playing time as he chooses, regardless of whether Aaron Rodgers plays for the Packers. It will be the last chance for some players, as Kelly must cut the roster by Tuesday. -- Phil Sheridan

Washington Redskins: The stunning reversal about Robert Griffin III's availability for Saturday's game vs. Baltimore leaves Kirk Cousins with a golden opportunity to prove what he can do against a good defense -- and a chance to keep the job for a while. Cousins has had a strong preseason but now gets his first shot to face starters. He has been a different quarterback in games, showing better movement and feel in the pocket, and, thus far, cutting down on interceptions. It's inevitable Cousins will throw a pick; the key will be how he responds after he does. -- John Keim


Chicago Bears: The Bears are expected to be without receivers Alshon Jeffery (calf), Eddie Royal (hip) and Marquess Wilson (hamstring) and safety Ryan Mundy (hip) against the Bengals on Saturday. Keep an eye of left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who tweaked his back Tuesday. Bushrod returned to practice the following day, but with question marks at right tackle, the Bears need a solid year from Bushrod. Considering all their injuries at wide receivers, the Bears may be better off predominantly running the football against Cincinnati. -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions: The Lions come back from Jacksonville with a practice Saturday afternoon. It's expected to be a light walkthrough, but considering first cuts are looming, it could be the final practice for some of the players on the current roster. Some veterans to watch there would be wide receiver Ryan Broyles and cornerback Chris Owens. On Monday, it'll be interesting to see if the Lions activate Joique Bell or Haloti Ngata off the PUP and NFI list, respectively. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers: Typically, the third preseason game is when Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the starters see their longest stint of preseason action. But the Packers' game against the Eagles on Saturday at Lambeau Field might be significantly different. Indications are that Rodgers might not play at all -- if he does, it won't be for long. It could be a reaction to the season-ending knee injury receiver Jordy Nelson sustained last week, or the fact that three of the five offensive line starters are sidelined because of injuries -- or a combination of both factors. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings will face the Dallas Cowboys in their fourth of five preseason games on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium. Their starters should play at least the first two quarters, and the coaches will get an extended look at Gerald Hodges, who will start in the base defense at middle linebacker and could get a chance to lock down the job for the regular season. -- Ben Goessling


Atlanta Falcons: It has to be a concern now that starters Desmond Trufant (cornerback) and William Moore (strong safety) are still nursing shoulder and calf injuries, respectively. The regular season is right around the corner and both players need to be on the field, especially Trufant. We will see if they are full participants in practice once the preseason concludes. -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers have some confidence-building to do Saturday with wide receiver Corey Brown. The second-year player out of Ohio State had four drops -- if you're grading strictly -- in Friday night's game against New England to go with two he had last week against Miami. Brown is among those trying to replace No. 1 receiver Kelvin Benjamin, out for the year because of a torn ACL. The defense needs no confidence boost. It held New England's first-team offense to one touchdown -- and that came late -- in the first half. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints: This will be the last full week for the Saints' revamped offensive line to jell. It has been a good summer so far for the unit, with everyone staying healthy and rising young left tackle Terron Armstead and new center Max Unger emerging as two of New Orleans' best reasons for optimism. Guards Jahri Evans and Tim Lelito are bigger question marks for opposite reasons (Evans is getting older; Lelito is still young and inexperienced). But it's a solid bunch overall. The Saints' line won't get as great of a test Sunday as it originally appeared it would when the preseason schedule came out. The Texans aren't expected to play veteran defensive linemen J.J. Watt and Vince Wilfork much, if at all, and pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney is still rehabbing an injury. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Rookie Kwon Alexander will get another start at middle linebacker Saturday against Cleveland. Alexander has clinched the starting job, but he still needs to convince the coaching staff he is capable of calling the defensive plays. If he's unable to do so, weakside linebacker Lavonte David could end up calling the plays. -- Pat Yasinskas


Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals closed their third training camp at University of Phoenix Stadium on Friday and will travel to Oakland for their third preseason game Saturday. They'll be keeping an eye on rookie nose tackle Xavier Williams' left elbow, which he injured at the end of Friday's practice. Besides sleeping in his own bed, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said he was looking forward to camp ending because "my liver likes a break, too." -- Josh Weinfuss

St. Louis Rams: Rams quarterback Nick Foles was quick to acknowledge the need for he and the offense to put together a better performance in Saturday night's preseason game against the Colts. In six series, Foles is 6 of 12 for 87 yards with an interception returned for a touchdown and the first-team offense has mustered only three points. Nobody is pressing the panic button, but a couple of scoring drives for the starters would go a long way toward giving the fan base some peace of mind as the season nears. -- Nick Wagoner

San Francisco 49ers: Despite holding a pair of joint practices with Denver this week, the Niners do not expect to change their approach to their third preseason game Saturday against the Broncos. San Francisco will still treat this third exhibition game as a dry run for a regular-season game, meaning the starters should get extended time. -- Paul Gutierrez

Seattle Seahawks: It's dress rehearsal time as Russell Wilson and his teammates take on the San Diego Chargers in their third preseason game. Marshawn Lynch and Richard Sherman are expected to take the field for the first time, and coach Pete Carroll indicated that the starters could play into the third quarter. -- Sheil Kapadia