Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of preseason Week 2? Your NFC North blogger knows …
Opponent: Oakland Raiders
Location: Soldier Field
Date/Time: Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: Starters are expected to play into the second quarter. Those who won’t play include receiver Earl Bennett (hamstring), safety Major Wright (finger), quarterback Caleb Hanie (shoulder), safety Craig Steltz (ankle), and possibly long-snapper Patrick Mannelly (stinger). Tight end Desmond Clark would handle Mannelly’s long-snapping duties if necessary.
Focal point: Normally, established starting quarterbacks don’t need -- or want -- much preseason work. I’m thinking that’s not the case for Jay Cutler, who is still learning an intricate new offense. I’d like to see Cutler make much more than the two passes he threw in the preseason opener in San Diego. Let’s see how comfortable he is throwing to receivers other than Johnny Knox, and whether he’ll react better to pressure than he did last season.
Opponent: Denver Broncos
Date/Time: Saturday, 9 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: Starters could play into the second quarter. Safety Louis Delmas (groin) has said he would like to play, but the Lions might not take that risk. The same goes for tight end Brandon Pettigrew (knee) and running back Kevin Smith (knee). Cornerback Jonathan Wade (finger) won’t play. Middle linebacker DeAndre Levy (back) is expected to make his preseason debut.
Focal point: Coach Jim Schwartz said this week that there will be a big emphasis on evaluating special teams, including return men. “Kickoff and punt return, I think we’re going to need to really do a good job of putting guys in positions and maybe creating some positions to put them in and things like that, and just see how they do,” Schwartz said. “That’s going to be a big part of the evaluation of a lot of these guys.”
Opponent: Seattle Seahawks
Location: Qwest Field
Date/Time: Saturday, 10 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: Starters will play about the same as they did last weekend, or about 20 plays. Among those who could be sidelined are linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring), safety Will Blackmon (knee) and running back Kregg Lumpkin (hamstring.)
Focal point: Sorry. It’s unlikely the Packers will spice up their defensive looks in response to last week’s soft performance against the Cleveland Browns. “I think it’s important not to rely too much on scheme and really stay focused on the fundamentals,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “Last year was a totally different mindset for us because we were going from a totally different defensive scheme to more of a pressure scheme. It wasn’t the schematic volume that was important in preseason, it was the ability to play pressure football in live game. That’s why we pressured as much as we did last year. It wasn’t as much as the different schemes we were trying to play against the preseason opponents as to develop that mindset, that speed, to get the pressure off the ground. The volume for this game, we’re more focused on how we’re playing specifically, the details we’re playing with within the schemes.”
Opponent: San Francisco 49ers
Location: Candlestick Park
Date/Time: Sunday, 8 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: Starters will play at least the first quarter, with quarterback Brett Favre taking the first series or two before yielding to Tarvaris Jackson. Middle linebacker E.J. Henderson will start for the first time since fracturing his left femur last December. Players who won’t participate include center John Sullivan and receivers Sidney Rice (hip) and Percy Harvin (migraines).
Focal point: In some ways, the Vikings began training camp Wednesday when they finally got Favre on the field. But with Rice, Harvin and Sullivan still sidelined, their offense represents a work in progress. I’m guessing Favre wants to get a few throws in and then get the heck off the field.