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Previewing preseason Week 4 (finally!)

8/30/2012

In which we look ahead to Thursday's much-anticipated four-fecta of Week 4 games to end the NFC North's preseason schedule:

Detroit Lions

Opponent: Buffalo Bills

Location: Ford Field

Time: 7 p.m. ET

Personnel notes: Lions coach Jim Schwartz hasn't ruled out the possibility of using healthy starters, but whether quarterback Matthew Stafford will be a part of that group is unknown. Stafford practiced this week after injuring his left hand in Saturday's preseason game at the Oakland Raiders. … Regardless, running back Mikel Leshoure figures to get substantial work in his second NFL game. He's set to serve a two-game suspension to start the regular season, so he'll have plenty of time to rest up. … For better or worse, this game will provide an ample look at the Lions' secondary depth given injuries to Chris Houston (ankle) and Bill Bentley (shoulder).

Focal point: It's not yet clear whether the Lions will use a roster spot on rookie quarterback Kellen Moore or try to get him through waivers and onto their practice squad. Moore was always going to be a developmental player, and the Lions have typically had a No. 3 quarterback under Schwartz. But this could be an opportunity to add depth at another position. Moore could help himself with a strong showing Thursday.

Green Bay Packers

Opponent: Kansas City Chiefs

Location: Lambeau Field

Time: 7 p.m. ET

Personnel notes: Starters might play a series before giving way to reserves and players in competition for spots. … The Packers would like to settle soon, if not Thursday night, a number of positions on their defense. Will Jerel Worthy or Mike Daniels be the nickel defensive tackle next to B.J. Raji? Who will start at cornerback in the base? Jarrett Bush, Sam Shields or Casey Hayward? What about at the second safety position in the nickel? Jerron McMillian, M.D. Jennings or Anthony Levine?

Focal point: It would be late at this point to turn back now, but backup quarterback Graham Harrell could give everyone a better feeling about his competency with an even performance Thursday night.

Minnesota Vikings

Opponent: Houston Texans

Location: Reliant Stadium

Time: 7 p.m. ET

Personnel notes: Coach Leslie Frazier has ruled out most starters, including quarterback Christian Ponder. … It's expected that strong-armed McLeod Bethel-Thompson will get the majority of playing time at quarterback. … Someone can still win the punt return job with a strong showing Thursday night, be it Marcus Sherels or rookie Jarius Wright.

Focal point: The third running back on most teams don't get much action, but the Vikings' competition for that job has taken on significant meaning as Adrian Peterson continues his recovery from major knee surgery. It's not yet clear who will open the season behind Peterson and Toby Gerhart. Matt Asiata, Jordan Todman and Lex Hilliard are all in the mix and should get plenty of work Thursday night.

Chicago Bears

Opponent: Cleveland Browns

Location: Cleveland Browns Stadium

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Personnel notes: Most starters are expected to either sit or get minimal playing time. … The Bears will find out how much depth they have, or don't have, at safety as Chris Conte continues to be sidelined by a shoulder injury and backup Brandon Hardin now sits on injured reserve. … There is also a competition going on for the No. 3 running back between Armando Allen and Lorenzo Booker.

Focal point: The Bears failed in an attempt to claim punter Spencer Lanning as insurance against Adam Podlesh's hip flexor. That puts rookie Ryan Quigley in the spotlight Thursday. Can he do enough to replace Podlesh in Week 1 if needed?