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Previewing tonight's NFC North matchups

8/22/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Minnesota opened Week 2 of the preseason Friday night, and 24 hours later the rest of our fine division will jump into the fray. Here's what to watch for:

Detroit at Cleveland (7:30 p.m. ET)

  • Rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford will start and play into the second quarter. Unfortunately for Stafford, he won't have his top three receivers or his top two tight ends. Receivers Calvin Johnson, Bryant Johnson and Dennis Northcutt are all likely to sit out with injuries. The same goes for tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Casey FitzSimmons. But a solid showing could net Stafford the start over Daunte Culpepper in the all-important third week of the preseason.

  • If all goes well, the Lions will field their projected starting lineup on defense. That should give us a decent idea of where they stand under new coordinator Gunther Cunningham. But remember: The Browns offense was awful in Week 1 of the preseason at Green Bay. So we should judge the performance of the Lions' defense accordingly.

Buffalo at Green Bay (8 p.m. ET)

  • I'm fascinated by what's going on with the Packers' linebacker position. Desmond Bishop is pushing hard for starter A.J. Hawk's job, while Brandon Chillar has done more than enough to earn a starting position while Nick Barnett continues to recover from knee surgery. It's a good problem to have, but what will defensive coordinator Dom Capers do if Bishop, especially, continues to make plays against the Bills?

  • The Packers are hoping to get rookie defensive lineman B.J. Raji on the field for the first time this preseason as he works his way back from a two-week holdout. Eventually, Raji is expected to win the starting left end job. We should get a better idea of how close he is to that goal Saturday night.

New York Giants at Chicago (8 p.m. ET)

  • Defensive tackle Tommie Harris is scheduled to make his preseason debut after a strange training camp in which he was limited by a knee the Bears insist is not injured. Harris sat out most team drills as well as last week's game at Buffalo. At some point, we have to find out if Harris is going to be healthy enough to give the Bears a full season. And beyond that, can he make the kind of disruptive impact the Bears need?

  • Quarterback Jay Cutler will make his Soldier Field debut. After last week's public back-and-forth with receiver Devin Hester, I'm interested to see whether their chemistry improves in this game. Cutler targeted Hester on six of his 10 passes last week but connected only twice.