The third week of the NFL preseason used to have a little bit of intrigue. It was the so-called “dress rehearsal,” with many teams playing starters into the second half.
That’s not the case anymore. Some teams can see the light at the end of the preseason tunnel and won’t use starters in this week’s finale. Other teams do see the value in getting starters one final tuneup before the regular season.
Here’s a game-by-game look at what teams have said about their plans for starters, along with the point spreads from BetMGM:
Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers (-4.5)
The Lions have been sitting starters in the preseason, and coach Dan Campbell said of Friday’s game: “It’s going to look very much like the first two games.” The Panthers are playing quarterback Bryce Young, which means the first-team offense will play, too. Carolina’s starting offensive line hasn’t been able to protect Young this preseason. One can only imagine how bad it would be with the backups.
New England Patriots (-2) at Tennessee Titans
The Patriots haven’t said much about Friday starters, but ESPN’s Mike Reiss wondered if the team could sit QB Mac Jones after he took some hard hits last week. The Titans have left open the possibility of some starters playing, including quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Los Angeles Chargers at San Francisco 49ers (-7.5)
The Chargers don’t play starters in the preseason, and it is expected to be more of the same Friday. 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said the starters, including quarterback Brock Purdy, will play, via 49ers Web Zone, but the real intrigue will be third-string QB Trey Lance, whom San Francisco could trade.
Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers (-3)
The Packers are getting Jordan Love and the rest of the starters more work. Coach Matt LaFleur said they’ll play, via Packers Wire. The Seahawks haven’t played starters much in preseason, and it appears that will continue. Coach Pete Carroll said second-string QB Drew Lock will play a lot.
Arizona Cardinals at Minnesota Vikings (-1.5)
With the teams having joint practices this week, the expectation is that both teams will sit many starters Saturday. Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell didn’t plan to play starters this preseason. The Cardinals still haven’t settled on a starting quarterback, and the playing time rotation Saturday will offer clues to how they’re leaning.
Cleveland Browns (-3.5) at Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs usually play starters, and coach Andy Reid indicated they’d play again Saturday, though it might not be for too long. A majority of the Browns’ starters will play 20-25 plays, coach Kevin Stefanski said.
Buffalo Bills (-2.5) at Chicago Bears
The Bills will use starters, including quarterback Josh Allen, after a sloppy performance against the Steelers last week. The Bears will play starters, too. They used starters, including Justin Fields, in the preseason opener, then sat them last week after joint practices against the Indianapolis Colts.
New York Jets (-6) at New York Giants
The big news is that Aaron Rodgers will play for the first time in the preseason and the first time with the Jets. Coach Robert Saleh thought it was best to get his new quarterback and the rest of the starters some work.
“You can’t coach scared. You can’t play scared,” Saleh said, via ESPN.com. “You can slip out of your car and have something happen to you. Knock on wood, everyone will be fine.”
The Giants will likely sit most starters.
Cincinnati Bengals at Washington Commanders (-5.5)
Baltimore Ravens at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1)
There’s no more Ravens winning streak to worry about. The Buccaneers plan to play starters. The Ravens have not played starters, but Lamar Jackson wants to play Saturday, according to Ravens coach John Harbaugh. Harbaugh hasn’t said whether his starters will play.
Miami Dolphins at Jacksonville Jaguars (-6.5)
Jaguars coach Doug Pederson indicated his starters will play, perhaps for a half. Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said he wants his starters to play “more than a series, less than a half,” according to the Sun Sentinel.
Las Vegas Raiders (-4.5) at Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys haven’t played starters in the preseason, and it sounds like they won’t use any starters on Saturday, either. Even though Raiders coach Josh McDaniels seems to care a lot about winning in the preseason, he hinted that starters won’t play.
Los Angeles Rams at Denver Broncos (-5.5)
The Rams and Broncos had joint practices this week. Therefore, Broncos coach Sean Payton said his starters will play a series at most, via Broncos Wire. The Rams won’t play their stars but have been using some starters in the preseason, and some starters could see limited time Saturday.
Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints (-3)
Saints quarterback Derek Carr will not play in the lone game Sunday, and presumably most Saints starters will sit as well. Houston coach DeMeco Ryans will play rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud and other starters for about two series, according to KADN in Houston.