NFL News & Analysis

2023 NFL preseason Week 3 preview: Schedule, storylines and analysis for Friday's games

2RJM0CX Tennessee Titans quarterback Malik Willis (7) in action during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023 in Minneapolis. Tennessee won 24-16. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

Friday brings us another three games from the final week of 2023 NFL preseason action.

Two of the contests feature promising young quarterbacks, while we are expected to see only one set of starters when the Detroit Lions take on the Carolina Panthers.

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Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers (8 p.m. ET)

Lions focus: James Houston

Houston has been playing late in games for the Lions so far this preseason, which might indicate that he is not the roster lock many project him to be. After an impressive stretch at the end of his rookie campaign, the sixth-round pick out of Jackson State has looked good again this preseason, earning a 77.5 PFF grade with eight pressures from 29 pass-rushing snaps and four tackles resulting in a defensive stop.

Panthers focus: Bryce Young

Frank Reich has said Bryce Young and the team’s offensive starters are going to play, giving us one final look at the No. 1 overall pick before the lights come on for real in the regular season. Young hasn’t looked great this preseason, going 7-of-12 for 56 yards, but the offense hasn’t really pushed the ball downfield, with just one of his pass attempts traveling 10-plus yards. Perhaps the Panthers are saving that for the regular season, but it would be nice to see at least a couple more attempts in this game.

New England Patriots at Tennessee Titans (8:15 p.m. ET)

Patriots focus: Rookie offensive linemen

A look at the future of the Patriots' offensive line could be in store here. Sidy Sow was the 118th selection in the 2023 NFL Draft by the team, and he has earned an impressive 75.4 PFF pass-blocking grade this preseason, allowing just two total pressures from 49 pass-blocking snaps. Atonio Mafi, the 146th overall selection, has been up and down, earning an 81.2 PFF pass-blocking grade in the Patriots' first preseason game and a 29.2 PFF pass-blocking grade last week, with all of his snaps coming at left guard.

Like Mafi, center Jake Andrews earned an 80.0-plus PFF pass-blocking grade in preseason Week 1 but finished below 30.0 last week. Small sample sizes mean that these grades can get dragged either way on a couple of plays, but this game will give us another look at three players the Patriots hope can develop into future starters.

Titans focus: Malik Willis

The Titans' selection of Will Levis in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft dented Willis’ chances of being the team's starting quarterback of the future, and this game is an opportunity for him to prove he is still worthy. As a passer, he has gone 26-of-42 this preseason, with a pair of turnover-worthy plays and no big-time throws. He has proven himself to be dynamic as a runner once again, though, racking up 113 yards and forcing four missed tackles on just five attempts.

Los Angeles Chargers at San Francisco 49ers (10 p.m. ET)

Chargers focus: Daiyan Henley

The Chargers’ third-round draft pick has already impressed this preseason, earning a 78.0 PFF grade on 91 snaps. He has registered five tackles resulting in a defensive stop and, while he has allowed five receptions on five targets from 50 snaps in coverage, those receptions have gone for just 42 yards. The former Washington State star has also registered a pass breakup. Henley is the potential future at the position for the Chargers, and this is another opportunity for him to prove that.

49ers focus: Trey Lance

The big question here is whether Lance even plays in this game, after reports that he wasn’t seen at practice following the announcement that Sam Darnold was to be the team’s backup quarterback behind Brock Purdy. However, if the 49ers are looking to recoup anything for Lance in a trade, giving him an extended look in this game could be in the cards. Lance has earned a 52.6 PFF passing grade through two preseason games, going 22-of-33 for 285 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.


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