NFL Pre-Season Week 1: Buffalo Bills (0-0) at Chicago Bears (0-0)
Venue: Soldier Field – Chicago, Ill.
Date/Time: Saturday, August 13 – 8 p.m. EST
TV: WKBW 7 (Buffalo), WFLD 31 (Chicago), Online at NFL.com (must buy preseason package), Replay Sunday at 7 EST on NFL Network
Radio: WGRF 96.9 FM (Buffalo), WBBM 780 AM (Chicago)
Playing Time for Starters: Chan Gailey has indicated the starters will play roughly a quarter, with some of the older/more injury prone players like Shawne Merriman playing a bit less than that. New offensive line starters Kraig Urbik and Erik Pears might play a bit more. The Chicago starters might not play more than a series or two.
What to watch for (Bills):
– The wide receiver situation. With Lee Evans traded to Baltimore, the competition for playing time at receiver should be pretty fierce. Roscoe Parrish won’t play, so we should see a lot of David Nelson, Donald Jones, Naaman Roosevelt, Buster Davis, and Marcus Easley tonight. Any one of those guys could play his way into a starting role (or play his way to the unemployment line) in the next few weeks.
– Tyler Thigpen. The nominal #2 QB should get a lot of work tonight. It will be interesting to see how comfortable he looks.
– Brad Smith. I’m curious to see how Buffalo uses the multi-talented QB/WR/whatever. The Bills won’t want to tip their hand too much with their intended use of Smith, but they have to get him a bit of work. I’m curious too see how he’ll be utilized tonight.
– Levi Brown. He’ll probably need a few good preseason games to save his job. The Bills will probably just keep two “true” quarterbacks (Ryan Fitzpatrick and Thigpen), as keeping three around with Smith available seems excessive. Brown will have to make a very compelling case as to why Buffalo should keep him around.
– Offensive line depth. I don’t know about you, but this team’s lack of depth on the line – especially at tackle – scares the crap out of me. If the Bears’ second and third-team defenders are racing past these guys and crushing Thigpen tonight, that won’t be a good sign. It’d be excellent to see guys like Ed Wang and Chris Hairston have a good game.
– Rookies. Injured CB Justin Rogers won’t play and LB Kelvin Sheppard will play very sparingly as he has just returned from injury, but the rest of the rookies should be fun to keep an eye tonight. RB Johnny White will very likely get quite a bit of work, and don’t be surprised if he makes an impact (assuming he gets any blocking.)
What to Watch For (Bears):
– We probably won’t see much of the Bears’ starters tonight, especially on defense. Lovie Smith has no interest in pushing his veterans like Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, and Chris Harris much this early in the preseason. The offensive starters might play a bit more, particularly along the offensive line, where the Bears have made some changes and need to build some cohesion.
– If you haven’t watched a preseason game yet this year, you’ll notice tonight that 95% of kickoffs are now touchbacks. The new kickoff rules are now resulting in every kickoff being caught nine yards deep in the endzone. I’ll be interested to see if the rule change sticks.
– The Bears have assured the Bills and the league that the grass playing field at Soldier Field is safe. There was concern that the surface was unsafe after the Bears were forced to cancel a practice last week due to the Soldier Field grass being unplayable. We’ll see how the footing looks tonight.
If you’re watching the game tonight, follow along with us on Twitter! (@BuffLowDown)