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Key matchups, players to watch in NFL's final preseason games


As the NFL preseason reaches its climax, fans have enjoyed a roller coaster ride of games, filled with outstanding performances and looming questions for several teams. Pittsburgh's offense dazzled under Kenny Pickett, while the Falcons' backups put on a show in their bid for roster spots. The Colts grapple with their future, with the Eagles and Lions also showing mixed performances.

Steelers shine and Colts' forecast cloudy

Pittsburgh's offense, led by Kenny Pickett, was flawless as the regular season approached. The Steelers' top offensive unit showed its readiness for the upcoming season in its final preseason game against the Falcons' backups. Pickett confidently led his team, resulting in two rushing touchdowns during the opening drive of the game.

Throughout the preseason, the Steelers' starting lineup performed consistently, scoring on all five of their series. Specifically, on Thursday, Pickett completed all four of his passes for 86 yards, with two outstanding throws of 30-plus yards each to Diontae Johnson and George Pickens.

The Falcons' backups took this opportunity to compete for the remaining wide receiver positions. As the roster deadline approached, these players sought to prove their worthiness for inclusion on the 53-man roster.

Among the contenders, rookie Keilahn Harris emerged prominently, with six receptions for a total of 71 yards. Other notable performances came from free agents Mathew Sexton and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. The Colts faced challenges with the absence of star running back Jonathan Taylor.

The Eagles had mixed performances. Devon Allen, a former Olympic hurdler, impressed with a 73-yard kick return, hinting at his potential value to the team. Trey Sermon's effort to find a place in the Eagles' stacked running back room was evident in his determined play, despite earlier setbacks. However, the situation with Marcus Mariota remains uncertain.

A look at the upcoming games

With only one win between them in four preseason games, the performance of Detroit and Carolina has drawn attention. Last week, the Lions suffered an 18-point loss to the Jaguars, and the Panthers failed to score against the Jets in Week 1. Carolina's focus this preseason has been on its rookie quarterback, Bryce Young, who has posted average stats, completing 7/12 passes without a touchdown.

Detroit's backup quarterbacks haven't fared much better, even with the addition of Teddy Bridgewater, who recorded 5/11 for 34 yards in his Lions debut. This upcoming game could be tightly contested, but given current form, it might not be a showcase of top-tier soccer. Neither team has shown consistent strength on either side of the ball. Experts predict a more likely win for Carolina.

The New England Patriots are seriously considering sitting star quarterback Mac Jones on Friday. This is not because of a lack of reps, but because of concerns about the offensive line. Two starters, Mike Onwenu and Cole Strange, are absent, leaving Jones vulnerable.

Given Tennessee's consistent offensive strategy and home-field advantage, experts predict a Titans victory, especially since they are slight underdogs. San Francisco 49ers QB Brock Purdy, after a remarkable preseason debut against the Broncos, is set to return to the field along with most of the 49ers' starters.

For the Chargers, rookies Daiyan Henley and Tuli Tuipulotu have been standout players. While the 49ers' running game hasn't been amazing, their defensive prowess, with players like Arik Armstead, should be impactful. Interestingly, while trade rumors surround Lance, both he and Stick are poised for an intense matchup.

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