The dog days of August are upon us. With teams nearly a month into training camp, the veterans are putting it into cruise control with the regular season just two weeks away, while the rookies are as eager as ever to get their first taste of games that actually mean something.
On Friday, there are two preseason games to keep football fans busy. Here's what to watch for:
Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers (8:00 p.m. ET)
Fresh off their dismantling of the Broncos in Seattle, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks head to Lambeau Field for what could be a potential playoff preview. Wilson has really impressed thus far in the preseason, throwing for 127 yards and two touchdowns last week against a solid Denver defense. Look for the second-year quarterback to play most of the first half as he continues getting into a groove with his receivers.
All-Pro running back Marshawn Lynch has carried the ball just two times this summer, and that was to be expected after being used heavily in 2012. He is expected to play a series or two, but don't expect much more. Second-year tailback Robert Turbin should get the bulk of the carries, at least in the first half.
The Seahawks look ready for the games that count -- it's just a matter of staying healthy and working out a few kinks in their final two preseason games.
The Packers know what they're going to get out of Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb and company. Where the biggest concern lies is with the offensive line, which has really struggled all preseason. With left tackle Bryan Bulaga out, David Bakhtiari will have his hands full against a stout Seahawks pass rush. It could be a long season in Green Bay if the offensive line isn't able to pick up their game, and tomorrow will be one of their toughest challenges of the year, even if it's just an exhibition game.
On the defensive end, all eyes will be on how the team contains Wilson, who uses his legs as well as he uses his arm to move the football. Acme Packing Company discussed how the team has worked on defending against the read-option. How far has the defense come? We'll find out Friday night.
The game will be televised on CBS.
Chicago Bears vs. Oakland Raiders (10:00 p.m. ET)
The Bears know they have to improve their offensive line if they hope to compete in 2013. It's been awful for years, and they tried to address that in the offseason with the selection of Kyle Long in the first round and Jordan Mills in the fifth round of the draft.
Long has looked terrific so far, and his success on the line has helped the Bears average 25 points per game in their first two exhibition matchups. Mills has also impressed and opened up a couple of lanes for Matt Forte to run through. It's still early, but these have to be promising signs for Chicago moving forward.
As for the Raiders, there's no hiding the fact that the team is still a mess and is still firmly in rebuilding mode. Projected starting quarterback Matt Flynn has looked good when given adequate time in the pocket, although he was sacked five times by the Saints last week. The Raiders have to improve up front if they're going to win many games this season, and they'll face another tough challenge from Chicago on Friday evening.
Darren McFadden is probably the guy to keep an eye on if you're an outside observer. The shifty tailback has always had the talent to be one of the better runners in the league, but staying healthy for a full season has always been an issue. McFadden carried the ball just five times in Oakland's second preseason game and is expected to see a few more carries this week.