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123 Nov 8
NFL Nation reporters assess the top storylines to watch for every team on Thursday. Fake Nike MLB Jerseys .NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West AFC East | AFC North| AFC South | AFC WestNFC EASTDallas CowboysDarren McFadden was named the Cowboys offensive MVP for 2015 at the teams kickoff luncheon on Wednesday, but will he be on the team in 2016? He is currently on the non-football injury list, but the Cowboys have received some calls from teams inquiring about McFadden, who ran for 1,089 yards last season. He continues to recover from the broken right elbow he suffered in the offseason. The goal was to have him ready for Week 1, but it is possible that the Cowboys could move him to reserve/NFI when they make their final cuts to the 53-man limit on Saturday. If they agree to a trade, McFadden would have to pass a physical to make a deal go through. Depending on how much a team wants McFadden, that physical could be green-lighted without a problem. -- Todd ArcherNew York GiantsWide receiver Victor Cruz appeared in a game Saturday for the first time in 685 days. Hes set to make his second appearance five days later. The Giants want Cruz to get more work in a game environment after an almost two-year absence. Rookie Sterling Shepard and most of the first-team offensive line will also play against the Patriots on Thursday. But though the Giants want to leave the preseason with a better taste in their mouth, dont expect to see quarterback Eli Manning and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. -- Jordan RaananPhiladelphia EaglesIt has been a struggle for Eagles defensive end Marcus Smith since he was selected with the 26th pick in the 2014 draft. He has?just 1.5 sacks in two NFL seasons and has been used sparingly to date. He has shown some signs of promise this summer as he fights for a roster spot. A strong performance in the preseason finale against the Jets on Thursday will help ensure his place on the roster and allow him more time to prove his worth. -- Tim McManusWashington RedskinsThe Redskins have a few tough decisions when they get to the final 53-man roster, including both lines. For a while, it appeared that they would keep nine offensive linemen, but theres a chance now that theyll keep only eight, which would leave centers Austin Reiter and Josh LeRibeus competing for one spot. Also, for a while it seemed theyd keep seven defensive linemen, but now theres a chance that theyll keep only six. A lot depends on if the Redskins feel they can sneak rookies Matt Ioannidis and Anthony Lanier or first-year Corey Crawford onto the practice squad. Only one would likely make the roster. -- John KeimNFC NORTHChicago BearsHistory suggests coach John Fox will sit the bulk of his starters on Thursday and maybe veterans Zach Miller and Eddie Royal, who have not played a single preseason snap because of concussions. Oh, I dont know, Miller said when asked if he needs to play in the exhibition finale. Weve got to play football. Ive got be ready either way, whether its Thursday or Week 1. When that time comes, well be ready to play some football. This marks the 13th straight year in which the Bears and Browns face off in the final game of the preseason. Over that span, the series is tied at 6-6. -- Jeff DickersonDetroit LionsThere are a few roster spots still potentially up for grabs when the Lions face the Bills in the preseason finale. For whom is the game?most important? Pay attention to cornerback Alex Carter, defensive end Anthony Zettel, defensive tackles Stefan Charles, Caraun Reid and Gabe Wright, receivers Andre Roberts, Jace Billingsley and Jay Lee, and quarterback Jake Rudock. If one or two star?against the Bills, it could push them onto the initial 53-man roster. -- Michael RothsteinGreen Bay PackersJacob Schum essentially has a one-game audition to win the Packers punting job after he was claimed off waivers Tuesday. He joined the team in Green Bay on Wednesday in order to travel to Kansas City for Thursdays preseason finale. He will handle all the punting duties against the Chiefs after the Packers cut veteran Tim Masthay. -- Rob DemovskyMinnesota VikingsThe Vikings final preseason game will provide a final audition for their two healthy quarterbacks not named Shaun Hill. Joel Stave and Brad Sorensen should get plenty of playing time against the Los Angeles Rams, and though the Vikings figure to keep looking for a veteran quarterback, they might keep one of their other passers around if they see something they like on Thursday. Given the fact that Stave fumbled twice Sunday against the Chargers, there might be more intrigue with Sorensen, whod previously been with the Chargers and Titans and might have the arm strength to merit a longer look. -- Ben GoesslingNFC SOUTHAtlanta FalconsOne of the battles to watch in the Falcons fourth and final preseason game against the Jaguars is kicker, where veterans Matt Bryant and Shayne Graham are locked up. Bryant, the teams regular kicker since 2010, has struggled with?muscle tightness that has limited his action this preseason. But the 41-year-old seems to be healthy now, after some time in a hyperbaric chamber. Graham, who replaced an injured Bryant at the end of last season and was re-signed this preseason when undrafted rookie Nick Rose failed miserably in place of Bryant, is fresh off a 53-yard kick last week. If Bryant is healthy, expect him to be the guy. But you never know what the heat of competition will bring out in Graham on Thursday night. -- Vaughn McClureCarolina PanthersIt will be the Joe Webb Show on offense in Carolinas preseason finale against Pittsburgh. The staff wont risk quarterback?Cam Newton to injury, and backup Derek Anderson has missed all week of practice with soreness from too many shots last week against New England. Anderson would be the emergency QB if something were to happen to Webb. Several other players have volunteered, but coach Ron Rivera basically said they should stick to their day jobs. Rivera said seven positions for the 53-man roster are up for grabs. Keep an eye on running back Brandon Wegher. -- David NewtonNew Orleans SaintsSecond-year quarterback Garrett Grayson needs to leave the Saints with a strong lasting impression in Thursdays preseason finale against the Ravens. Grayson has thrown one touchdown?pass and four interceptions this preseason, and coach Sean Payton acknowledged last week that he would like to see him further along at this point. Grayson could be in danger of getting cut next week, and he is definitely in danger of being replaced by another young developmental QB?next spring. -- Mike TriplettTampa Bay BuccaneersIt was a sloppy preseason finale Wednesday in Tampa, with the Bucs playing in tropical storm conditions. In the first quarter alone, the Bucs had three fumbles because of a wet ball. Quarterback Mike Glennon fumbled rolling out and completely untouched. The worst of Tropical Storm Hermine is expected to come Thursday and Friday, but right now, it doesnt appear to impact the Bucs preparations for Week 1. When the team resumes practices, though, it might have to deal with very soggy field conditions. If things get bad enough, the Bucs could head to Tropicana Field to practice indoors, but the Tampa Bay Rays are home until Wednesday. -- Jenna LaineNFC WESTArizona CardinalsBetween injuries and veteran days off, the Cardinals depth chart at cornerback for Thursday nights preseason finale against the Broncos will be limited. If Justin Bethel doesnt play, Cariel Brooks will take his spot and have a prime opportunity to make his case for a spot on the roster. With one corner job belonging to Patrick Peterson and the other a battle between rookie Brandon Williams, Bethel, who has?had just five practices since he returned to training camp after a foot injury, and whoever else is healthy, Brooks is an unlikely candidate to steal a roster spot with a strong showing Thursday. But hell have to play shut-down ball and cause a turnover or two to secure a job. -- Josh WeinfussLos Angeles RamsThursdays preseason finale?at Minnesota?will be crucial for several players?on the bubble. That list features a handful of young receivers, including Bradley Marquez, Austin Hill, Paul McRoberts, Duke Williams and Mike Thomas. Young defensive players such as lineman Ian Seau and linebacker Josh Forrest could also benefit from strong showings. Said Rams coach Jeff Fisher: There are still a few players that have an opportunity to show us some things, as far as an opportunity to either make the [53-man roster] or practice-squad roster. -- Alden GonzalezSan Francisco 49ersThe 49ers traveled to San Diego on Wednesday in anticipation of Thursday nights preseason finale. San Diego is celebrating its 28th annual salute to the military night, and 49ers quarterback?Colin Kaepernick plans to continue his protest of racial oppression by sitting during the national anthem. The Chargers say they have no plans to beef up security, and ticket sales have not increased this week. The 49ers declined to say whether they have additional security plans, but they have traditionally been progressive on that front. For his part, Kaepernick said he isnt worried about it: At the end of the day, if something happens, thats only proving my point, Kaepernick said. -- Nick WagonerSeattle SeahawksAll eyes will be on running back Thomas Rawls when the Seahawks take on the Raiders in their preseason finale. Rawls (fractured ankle) has not had any game action since December, but coach Pete Carroll indicated Wednesday that the second-year back could see the field Thursday. Rawls practices with a unique intensity and has said he doesnt need preseason touches to get ready for the opener. Whether or not Rawls plays against the Raiders, Carroll said theres no question that he will be ready in Week 1, barring something unforeseen between now and then. -- Sheil KapadiaAFC EASTBuffalo BillsThe Bills will close out their preseason Thursday in Detroit. With the 53-man roster cut looming Saturday, this game will be important for players such as wide receiver Walter Powell, linebackers Randell Johnson and Bryson Albright, and safety Jonathan Meeks. At this point, the Bills have about 45 to 50 roster spots decided, but the last few roles remain up for grabs. -- Mike RodakMiami DolphinsAll eyes will be on the Dolphins rookies Thursday, when they host the Titans in the preseason finale. Second-round pick Xavien Howard and third-round pick Kenyan Drake will make their NFL debuts after suffering injuries this summer. First-round pick Laremy Tunsil also will get his final tune-up on the offensive line before the regular season. -- James WalkerNew England PatriotsPatriots quarterback?Tom Brady made the trip with the team for Thursdays preseason finale against the Giants. If he plays snaps at quarterback, it would mark the first time since 2011 that he did so in a preseason finale. Brady played one snap as a holder in the preseason finale in 2014, as that would have been his job in the regular season in the event of injury. -- Mike ReissNew York JetsThe Jets head into their final preseason game at the Eagles with quite a few roster spots up for grabs, coach Todd Bowles said. The most competitive positions are wide receiver and linebacker. Three rookie receivers are pushing for spots:?Charone Peake, Robby Anderson and Jalin Marshall. The stiff competition indicates that the Jets have better depth than in previous years. -- Rich CiminiAFC NORTHBaltimore RavensHistory says quarterback?Joe Flacco wont play Thursday at New Orleans, and neither will the rest of the starters. No one on the first-team offense or defense suited up in last years preseason finale. The last time Flacco played in the final preseason game