Friday night's nationally televised preseason game between the Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders will mark the 21st time in 22 years that the Packers have played at least one exhibition contest on a national network.
The game will be broadcast on CBS at 7:00 p.m. CDT.
The 65th annual Upper Midwest Shrine Game will also feature homecomings for Charles Woodson, James Jones and C.J. Wilson, former Packers who will make their return to Green Bay for the first time since leaving the club in recent seasons.
Here's a few questions to think about before the third and most important game on the preseason schedule:
Which OLBs Will Make a Statement?
No position on the roster is more undecided than the outside linebackers. Nine players are vying for likely six jobs. Four roster spots look locked up. Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews, Nick Perry and Mike Neal will see a bunch of snaps Friday night, but the few given to the remaining five outside linebackers will be important. Can Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer hold on to third-string jobs? Will Jayrone Elliott continue his push toward a roster spot? Will Carl Bradford finally show signs of life? Another preseason game is another opportunity to show something to the staff. Tough decisions lie ahead.
Can the First-Team Defense Continuing Stuffing the Run?
The No. 1 defense has quietly fit the run well during two preseason games. All 11 players have swarmed to the football, and most run plays have seen at least one free hat—usually A.J. Hawk or Brad Jones—bee-lining to the ball-carrier. Another test lies ahead. The Raiders averaged 4.6 yards per rush and finished 12th in the NFL in total rushing yards (2,000) in 2013. This offseason, Oakland added workhorse running back Maurice Jones-Drew, and Darren McFadden is—for the moment—healthy. The Packers defense should expect a heavy dose of run plays early Friday night. Another strong performance will give the unit more confidence ahead of the test awaiting Green Bay in Seattle on Sept. 4.
Will We See More of the No Huddle?
The Packers were devastatingly efficient running the no-huddle in St. Louis. On a fast track, and against a defense missing five primary starters, Aaron Rodgers and the starting offense had their way. I's clear Mike McCarthy wants the offense running at a higher pace this season. Friday presents another chance for the Packers to run circles around an opponent. The Raiders defense has come out flat in each preseason game so far this August, with Matt Cassel and the Vikings scoring on their first possession of the opener and Matthew Stafford and the Lions finding the end zone on back-to-back series to open the game last Friday. Maybe the Packers will get a more motivated Oakland defense. Or maybe Green Bay will embarrass an old, struggling unit. Either way, expect the Packers offense to continue playing fast.
Can Jeff Janis Lock Up His Roster Spot?
It took just one preseason game for seventh-round rookie Jeff Janis to make a splash. His undeniable speed helped him turn a short throw into a 34-yard touchdown during the second half against the Rams. Now, Janis looks like a near-lock for the 53-man roster. His upside appears much higher than any other receiver vying for the No. 5 job, and he even showed an ability to return punts in St. Louis. While the Packers probably can't get Janis through waivers and onto the practice squad, he still needs to earn his roster spot over the final two preseason games. If he makes a couple plays, and avoids any bone-headed mistakes, it appears likely Janis will be with the Packers for Week 1.
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