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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 1:00 AM

We know.

You all just can't wait for the start of the NFL Regular Season and - sure enough - it'll be here before long when the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens play at the Denver Broncos on the evening of Thursday, September 5th.

At least we're heading into the best preseason week of 'em all - yes, the so-called "dress rehearsal games" of Preseason Week 3 -- and so lots of starters going here and lots of teams are really attempting to iron out all their various wrinkles.

We'll get to the Thursday/Friday previews in just a moment but first we will say this: The Preseason has not been overly kind to teams such as the St. Louis Rams and the Dallas Cowboys - both NFC "contenders" were hoping to show more offense than they have and you wonder here in Preseason Week 3 whether or not they go to the proverbial whip a bit this weekend in their respective games at Denver and against Cincinnati.

On the flip side, it's been a pretty positive summer so far for the likes of the Cleveland Browns, Seattle Seahawks and the aforementioned Cincy Bengals.
Okay, so these clubs are indeed a combined 6-and-oh SU (straightup) this Preseason but better yet they have clicked in many areas and who's been better this summer than, let's say, Browns' second-year QB Brandon Weeden?

In case you had not noticed, Weeden so far this Preseason has completed 18-of-25 passing attempts for 229 yards with 3 TDs. Nice!
Obviously, you never know whether or not strong preseason play translates into the all-important regular season but wouldn't you rather be feeling good about your favorite team right now than worrying that there are a whole lotta holes to plug?

Okay, before we get to the Thursday/Friday NFL Preseason Week 3 Previews, here's some loose ends to tie up:

NFL Preseason Betting Favorites enter this week/weekend's games at 17-15-1 ATS (against the spread) for a .531 winning rate and note the NFL chalk-eaters come off a solid 10-5-1 ATS Preseason Week 2.

Note that "over" players are 20-13 ATS so far this NFL Preseason - that's a .606 winning rate - and keep in mind last week the overs/unders split right down the middle at eight wins apiece.

Finally - for what it's worth -- here are your NFL teams that are unbeaten spreadwise (all at 2-0 ATS) while heading into this week's action:

Arizona, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Houston, New England, New Orleans, Seattle and Washington all enter NFL Preseason Week 3 with 2-and-oh spread marks this summertime.

For the record, the NFL teams that are 0-2 spreadwise this Preseason include the following: Chicago, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Tennessee.


On Thursday night, it's ...

NEW ENGLAND (2-0) at DETROIT (1-1) - 7:30 p.m. ET
Okay, so on the field the N'England Patriots have been a smooth-sailing ship so far with exhibition wins against Philadelphia and Tampa Bay but between the Aaron Hernandez alleged murder case, the lingering back/forearm injuries to TE Rob Gronkowski (now they're saying a Week 3 target date is reasonable for "Gronk"), the QB Tom Brady knee scare in a scrimmage against Tampa Bay last week and now the latest - WR Danny Amendola with some apparent head-related injury - it's been rather a tough go for Bill Belichick's crew.

Still, the Pats will look to sharpen their teeth here at Ford Field and we'll expect Brady to play a half - and no more - while the AFC East favorites attempt to escape without any more key injuries.

The flip side is a whole different story:

The Lions - who last week did sit WR Calvin Johnson (knee) in that dreadful 24-6 Thursday night loss in Cleveland - must show their fans some life here as the first-team offense has not scored a touchdown in two preseason games and so expect under-the-microscope head coach Jim Schwartz to play QB Matthew Stafford, the aforementioned Johnson and most of his offensive starters for three quarters or so here.

P.S., it's getting to be high time for the Lions to cease-and-desist with all these dopey personal penalties - DT Ndamukong Suh committed a roughing-the-passer penalty last week and he doesn't look like he's changed his evil ways.

CAROLINA (1-1) at BALTIMORE (2-0) - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

The criticisms of Carolina QB Cam Newton are growing ... but when exactly do his wide receivers (save for Steve Smith) ever bail him out?

In last week's 14-9 punch-less loss in Philadelphia, admittedly Newton wasn't great (see 8-of-17 passing for 112 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs) but WR Brandon LaFell caught just one pass worth 16 yards (he was targeted three times) and he's supposed to be the team's second-best pass-catcher.

Through the first two Preseason games, Newton is only 11-of-23 for 128 yards with one TD and one pick - not great, for sure - but keep an eye on the Panthers' wide receiving corps here because if the other guys not named Smith can't come through, it won't only be a long night here but likely a long year for this NFC South club.

Quickie note on the Ravens: They have their own questions when it comes to a name pass receiver as WR Jacoby Jones caught just one pass in last week's 27-23 come-from-behind win against Atlanta.

The former Dancing With the Stars contestant is being counted on to step up his game now that WR Anquan Boldin plays in San Francisco - so let's see if the QB Joe Flacco-to-Jones combo hits any "home runs" here.

On Friday night, it's ...

SEATTLE (2-0) at GREEN BAY (1-1) - 8 p.m. ET, CBS
Perhaps you've checked out those NFL win-it-all odds: Right now the Seattle Seahawks - at 7-to-1 - are one of the league favorites ... and why not?

Pete Carroll's club - fresh off a 31-10 win in San Diego in Preseason Week 1 action and then a 40-10 home win against Denver last Saturday night - is truly loaded and keep in mind last weekend the Seahawks scored a pair of non-offensive touchdowns as Jermaine Kearse returned a kickoff 107 yards for a score and DB Brandon Browner roared 106 yards on a fumble bring-back for a score.

Seattle QB Russell Wilson last weekend completed 8-of-12 passes for 127 yards with two TDs but here he better avoid throwing in the general direction of DT Johnny Jolly who last week deflected one ball that was intercepted and picked off a pass in the end zone errantly thrown by St. Loo QB Kellen Clemens.
Speaking of quarterbacks, note that Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers missed Tuesday's practice with what was called a "sight illness" that has been going around the team. Rodgers is expected to play here but look for him to be limited to just a half and likely no more.

CHICAGO (1-1) at OAKLAND (1-1) - 10 p.m. ET
The word out of Bears camp is that QB Jay Cutler is expected to play into the third quarter of this Preseason Week 3 tilt but the $64,000 question is will he be throwing the ball to anyone but WR Brandon Marshall?

In last week's 33-28 non-cover win against 5 ½-point pup San Diego, there was Cutler rearing back and throwing all five of his passes to Marshall (he completed four of 'em for 38 yards with one TD and 1 INT) and pretty much "ignoring" the likes of WR Alshon Jeffery but expect that to change here in this under-the-lights clash in Oakland.

Cutler informed the media folks that he still "trusts" Jeffery even though a review of the stats shows last year Marshall caught 41.1 percent of Chicago passes - the single-highest rate in the NFL.

If you're looking for a Raiders' storyline here, then check out RB Darren McFadden who has been dealing with a recent shoulder injury. McFadden is expected to see action here against the Bears - note he rushed the ball five times for just 17 yards in last week's 28-20 loss in New Orleans -- and there are more than a few folks with the Raiders who believe McFadden has either lost a step or simply may not play well while dealing with nagging injuries.

NOTE: More NFL Preseason Week 3 Previews in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez plus we'll continue to point towards the College Football Season that swings into gear on Thursday, August 29th.

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