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Week 3 is the most critical week of preseason

A reminder that you’ll want to pay especially close attention to Thursday night’s tilt against the Miami Dolphins.

NFL: Preseason-Washington Redskins at Atlanta Falcons Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Whether your goal is to see the starters perform well before the regular season begins, gain more clarity into position battles, or simply brace yourself for a wave of cuts, Week 3 is the most critical game of the preseason for most NFL teams.

There’s a few simple reasons for that, and they are, in no particular order:

  • Generally, the starters get the entire first half of this game, if not a little more. It’s sort of the final tune-up for Falcons’ starters (or at least potential starters), because Week 4 ends up being the time when the 30 or so guys competing to avoid being one of the 22 players axed during final cuts get their longest opportunity. If you want to see Matt Ryan to Mohamed Sanu or Derrick Shelby getting legitimate snaps at defensive end and defensive tackle, this is the time to do so.
  • Because of that, too, you can get insight into what the Falcons are thinking at given positions by who they’re rolling out as starters. You may see a few surprising choices like De’Vondre Campbell (okay, that’s not terribly surprising) or Brian Poole at nickel cornerback as the Falcons attempt to give players with a legitimate shot at grabbing jobs the run they need to prove they deserve those jobs.
  • You’ll also get a sense of who is about to be off the roster, more than likely. The Falcons don’t have a ton of time to sit down and mull over their initial 15 roster cuts after this game, so playing time will help to tell the story, and there will probably be one or two players who mess up badly and wind up in that initial wave (at least partly) as a result.

With those cuts coming after the next game, you’ll want to be sure to watch how the Falcons play in Miami, especially with all the apprehension over the starters on both sides of the ball. Got any expectations you would care to share with us?