The end of the Lions' preseason comes Thursday night on the road against Buffalo, and some say it never can end soon enough.
Based on history, established starters will play sparingly – if at all – while some players will compete for starting jobs and roster spots.
What should we expect from the Lions in the preseason finale at Ralph Wilson Stadium?
Mike: First things first. What any team wants is to get through the final preseason game without any significant injuries. And that doesn't always happen. The Lions twice lost key players to injury in the final preseason game.
Starting running back James Stewart went down with a shoulder injury and missed all of the 2003 season. A broken leg kept backup quarterback Jeff Garcia out of the first five games in 2005.
Health and injuries aside, the key issues for the Lions are to settle starting positions at right guard and right tackle on the offensive line, to see if rookie Darius Slay holds the starting job at right cornerback, and to have someone clinch the return job.
What spots will you look at the hardest?
Tim: It would make me feel a little better if
You mentioned the competitions along the offensive line. I think
I still think it's
Mike: It wouldn't surprise me if both spots – right guard and right tackle – are in transition early in the season. I keep looking at rookie
Waddle needs to be more professional in his approach to the game, but he's one of the hidden gems in the rookie class who can elevate the value of the whole group if he contributes.
Tim: The Lions have been mum on what exactly is ailing Ansah, but if it's a concussion, which some have speculated, you have to worry a little bit. Those are sometimes hard to predict.
As far as the injuries to Johnson and Suh, I'm not too worried on that front. Johnson went through a whole pregame workout last week before the New England game, which included running routes. I think they're just being careful with the big guy and if it was the regular season he'd be playing.
Suh went through some individual drills Tuesday and it doesn't appear his injury is too significant, either. Like Johnson, if it was the regular season, he'd probably play.
They'll probably be careful with a player like punter
The starters on offense might get one series in Buffalo. Is there any concern with how that unit has played this preseason?
Bush will give the Lions a playmaker. He showed that on 67-yard gain on a screen pass. But the offensive line has to give him a chance to break big runs, and that didn't happen in the first three preseason games.
Don't look for it to happen against Buffalo, because he won't play long enough to break anything in the running game.
Not to keep harping on this point, but Burleson had enough playing time to have more than one catch.
On the other hand, one player who has turned things around is
Can he maintain it into the season? And if so, what does it mean?
Tim: Pettigrew said all the right things when I talked to him this offseason. He realized he didn't play well at times last year and needs to play better in 2013. He wanted to get back to concentrating on some of the fundamentals that were lacking in his game, like catching the football and quickly securing it to his body.
I think he's highly motivated to be better in 2013, and it's not just because this is a contract year for him.
This is the year we see if Pettigrew remains a 70-catch, 600-yard tight end he's been the last couple years (which isn't bad, by the way) or if he can be something more. Something special.
He wants to add the big play to his repertoire and we saw a little bit of that last week vs. the Patriots with a nice spin move in the open field to get a first down.
If he eliminates most of the mistakes, Pettigrew could have a monster year playing next to Calvin Johnson, Bush and
If he eliminates the mistakes that is.
Who are some of the players bordering the 53-man cut line who need big performances Thursday to help their cause?
Mike: You mean other than me trying to hang on for another year?
The most interesting decisions could be at wide receiver and tight end. Four tight ends could make the final cut instead of three, with the extra player coming from the receivers -- keeping four instead of five.
One big play -- or one big mistake -- could make the difference in who fills the slot as the return specialist. Backups at safety, cornerback and linebacker will be close calls.
Surviving the final cut to 53 at 6 p.m. Saturday doesn't guarantee anything, though. There will be players added by waiver claims, free agent signings or trades. The roster never stops churning.
Wide receiver is a position to pinpoint. I keep wondering if Braylon Edwards, the former Michigan star, will get a look from the Lions.
Tim: That's some grip you've got, Mike.
Thursday is an important game for a player like
It's also a big game for receiver Patrick Edwards and tight end
Both look like they could have roster spots right now, but what about Saturday when a lot of good players will flood the market? A good performance Thursday could go a long way to helping their status.
The NFL and the fans don't like the fourth preseason game. Look, I'm not terribly thrilled about it either. But it isn't meaningless. The Lions still have a couple starting spots at right tackle and right guard they have to figure out and plenty of backup jobs, too.
There is certainly something to be gained Thursday in Buffalo.