<span>Week 3 of the NFL preseason features seven national TV games, including two marquee contests to close it out.
On Sunday night (NBC, 7:00 PM CT), Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler will lead the Bears into Denver to face his former team. Cutler, who spent his first three seasons in the Mile High City, set team single-season records last year in passing yards (4,526), completions (384) and 300-yard passing games (eight). Last week, he completed eight of 13 passes (61.5 percent) for 121 yards and one touchdown.
"We're coming together as an offense," says Cutler. "We're not quite there yet but we're figuring it out."
For Denver, former Bears quarterback Kyle Orton , who is 21-12 (.636) as a starter in his career, will look to capitalize on his strong play last week against Seattle when he completed 18 of 26 passes (69.2 percent) for 182 yards and a touchdown.
"I've got a lot of confidence right now," says Orton. "This is the best offense I've ever played with and I feel that my game right now is as good as it has ever been."
Last week, Vikings quarterback Brett Favre made his debut in purple. This week, he will lead his new club into Houston's Reliant Stadium.
"Each day, things have gotten a little smoother," says Favre. "It's now just about football. Business as usual."
The game will feature two of the NFL's top running backs – Minnesota's Adrian Peterson and Houston's Steve Slaton.
Peterson has led the NFC in rushing in each of his first two seasons and the two-time All-Star has rushed for 3,101 yards, the fourth-highest total in NFL history for a player in his first two years.
"He can be one of the best backs ever," says Vikings running back coach Eric Bieniemy. "The sky's the limit for him."
Slaton set club rookie records last year with 1,282 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns. He also added 50 catches and was one of only two players with at least 1,200 rushing yards and 50 receptions.
"Steve has such a good burst, and when he sees something, he hits the hole hard," says Texans quarterback Matt Schaub. "You watch him and it's hard for the first guy to bring him down."
The other five national TV games in Week 3 of the NFL preseason:
MIAMI at TAMPA BAY (Thursday, FOX, 7:00 PM CT): Last season, rookie head coach Tony Sparano led the Dolphins to an 11-5 record and the team's first division title since 2000. This year, rookie head coach Raheem Morris hopes to bring similar success to the Buccaneers.
"I really enjoyed seeing our mental toughness," Morris said after the team's 24-23 victory over Jacksonville last week. "We have high expectations. We think we can be a pretty good football team."
Meanwhile, the Dolphins continue to roll as the team has started 2-0 this preseason. Miami defeated Carolina last week 27-17 and once again showcased the Wildcat offense."There are really no secrets there, but it gives us a chance to see what people have been studying during the offseason and how they want to defend this," says Sparano.
NEW ENGLAND at WASHINGTON (Friday, CBS, 7:00 PM CT): CBS kicks off its 50th year televising the NFL with this preseason matchup on Friday night.
Coming off an exciting 17-13 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, the Redskins will look to make it two wins in a row when they host the Patriots.
Stopping a New England offense that features quarterback Tom Brady is never easy, however.
"It's a challenge but we're going to come out with the same enthusiasm and try and make plays," says Redskins first-round draft choice Brian Orakpo.
INDIANAPOLIS at DETROIT (Saturday, NFLN, 12:00 PM CT): Two first-year head coaches will go head to head when Jim Caldwell and the Indianapolis Colts visit Jim Schwartz and the Detroit Lions. Saints fans, of course, may want to tune in to preview what the Saints' first opponent of the regular season will look like when the Lions hit the field under their new regime.
The game will also feature two quarterbacks drafted No. 1 overall: Colts Pro Bowl and New Orleanian QB Peyton Manning (1998) and Lions rookie QB Matthew Stafford (2009).
"I think the Lions should throw Stafford in there right away because I'm waiting for somebody to break that NFL rookie record for interceptions I set back in 1998," jokes Manning.
NEW ORLEANS at OAKLAND (Saturday, NFLN, 3:00 PM CT): Saints All-Star quarterback Drew Brees passed for 5,069 yards last year, the second-highest total in NFL history, and led an offensive attack that ranked first in the league, averaging 410.7 yards per game. This Saturday, Brees and the Saints will travel to Oakland to face the Raiders and quarterback JaMarcus Russell.
Russell, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, completed seven of 11 passes (63.6 percent) for 76 yards and a touchdown last week.
"I feel like Russell has improved," says Raiders first-year head coach Tom Cable. "At this point, he's the quarterback of the Oakland Raiders."
SAN DIEGO at ATLANTA (Saturday, CBS, 7:00 PM CT): Falcons Pro Bowl running back Michael Turner will face his former team in primetime on Saturday night.
A former fifth-round selection by the Chargers (2004), Turner finished second in the NFL with 1,699 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns in his first season with Atlanta. He rushed for 65 yards on seven carries and scored a touchdown last week against St. Louis.
"We wanted to come out and execute," says Turner. "The coaches were preaching that all week and we wanted to show that on game day."
In the opposing backfield for San Diego is Turner's former teammate LaDainian Tomlinson, who rushed for 1,110 yards and recorded 52 receptions last season. The veteran running back has seen action in both of the team's preseason games.
"It's been good to get in there and start getting a rhythm," says Tomlinson. "I've felt good."
DID YOU KNOW???
WINNING IS A HABIT: Over the past five seasons, 45 of the 60 clubs (75 percent) to make the postseason had a .500 or better record in the preseason. That's an average of nine teams (out of 12) per season.