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What to watch for in Week 4 of NFL preseason

The last week of August means it's the final chance for players to prove their 53-man roster worthiness. After a month of grueling training camps and prove-it preseason games, hundreds of players will have their NFL futures determined by how well they play over the next 60 minutes.

Week 4 ultimately determines if a player's penciled-in name on the roster is traced over in Sharpie or mercilessly erased from the ledger. With so much at stake, perhaps it's time to look at Week 4 as much more than the ugly stepchild of the preseason -- it's the ultimate game of survivor. Sure, some of the players who get cut before Saturday's 4 p.m. ET deadline will end up on practice squads, but who wants that?

With the start of the regular season a week away, all 32 teams wrap up the preseason Thursday night -- and two games will be live on NFL Network. Get the latest preseason news, updates and highlights with NFL Mobile. All times below are Eastern.

Cleveland Browns at Detroit Lions, 7 p.m. (NFL Network)

Browns (2-1): Baker Mayfield will make his first NFL start after Browns coach Hue Jackson said only a handful of the ones will play. That means no Tyrod Taylor, who Jackson reiterated for about the millionth time this week is the Browns' Week 1 starting quarterback. It's unclear whether No. 4 overall pick Denzel Ward will play after he was plagued by back spasms after getting twisted around on a tackle. Offensive tackle Shon Coleman, who has lost some playing time to rookie Desmond Harrison, could be playing for his 53-man roster life. Cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon and wide receiver Jeff Janis are on the roster bubble after underwhelming preseason performances. Veteran tight end Seth DeValve is in danger of losing his roster spot to Hard Knocks hero Devon Cajuste.

Lions (1-2):Quarterbacks Jake Rudock and Matt Cassel are both expected to see playing time, and Rudock is in danger of potentially getting chopped this week if his string of subpar performances continue. The curious case of Ameer Abdullah will be one to watch. The running back has performed well this preseason, but is it enough for general manager Bob Quinn to keep him around? For his part, Abdullah knows it's past the point where he can still control his future. Running back Zach Zenner also is in danger of not making the team. Brandon Powell's preseason catching prowess and ferocious special teams play might make him a lock for the No. 5 receiver spot over Jace Billingsley unless something drastically changes this week.

Dolphins (0-3): Adam Gase doesn't mask disappointment well, and the Dolphins coach needs either David Fales or Brock Osweiler show a glimmer of something special this week. Neither one has emerged as a favorite in the quest to back up Ryan Tannehill, and Week 4 will go a long way in determining who jumps into the boat and who gets cast out to sea. Seventh-round pick Jason Sanders is on pace to beat out fellow rookie Greg Joseph for the kicking job, and strong play from tight ends Mike Gesicki and MarQueis Gray means A.J. Derby is in danger of getting cut. Keep an eye on the No. 3 cornerback battle between Tony Lippett, Torry McTyer and Cordrea Tankersley. Isaac Asiata, a fifth-round pick by the Dolphins last year, needs to convince Gase he adds reliable depth at offensive guard.

Falcons (0-3): Get ready for a heaping helping of Atlanta Special Reserve since coach Dan Quinn doesn't plan to play any starters in this one. Marvin Hall, Dontez Byrd and Reggie Davis are battling for a roster spot in a crowded wide receivers room and veteran linebacker Kemal Ishmael needs a strong game to prove he's more than just potential practice squad material. Blidi Wreh-Wilson's interception against the Jaguars last week might have helped his chances of winning the fifth spot on the cornerback depth chart, but another good game against the Dolphins would definitely help the cause. At this stage, don't expect quarterbacks Kurt Benkert and Garrett Grayson to make the 53-man cut.

Jets (1-2): With the JetstradingTeddy Bridgewater to the New Orleans Saints on Wednesday in exchange for a third-round pick, be prepared to see plenty of John Wolford at quarterback this week. The Jets signed Walford on Sunday and he was expected to see a good portion of playing time even before the Bridgewater trade. It's unclear if anyone else will play at QB with Sam Darnold's ascencion to Week 1 and Josh McCown entrenched as the backup. Former third-round pick Lorenzo Mauldin, who missed all of 2017 with a back injury, faces the chopping block after younger contemporaries at linebacker moved ahead of him in the roster race. Tight end Clive Walford likely needs to have a better game than Neal Sterling to improve his roster chances. A lack of catches for Chad Hansen, Charone Peake and Tre McBride have them channeling their inner Kenny Loggins as they Jet into the danger zone.

Eagles (0-3):Nick Foles' rhythm-lacking, gaffe-prone performance against the Browns was disconcerting for anyone believing the Super Bowl MVP could keep the offense running smoothly until Carson Wentz's return. With Foles not playing against the Jets, it provides a last-ditch opportunity for Nate Sudfeld to prove something. He won't overtake Foles on the depth chart, but a strong performance could go a long way in shortening the leash on Foles if he starts Week 1. Former top-10 draft pick Chance Warmack has struggled this preseason, and there's a chance Howie Roseman could release him if he can't facilitate a trade. A nagging hamstring injury has kept wide receiver Markus Wheaton sidelined this preseason and it could jeopardize his roster spot. It remains to be seen whether or not he'll play. Veteran Kamar Aiken's roster status also looks in peril and will hulking Australian rugby player-turned-offensive lineman Jordan Mailata make the team as a reserve or is he destined for the practice squad?

Patriots (2-1):Jason McCourty's uneven play at cornerback has endangered his roster spot in the wake of promising performances from second-round pick Duke Dawson and undrafted rookie J.C. Jackson. Mike Gillislee looks to be the odd man out in a crowded running back room unless he puts up an incredible effort to somehow overtake Jeremy Hill on the depth chart. Brandon Bolden also could have a hard time staying on the roster beyond Saturday. A solid camp and preseason from Nicholas Grigsby could cost linebacker Marquis Flowers his job unless he's considered too vital a cog on special teams. Another player to watch will be Cyrus Jones. The 2016 second-round pick is trying to earn his spot on the roster as a punt and kick returner coming off a torn ACL. Coach Bill Belichick was happy to see him on the field against Carolina, but it remains to be seen if he can crack the roster.

Giants (2-1): General manager Dave Gettleman's decision to sign Jonathan Stewart in March sparked certain levels of bewilderment in parts of the Big Blue kingdom, and his preseason performances have been ugly. That puts him on the bubble unless coach Pat Shurmur believes the veteran can assist in Saquon Barkley's development. How much playing time Stewart gets Thursday remains to be seen. If Stewart stays, that could damage Robert Martin and Jhurell Pressley's chances of making the team. Hunter Sharp is in danger of not making the cut at wide receiver despite a 55-yard punt return last week. A dropped pass later in the game underlined his consistency struggles. Darian Thompson is another player on the edge of the roster. Thompson started 16 games last year, but a hamstring injury has allowed Curtis Riley to potentially take over his free safety role.

Colts (2-1): Despite joining the Colts near the end of training camp and not playing since 2016 because of injury, Ryan Delaire has been one of Indy's bright spots and should be a roster lock-in at this point. Delaire's addition coupled with Indy's strong front-seven play this preseason could mean that 2017 fourth-round draft pick Grover Stewart is in danger of being cut this weekend barring a strong outing Thursday. On offense, no big names are under threat of being cut, but will we finally see some life from the stillborn running game? With Marlon Mack potentially in danger of missing Week 1, Jordan Wilkins, Nyheim Hines and Christine Michael need to show something this week against a tough Bengals defensive line. Erik Swoope needs to have a decent game if he wants to ensure a place ahead of Darrell Daniels on the tight end depth chart.

Bengals (3-0): Cincinnati's front office has been on a veteran cutting spree over the last month, parting ways with Brandon LaFell, George Iloka and Chris Baker. Is Michael Johnson next? Rookie Sam Hubbard and second-year defensive end Jordan Willis have had strong preseasons that could make Johnson expendable with the depth the Bengals have flashed on the D-line this preseason. How much playing time Johnson gets this week could indicate if his job really is in peril. Watch for rookie safety Trayvon Henderson and cornerback Tony McRae to make an impact this week as they try to secure roster spots in the secondary. Jeff Driskel seems destined for the No. 2 QB job unless Matt Barkley does something incredible.

Redskins (1-2):Adrian Peterson's strong debut last week bolstered sunnier prognostications about Washington's running game. How much Peterson will play Thursday might go a long way in determining whether coach Jay Gruden sees him the favorite for the starting job come Week 1. Chris Thompson remains a roster lock with Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine battling for the No. 3 job. Kapri Bibbs is in danger of not making the team. Another position battle to watch will be at linebacker. Zach Vigil has flashed promise, at times, in the preseason and could make the team with a strong showing in the preseason finale. Martrell Spaight and Josh Harvey-Clemons also are battling for reserve jobs with Shaun Dion Hamilton injured.

Ravens (4-0):Breshad Perriman leads the team in preseason receptions and yards, but will that be enough to convince coach John Harbaugh he deserves another chance? Working against Perriman are two factors: his history of injuries and drops in combination with promising performances by rookie receivers Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley. If the two young receivers can stand out in Week 4, Perriman's Baltimore stint could be nevermore. Robert Griffin III has had a solid preseason, but will that be enough for the Ravens to keep him on the roster? In his first game against the team that traded a king's ransom six years ago in order to draft him, Griffin will try to give Baltimore a reason for keeping three QBs on the roster.

Jaguars (2-1):Marqise Lee's season-ending knee injury has opened the door to Jaydon Mickens making the roster, provided he can beat out Rashad Green and Shane Wynn in what appears to be the battle for the final receiver spot. Stay on the look out for second-year defensive end Dawuane Smoot -- if he plays. Smoot is recovering from an ankle injury, and the 2017 third-round pick desperately needs to make an impression. First-round pick Taven Bryan's has put more pressure on the defensive line reserves. Eli Ankou, Michael Bennett and Lyndon Johnson will each be looking to catch their coaches' attention -- in a good way -- against Tampa Bay.

Buccaneers (2-1):Caleb Benenoch is in line to take to claim a starting spot at guard, but third-round pick Alex Cappa could beat out the veteran depending on how well he executes in front of Ryan Griffin on Thursday. Vernon Hargreaves is poised to enter the season at No. 2 on the cornerback depth chart, but second-round picks Carlton Davis and M.J. Stewart have looked competitive in the preseason and could challenge Hargreaves for playing time once the regular season begins. Freddie Martino scored a nice touchdown last week against the Bucs, but he'll need a strong performance against the Jaguars to steal the No. 5 wide receiver spot from fifth-round pick Justin Watson. Undrafted rookie Shaun Wilson figures to see his share of carries as he tries to lock up the final running back job.

Panthers (3-0): The Panthers' depth at running back could doom Kenjon Barner's Carolina reunion. The veteran hasn't done much in limited preseason action, but there's a chance he could keep the job ahead of Elijah Hood. Another player riding the roster bubble is Damiere Byrd, whose usefulness in returning punts is being overshadowed by DJ Moore's prowess in the same discipline. Christian McCaffrey's versatility also is hurting Byrd's roster chances, and Thursday's game might be the last chance he gets to show the Panthers what he can do. Veteran wide receiver Torrey Smith also has struggled, but his place looks more secure. Taylor Heinicke, who joined Carolina with prior experience working alongside offensive coordinator Norv Turner, seems to be ahead of Garrett Gilbert in the backup quarterback race, but that could still change.

Steelers (2-1): Expect to see a good helping of Joshua Dobbs and Mason Rudolph as the Steelers toy with the possibility of starting the season with four quarterbacks on the roster. Ideally, it would seem that general manager Kevin Colbert would like to pull off a trade for Dobbs. The 2017 fourth-round pick has put in decent performances this preseason -- and there are teams out there who could see him as backup material. Rudolph will stay entrenched as the No. 3 QB behind Landry Jones. Jaylen Samuels should see a fair amount of work as he looks to stay ahead of Stevan Ridley and Fitzgerald Toussaint on the running back depth chart. Keion Adams has flashed his skill and power at linebacker now that he's healthy, and that could keep Ola Adeniyi off the roster, despite his promising preseason.

Rams (2-1): Get ready for a big dose of Brandon Allen and Luis Perez at quarterback even though both are longshots to make the team. The focus on offense should be on the running game as Justin Davis does everything he can to try to secure a roster spot. John Kelly has outperformed him most of the preseason, but a big game Thursday could save him from practice squad purgatory. Speaking of bubble players, receivers Steven Mitchell, KhaDarel Hodge, Mike Thomas and Fred Brown all are battling for a roster spot and it's anyone's guess who or how many will make it. Despite the Rams' depth at corner, veteran Sam Shields should be lock-in for a job and kicker Greg Zuerlein shouldn't need to worry about Sam Ficken.

Saints (2-1): The battle for Mark Ingram's suspension fill-in has more or less been decided by Jonathan Williams' strong preseason, but it also exposed Shane Vereen as the weakest link in the running back room. The veteran has struggled all preseason and probably will be cut this week. Defensive end Hau'oli Kikaha also has struggled to be a consistent threat off the edge in reserve work and will be playing for his Saints life this week. Teddy Bridgewater's addition to the team jeopardizes Tom Savage's spot on the roster. Quarterbacks J.T. Barrett or Taysom Hill could be heading to the practice squad. Wide receiver Austin Carr had a decent game against the Chargers, but he'll need to do better against the Rams to likely have a chance of staying on the roster.

Bills (1-2):Josh Allen's first preseason start last week is something Bills fans would like to forget and it's unclear whether he'll start against the Bears. He should see playing time as should AJ McCarron, who sat out last week because of a sore shoulder. Nathan Peterman seems to be in line for the starting job based on last week's events, but that doesn't mean he'll get Week 4 off. Hopefully, coach Sean McDermott will provide some clarity soon even if all three seem in line to make the roster. Someone who's in danger of not making the roster is Corey Coleman, who the Bills acquired earlier this month in a trade with the Browns. The former first-round pick's $3.5 million in guaranteed money could keep him in Buffalo this season.

Bears (2-2):Josh Bellamy could use a decent showing in the preseason finale to enhance his chances of making the roster. The wide receiver has had a relatively quiet preseason and has been outplayed by second-round pick Anthony Miller and Kevin White. Week 4 also should provide more clarity on who secures reserve spots at linebacker and in the secondary. Kasim Edebali has had a decent preseason and Isaiah Irving is on the bubble, too. At cornerback, Sherrick McManis and Marcus Cooper should see good amounts of playing time to prove their roster worthiness and Deon Bush is in the danger zone. Tyler Bray has one more chance to convince coach Matt Nagy he should keep three QBs on the roster. Nagy said first-round pick Roquan Smith is unlikely to play.

Vikings (2-1): The big position battles center on the wide receiver and running back positions. Chad Beebe and Stacy Coley are likely roster candidates at this point unless Brandon Zylstra or Tavarres King overshadow them with impressive performances. Kendall Wright hasn't shown much in the preseason and he could be a surprise cut if coach Mike Zimmer wants to embrace a youth movement in his passing and kick return games. Minnesota's signing of George Iloka jeopardizes seventh-round pick Jayron Kearse's chances of making the team. A big performance from Holton Hill this week could earn him a roster spot in the secondary, but he has plenty of competition. Running backs Mike Boone, Roc Thomas and Mack Brown will get one last chance to prove which of them is worthy of backing up Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray.

Titans (0-3): Will Robert Spillane make the roster? The linebacker had a strong game last week against the Steelers, tallying an interception, but he could still be the odd man out. Another strong showing this week could help prevent him from becoming practice squad material. It might be too late for veteran defensive back Kendrick Lewis to make the team, though. Lewis has struggled to stand out in a Titans backfield that could use a veteran reserve like Lewis in the wake of Johnathan Cyprien's torn ACL. Tennessee's depth on the defensive line is an ongoing issue. Matt Dickerson and Mike Ramsay will need to show more if they want to ensure they'll remain on the team beyond this week.

Cowboys (0-3): The Cowboys' depth on the defensive line could doom Kony Ealy's roster hopes. With Randy Gregory looking impressive in his first on-field action in years, Ealy's future with the team seems to be in jeopardy. The injured Datone Jones also could be a cut deadline casualty. Once again, tight end Rico Gathers faces a tall task in making the 53-man roster with Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz looking stronger overall in the preseason.The wide receiver corps looks set -- unless the team decides to add a seventh wideout in Lance Lenoir. Cooper Rush hasn't replicated his impressive preseason performances from last year, so there's a very good chance the Cowboys keep Mike White around unless Rush does represents the Star very well Thursday.

Texans (2-1): The re-education of Braxton Miller from quarterback to wide receiver has been bumpy outside of a decent performance against a star-less Rams defense. Another strong performance this week should convince coach Bill O'Brien to find a roster spot for the athletic Miller ahead of Sammie Coates and Vyncint Smith. Keep an eye on rookie tight ends Jordan Akins and Jordan Thomas as they try to stake a claim on the roster. Houston's depth at safety could complicate Corey Moore and Kurtis Drummond's chances of staying with the team, too. And what is this? Shane Lechler has a challenger? Rookie Trevor Daniel has performed well, but he'll need the 42-year-old punter to stumble in order to get the job.

Packers (2-1):DeShone Kizer has won the backup QB battle. With the PackerstradingBrett Hundley to Seattle, Kizer takes the honor to backup Aaron Rodgers by default. Kizer and Hundley both have had shaky preseasons, and Kizer will want to reward general manager Brian Gutekunst's faith in him with a solid showing this week. Outside of the QB situation, fourth-year safety Quinten Rollins and cornerback Davon House could be cut candidates with the injection of talent Green Bay has added to its secondary in the form of rookies Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson.

Chiefs (1-2): How the Chiefs' linebackers perform against a sub-par reserve offensive line for the Packers could determine if veteran Frank Zombo and Tyrone Holmes make the team. Zombo is in danger of getting cut unless his value on special teams prevents coach Andy Reid from turning him loose. Tanoh Kpassagnon and Breeland Speaks have each performed well in the preseason so far and could challenge veteran Dee Ford for snaps beyond Week 4. Orlando Scandrick could help a cornerback group reeling from Daniel Sorensen's leg injury and David Amerson's ongoing struggles in coverage. Kansas City will need a hero to emerge at safety if Eric Berry's problematic heel continues to be a nuisance.

Denver Broncos at Arizona Cardinals, 10 p.m. (NFL Network)

Broncos (1-2): This could be the final game of Paxton Lynch's career with the Broncos unless he can buck the trend of what's been a disappointing two-plus seasons in Denver. After losing his backup job to Chad Kelly, there's little reason for general manager John Elway to keep him around. Phillip Lindsay and De'Angelo Henderson have both performed well, but will the Broncos keep both of them at running back? Lindsey's special teams abilities could give him the advantage, but Henderson has one more week to show off his talents. The crowded receiver room has River Cracraft and John Diarse fighting to prove they belong on the team. Former Bengals corner Adam Jones, who signed with the team Monday, could make his Broncos debut returning kicks and punts.

Cardinals (3-0): Rookie quarterback Josh Rosen will not play against the Broncos, a team source told NFL Network's Steve Wyche. Rosen was sidelined last week with a sore hand, but has been practicing during the past week. With Rosen sitting, Mike Glennon, the presumed No. 3 QB, will likely start. Veteran wide receivers Brice Butler and Greg Little have underperformed this preseason and could be falling down the depth chart with young receivers Christian Kirk and Chad Williams playing better. J.J. Nelson is another wideout who has hardly made an impact this month. Arthur Moats' sprained MCL could mean a roster spot for Jacquies Smith on the heels of a strong Week 3 performance by the veteran defensive end.

Chargers (1-2): Unless he can pull off the biggest comeback of his career, Cardale Jones likely is heading to the open market with Geno Smith poised to be Philip Rivers' backup. Jones has struggled and will need to piece together a decent performance this week in order to boost his profile with other teams. What about the kicking duel? Roberto Aguayo could be on the verge of beating Caleb Sturgis for the kicking job. With lots of reserve and practice players on the field, coach Anthony Lynn should know by Thursday night who his Week 1 kicker will be. Travis Benjamin hasn't caught a pass in the preseason yet and, with the team's depth at wide receiver, there's an outside chance he could be cut with Artavis Scott and Geremy Davis showing plenty of potential.

Niners (1-2): Coach Kyle Shanahan plans to play a few starters, and one of the potential starters he plans to test is Joshua Garnett. The offensive guard impressed Shanahan last week against the Colts, and he's trying to beat out Mike Person for a starting job. Until last week, Garnett was considered a bubble player -- a designation that seems to be temporarily lifted pending the outcome of his performance Thursday. Quarterback C.J. Beathard, who struggled in the first two preseason games, is set to start with rookie Jack Heneghan slated to play the second half. Rookie cornerback Tarvarus McFadden has shown promise in camp and the preseason, but the 49ers' depth at the position could keep him off the 53-man roster.

Raiders (2-1): Coach Jon Gruden isn't happy about his backup quarterback situation, and he might have to wait until after Saturday's roster deadline to see if there are more attractive options available in the open market. In the meantime, Connor Cook and EJ Manuel will try to make amends against a young Seahawks defense. Chris Warren's strong preseason has put pressure on the Oakland's running back depth chart with DeAndre Washington being the most likely candidate to be cut. On defense, second-year linebacker Marquel Lee's terrific preseason has threatened Derrick Johnson's roster spot. James Cowser also has had a very strong preseason showing in his bid for increased snaps.

Seahawks (0-3): Despite that one really fantastic catch, wide receiver Brandon Marshall continues to face the possibility of being cut. A strong performance Thursday could change that narrative, but he'll have plenty of younger competition in front of him. Another player to watch this week is receiver Keenan Reynolds. The former sixth-round pick has yet to catch on with an NFL team and he tries to prove he's an NFL-caliber player. Erik Walden, who the Seahawks signed two weeks ago to bolster their pass-rushing depth, could be on the bubble as he tries to beat out sixth-round pick Jake Martin. If he can replicate the two-sack performance he had last week against the Vikings, Walden's place on the Seahawks should be secure.

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