This is it.
The last, final preseason game. The next game preview will involve an actual, real, meaningful NFL Bears game involving starting players*.
* - How many starting Bears players will actually play is still very much in the air.
As for Thursday’s game, it will involve two 0-3 teams.
Let’s meet the Cleveland Browns:
Last season: 3-13 and last in the AFC North
Last week: 30-13 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Robert Griffin III threw a TD to Josh Gordon, who made his preseason debut and had 87 yards.
Last time we met (Regular season): 38-31 win by the Bears in Week 15 of the 2013 season. Ah yes, before the Marc Trestman Era went right to hell. Matt Forte had 127 yards rushing, Jay Cutler three TDs, including one each to Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall. Zachary Bowman picked off Jason Campbell twice. That box score makes the game feel like ancient history.
Last year in the preseason finale the Bears defeated the Browns 24-0. David Fales threw TDs to Marc Mariani and Ify Umodu. Sherrod Martin returned an INT for a touchdown and the route was on.
All-time the Bears are 6-9 against Cleveland.
Offense: The Browns, believe it or not, intend to play their starters coach Hue Jackson said Monday. So expect to see RGIII, Josh Gordon, Terrelle Pryor and Gary Barnidge at least for a little while.
The Browns finished last season 25th in offensive yards and 30th in points. They are 31st and 30th in those categories in the preseason.
RGIII likes to go deep, as evidenced by Pryor’s 24.4 YPR and Gordon’s 43.5 YPR (Pryor has caught five passes to Gordon’s two).
Defense: The Browns finished last season ranked 27th in yards allowed and 29th in points per game allowed. Hardly a star-studded defense, they have Justin Gilbert, Danny Shelton and third-round pick Carl Nassib, who has two sacks this preseason. Tramon Williams is also in their in defensive backfield.
What to watch for: For the Bears, who will likely hold out everyone that will play in the season opener, it’s going to be mostly about bottom end of the roster analysis. Who shows out on special teams? Can Daniel Braverman finally show up a bit playing against fringe players and back ups?
While our third-stringers might start off right away against the Browns’ starters, see if anyone shows up. Will Gordon and Pryor run right by and around the Bears’ DBs or can they slow them down?
The Bears and Browns have both been abysmal this preseason, so is this finally a chance for Chicago to show a little life or are fans going to be in for another long season?
Key stat: According to the ESPN article I linked to earlier, the Browns have been outscored 71-37 so far this preseason. Chicago has been outscored 68-29. This game could be ugly for both sides.
Will you be watching Thursday? If so, which players will have your attention?