Game Day: Packers vs. Chiefs

Preseason games have their downside: potential for injury looms on every play; and our third-stringers playing against other third-stringers can paint an inaccurate picture. Besides, it doesn't count.<p> Despite the drawbacks, exhibition games are the light at the end of a long offseason. Tonight, the Packers finally step back onto the field, under the bright lights of Monday Night Football and the Hall of Fame Game.<P>

The score and the stats may not add up to anything come September, but when that opening kickoff sails through the Canton night, fans will cheer the return of football for another year.

Here's a glance at tonight's matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs.

QB decision looms: Brett Favre is expected to play the first two or three series, then he'll sit back and watch the QB derby with the rest of us. Look for Doug Pederson to take the Pack into the second quarter, then it's time for Akili Smith and Craig Nall to get a lot of airtime as they battle for a backup spot.

While Nall blossomed in Europe, Akili Smith is proving that he may deserve a new lease on his NFL life. "We're pleased with what he's done," offensive coordinator Tom Rossley said of Smith. "He's going to play a lot in preseason. I think he's fighting for a job."

More hopefuls: With Donald Driver sidelined with a hamstring injury and Robert Ferguson troubled by a sore tailbone, young receivers will get their chance to shine.

Javon Walker and Kasten Bailey are expected to start, but the newcomers are the ones to watch. Carl Ford, one of the Packers' four seventh-round picks, has made a name for himself in camp with his speed. He is expected to get a lot of playing time at receiver and will be scrutinized as a return man Monday night. Also, Antonio Chatman will get a chance at both receiver and punt returner.

Rookie roundup: With everyone signed and in camp nearly all the way, the rookies should be raring to go. All eyes will be on the defense as top picks Nick Barnett and Kenny Peterson will make their debut, but third-round pick James Lee is expected to be held out with a hip injury. Cornerback Chris Johnson, a seventh-rounder, has been singularly impressive in camp. Can he translate his surprising camp success onto the playing field?

Gilbert going strong: Gilbert Brown has it going both physically and mentally, the 10th-year nose tackle said. Relieved and happy he to be back in camp, Brown has reportedly embarked on a program that has improved his health and stamina. Combined with coach Mike Sherman's "less is more" approach to budgeting Brown's playing time, this should make for an interesting plotline.

On the sideline: In addition to those listed above, the following players are not expected to play Monday night: Darren Sharper (stinger), Chad Clifton (pelvis), Mark Tauscher (knee), Lamar Smith (knee), Rod Walker (shoulder) Steve Warren (back), Reggie White (knee), Jorg Heckenbach (kidneys) and Adam Tate (knee).

Tight ends Bubba Franks and David Martin are both banged up, although Franks is expected to play.

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