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Chiefs vs. Vikings preseason 2014: 10 things to watch

Saturday will be tricky to evaluate with so many key players missing, but there are still major storylines.

Peter Aiken

Usually, the third preseason games tells you plenty about your team's chances of making noise in the regular season. The starters stay in through the third quarter and the coaches actually come up with a gameplan, giving a glimpse into how coach Andy Reid plans to deploy his troops.

However, this night will be different. Eric Berry, Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe won't be playing. The offense will likely look bad without its two biggest stars, so taking too much from this contest is a mistake. The defense will suffer without Berry but be boosted by the absence of Adrian Peterson.

All that said, keep an eye on these players:

1. Eric Fisher needs to take control

Fisher was a disaster on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, as Greg Hardy took him to task. Fisher has to be much better going forward, especially with a backup at right tackle for the first month of the season. Reid will likely use a tight end to help on the right, leaving Fisher on an island. If he can't do his job, Alex Smith will be in jeopardy.

2. Sean Smith needs to be the man

Smith played well in 2013, showing that he has the capability to be a solid corner in the league. However, Smith was torched against Carolina, allowing three long completions and taking a declined penalty on four targets. With a youngster in Marcus Cooper (who is actually playing very well thus far), Smith needs to carry the load and be the top corner his salary shows him to be.

3. Dee Ford's continual improvement

Ford has looked very promising to this point, but has struggled dropping into coverage and at times, setting the edge against the run. Nobody is expecting him to be perfect, no rookie is. Still, I want to see incremental improvement throughout this season. Here's to hoping that Ford can bounce back from a generally tough game to showcase his ample talent.

4. Albert Wilson's opportunity

With Bowe suspended for the first game, receivers are going to have to step up. Wilson appears to have some ability and could really jumpstart his career with a good showing. To get that opportunity, Wilson has to play well the last couple of weeks here in the preseason so he isn't buried on the depth chart.

5. Tyler Bray's biggest moment

Bray did not get to play on Sunday, watching instead as rookie Aaron Murray showed legitimate potential. Bray has a rocket arm and has improved throughout this camp, forcing a real competition behind Smith. If Bray really lights up Minnesota, does Chase Daniel get cut? It would be a bold move but the chance to keep two good, young quarterbacks might be too good to pass up.

Other things I'm looking for (with help from Joel):

6. How Chiefs fans receive Matt Cassel.

7. The options behind Donald Stephenson, who has been suspended the first four games of the season. Keep a close eye on Ryan Harris, who looks like the leading candidate to replace Stephenson in September.

8. Frankie Hammond has been taking Dwayne Bowe's spot while Bowe has been injured. Like Wilson, this is a mega opportunity for Hammond.

9. The Chiefs return game. Last time they were in KC, De'Anthony Thomas took a punt back 80 yards for a touchdown and Albert Wilson had a 65-yard kickoff return. I wouldn't mind seeing that again.

10. The weather. It's going to be hot!

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