NFL Preseason 2012: 10 Biggest Games on the Schedule
The NFL's preseason is not generally known for exciting contests and must-see action.
However, among all the uninspired and sometimes boring games, there is greatness to be found.
High-profile position battles will be won and lost, stars will make their first appearances in new uniforms and rookies will make their anticipated debuts.
How could fans not get excited for Andrew Luck vs. Robert Griffin III?
Or the New York Giants putting on their road white jerseys to face the Jets at MetLife Stadium?
These showdowns are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg in the 2012 preseason.
At least 10 different games are worth tuning in for, and it all starts with the Hall of Fame Game...
10. Hall of Fame Game: Arizona Cardinals vs. New Orleans Saints
The Hall of Fame Game deserves mentioning, if for no other reason than it signals the return of football.
The game itself usually only features each team's starting units for a possession or two, but after an agonizing offseason with only the draft and Hard Knocks to occupy fans, it is nice to see actual game action.
This year's contest between the Arizona Cardinals and New Orleans Saints does have some intriguing storylines to follow.
It will be the first chance to watch Kevin Kolb and John Skelton battle it out for the Cardinals starting QB job.
And the game will provide both a brief glimpse into the Saints revamped defense and mindset following the "Bountygate" scandal.
9. Week 2: Indianapolis Colts vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Seeing Andrew Luck take the field in Week 1 against the St. Louis Rams will certainly be a great moment for fans, but in Week 2, he and the new-look Indianapolis Colts offense will face a great test in the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Luck and the starters will likely see the field for the entire first quarter, and it will be a chance to see how they fare against the established Steelers defense.
Can he hold his own against one of the league's best defensive units?
And will his relationship with tight end Coby Fleener be on display right away?
This is a game that may fly under the radar, but will be an early benchmark for a young Colts team.
At least as far as preseason games go anyway.
8. Week 1: New York Jets vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Regardless of whether you like it or not, there will never cease to be interest in Tim Tebow.
Because of that undeniable fact, there will be a ton of buzz surrounding his first appearance in a New York Jets uniform.
How will the Jets utilize his skill-set within their offense?
Week 1 of the preseason will at least start to tease answers to that question.
It is vaguely reminiscent of Michael Vick's first preseason game with the Philadelphia Eagles a couple of years ago.
A new QB with a ton of media interest trying to find a role within an established offense.
Let the media frenzy ensue.
7. Week 3: New York Giants vs. Chicago Bears
Week 3 always features the most entertaining set of preseason games because most teams play their starters for the entire first half.
It's the best chance to prepare for the regular season and provides the most competitive slate of games.
With that said, the prime-time showdown between the Chicago Bears and New York Giants will be a great matchup.
Seeing how Brandon Marshall develops in the Bears offense will be paramount to their offensive success all season, and the Giants have to establish a new dynamic at the running back position with the departure of Brandon Jacobs.
6. Week 4: Oakland Raiders vs. Seattle Seahawks
A Week 4 game between the Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders may not seem engaging at first glance, but dig a little harder and you will find a gem.
Seattle is in the midst of a three-way QB battle, and Pete Carroll has given no indication as to who is leading the race.
Therefore, it is safe to assume his lips will stay quiet throughout much of the preseason.
But by Week 4, a decision will have to be on the precipice of being made, and this game against the Raiders will be Tarvaris Jackson, Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson's last chance to make their respective cases for the job.
Position battles make the preseason worth watching, and this is one of the toughest outcomes to predict in the entire league.
That fact alone should make for a fun game among the rather boring contests Week 4 usually provides.
5. Week 4: Miami Dolphins vs. Dallas Cowboys
For much the same reasons as the Seahawks-Raiders game, this Week 4 showdown between the Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys should give viewers plenty of reason to tune in.
Ryan Tannehill is reportedly out of the running for the Dolphins starting QB job, but what if he ends up outplaying both David Garrard and Matt Moore throughout the preseason?
Can he be overlooked simply because of his youth?
And who will take the lead between Moore and Garrard?
The Cowboys have a revamped secondary that should provide a solid test for both players in their last chance to impress the coaching staff.
Of course, no one knows how much playing time each QB will see in Week 4, but each would be wise to make the most of their final preseason action.
4. Week 2: New York Giants vs. New York Jets
New York vs. New York is always a meaningful game regardless of when it is played.
The Jets and Giants simply have a rivalry that defies the general laws of the preseason.
Jets QB Mark Sanchez will have a chance to face the vaunted Giants pass rush.
Rookie Giants running back David Wilson will run directly into the Jets front seven.
Combine these elements with the storylines mentioned in previous slides (Tebow, Giants new RB dynamic, etc.), and this rivalry game will be entertaining to say the least.
3. Week 3: Arizona Cardinals vs. Tennessee Titans
This kind of matchup is what the preseason is all about.
A contest between two teams featuring high-profile position battles nearing their conclusion.
By Week 3, the Arizona Cardinals and Tennessee Titans will be closing in on deciding their starting QB's (if they haven't already), and this will be the penultimate test for both teams.
Will Jake Locker beat out Matt Hasselbeck in Tennessee?
Who will win the close race between Skelton and Kolb in Arizona?
Two great questions that will hopefully be answered in Week 3.
2. Week 3: San Francisco 49ers vs. Denver Broncos
A full half of football with Peyton Manning in a Denver Broncos uniform facing off against the San Francisco 49ers defense.
And in prime-time no less!
There is little not to like about this Week 3 contest, and even the most casual of fans should generate some interest.
How is Manning developing in the Broncos offense, and does he appear healthy?
How are the 49ers utilizing new talent at running back and wide receiver?
This is a game with plenty of moving parts and questions to be answered.
1. Week 3: Indianapolis Colts vs. Washington Redskins
Wouldn't this be a great game if it were in the regular season?
The No. 1 and No. 2 picks of the NFL draft squaring off for bragging rights as they begin their pro careers.
As it stands, we get to see Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III play in Week 3 of the preseason, so at least we will see them on the field for as long as the preseason generally allows.
All eyes will focus on this game, and while preseason scores generally don't matter much, I would have to imagine both QB's will want to win this game pretty badly.
After not being chosen by the Colts at No. 1, how could "RG3" not want to stick it to Indy?
A great preseason battle is guaranteed to take place in this rookie faceoff.