7 Preseason NFL Matchups to Circle on Your Calendar
With the Hall of Fame game in the books, the NFL preseason is already upon us.
However, with teams desperately wanting to keep their starters injury-free, most of the preseason games are a "Who's Who" smorgasbord of "Who?"
What's worse, even when the starters do play, the offensive starters run vanilla offensive plays and the defensive starters run vanilla defensive formations.
Even for die-hard fans, the NFL preseason is probably where the saying "Wake me up when it's over" originated.
I get that.
But a few of this year's preseason games do offer some intrigue that may have you tuning in for at least part of the time.
Here I suggest two preseason contests from each week (except Week 4, where I suggest only one) that you may find worth taking a peek.
Week 1: Aug 9—Washington Redskins at Buffalo Bills
As Robert Griffin III's NFL debut, this game will draw plenty of eyeballs.
The second overall draft pick leads a revamped Redskins offense against a revamped Bills defense led by prized free agent acquisition Mario Williams.
While RG3 and Super Mario will only be on the field for two or three series, it will be fun while it lasts.
Arizona's defense did put enough heat on Drew Brees in the Hall of Fame Game to knock Brees down twice in his only series, so it will be interesting to see if Mario Williams has a welcoming gift for Griffin.
Week 1: Aug 12—St. Louis Rams at Indianapolis Colts
Hard to believe that an elite quarterback prospect like Andrew Luck would be called the "other" rookie QB to watch.
In any event, this is Luck's pro debut, along with that of rookie tight end Coby Fleener, so all eyes are on whether Luck makes a good first impression.
Like it or not, Luck's performance in this game will be compared with and dissected next to RG3's earlier performance on August 9th.
For those who are more than just the casual fan, it will also be interesting to see if Rams quarterback Sam Bradford has a legit weapon in rookie receiver Brian Quick and whether Rams rookie running back Isaiah Pead will be pushing Steven Jackson closer out the proverbial door.
Week 2: Aug 16—Cleveland Browns at Green Bay Packers
Here's an opportunity to see rookie running back Trent Richardson against a revamped Green Bay defense with highly touted rookie Nick Perry and newly-converted safety Charles Woodson.
In a minor subplot, ageless (okay, 29-year-old) rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden will get to show off his arm. And we may also see RG3's 2010 collegiate receiving teammate Josh Gordon, whom the Browns took in the supplemental draft about a month ago.
But all eyes will be on Richardson—the so-called next Adrian Peterson—and the Packers' high-scoring offense.
Week 2: Aug 18—NY Giants at NY Jets
The Jets are like the train wreck that you can't keep your eyes off.
But now there are two more reasons to watch them besides the drama between coach Rex Ryan, oft-criticized quarterback Mark Sanchez and receiver Santonio Holmes.
One would be newly acquired quarterback Tim Tebow; the other is hyped rookie receiver Stephen Hill.
Will the Jets use Tebow in strictly Wildcat formations?
Is Stephen Hill the uber-elite talent that all the pre-draft salivating indicated?
And for the defending champion Giants, more serious fans can see if rookie receiver Rueben Randle can pick up where Mario Manningham left off, and whether rookie running back David Wilson was worth taking over tight end Coby Fleener in the draft.
Week 3: Aug 25—Indianapolis Colts at Washington Redskins
Was this game hand-scheduled?
Andrew Luck vs. Robert Griffin III.
And in the third preseason game, no less, when teams play their starters the longest.
Of course, it's not literally "Luck vs. RG3" since both play on offense and thus do not directly impact each other's performance.
Nevertheless, you can bet the hype and analysis for this game will be off the hook.
Every touchdown, every first down, every sack taken, and every mistake will be directly compared to his counterpart.
This could be the most-watched NFL preseason game in years.
Week 3: Aug 26—San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos
Two relics from the past take center stage in this game.
One of them is Randy Moss.
Moss—no lock to make the team—will compete with Vernon Davis, Mario Manningham, Michael Crabtree and rookie A.J. Jenkins in vying for the attention and affection of quarterback Alex Smith.
Will Moss look like the unstoppable force of years past?
Or will Moss look like the immovable object of his last year, playing when he was easy to cover?
And on the other side of the pigskin is the other aging superstar—quarterback Peyton Manning will get his most extensive game action since his multiple neck surgeries.
How will he hold up after absorbing several hits against a very tough 49er defense?
Will Denver sophomore receiver Demaryius Thomas look more like Randy Moss than Moss himself?
For more serious fans, will Broncos rookie running back Ronnie Hillman threaten Willis McGahee's job security?
To help get in the mood for the game, make yourself a glass of prune juice mixed with Metamucil and root for your favorite piece of history as they make their respective comebacks. Four p.m. dinner reservations not included.
Week 4: Aug 30—Atlanta Falcons at Jacksonville Jaguars
Fiesta Bowl superstar Justin Blackmon will get one more tuneup before the NFL regular season begins.
Considering that Blackmon only now ended his holdout by signing Monday and how far behind Blackmon is in camp, he may get more than the token series of work most starters get in the fourth preseason tilt.
The first wide receiver taken in the 2012 draft will try to impress in a game that still could be without star running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who reportedly is willing to hold out for the duration of training camp and possibly into the season.
That makes Rashad Jennings an interesting Jaguars subplot and whether he will look ready to pick up the mantle.
On the other side of the field, Atlanta's Julio Jones is everybody's favorite breakout star.
Will Jones fulfill everyone's expectations?
What's the over/under on Jones outperforming Blackmon?
And for more serious fans, how will Michael Turner backup Jacquizz Rodgers' look since the Falcons have already announced a smaller workload for Turner?
Should be interesting.