NFL Preseason Schedule 2012: Previewing the Best Prime Time Matchups
Yes, some preseason matchups are better than others.
To say they mean nothing is downright foolish, but they certainly don't decide Super Bowl contestants. Nevertheless, as we all wait anxiously for the regular season to begin and are "teased" by the exhibition schedule, let's make the most of it.
Tune in, at the very least, to the best games aired on national television in prime time.
August 13: 8 p.m. ET, TV-ESPN
The "first installment" of Monday Night Football features two enigmatic clubs with an undeniable amount of talent, but some question marks and a recent history of underachievement.
The NFC East is typically slightly over-hyped, but this year's no joke. Dallas must play well for the overwhelming majority of the 2012 season, or this team will finish third in the division.
Which team will win more games in 2012?
Pieces were add to the defense, most notably cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, and the incessantly-critiqued Tony Romo is coming off arguably his best season as a professional.
By Cowboys standards, that went relatively unnoticed.
Meanwhile, the Raiders will look to build on an up-and-down 2011 that saw the team finish 8-8 but miss out on the playoffs due to a tiebreaker.
If Darren McFadden's healthy, Oakland will present one of the better ground games in the AFC, but many are wondering if Carson Palmer is the answer at quarterback.
Neither side will play their starters for more than a few series, but monitoring where these rather physical teams are in their preparation for the "true" Week 1 will be interesting.
August 17: 8p.m. ET, TV-FOX
This preseason game features a dynamic offense and a historically stingy and intimidating defense.
Another year yields more skepticism that Baltimore's defensive unit is "too old," so you know they'll be looking to once again prove the doubters wrong.
Joe Flacco's ready to stake his claim as one of the premier quarterbacks in the league, and Ray Rice is fresh off a 2011 campaign that saw him lead the league in total yards from scrimmage.
They'll be without Jarret Johnson and Cory Redding, and guys like Courtney Upshaw will have to fill the enormous void left by the injured reigning Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs.
The Saints were the only team that had a more nightmarish offseason than the Lions. With Nick Fairley and Mikel Leshoure being arrested twice, the team earned a bad-boy label.
Seven total team arrests will do that.
On the bright side, Detroit made the playoffs in 2011 for the first time since 1999, and Matt Stafford accumulated over 5,000 yards through the air.
We should get about a full quarter of first-team action here, so we'll get a preview of what both teams are capable of this year.
August 20: 8 p.m. ET, TV-ESPN
That's precisely what the Eagles and Patriots boast on offense with established quarterbacks and loads of pass-catching playmakers.
The Eagles are looking to erase the memory of last year's "Dream Team" disaster, turn the page and move forward as an organization.
With DeSean Jackson happy, Jeremy Maclin healthy and LeSean McCoy building off an All-Pro 2011, Philadelphia will house one of the better offenses in football this season.
Meanwhile, the Patriots are the Patriots.
This year, the team has added a downfield weapon in Brandon Lloyd, as if Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez weren't destructive enough to opposing defenses.
Lloyd, the deep-ball specialist, almost unfairly adds another offensive dimension to Brady's already stellar arsenal.
How will both team's play on defense—that's the real question.
Actually, will it even matter?
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