2012 NFL Preseason: One Thing to Watch for in Every Week 2 Game
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The NFL preseason is in full swing, with Week 2 action kicking off Thursday night. A myriad of questions linger as the regular season inches forward, and this weekend will see starters get more reps.
How will touted rookie quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III perform after strong summer debuts? What impact will newly-inked Seahawks wideout Terrell Owens have? Are perennial contenders like the New York Giants, New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers in shape for opening weekend?
Check out one pressing question posed by all 16 matchups this week.
Note: All displayed game times are EST.
Bengals at Falcons (Thursday, 8:00)
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How are Matt Ryan and company adjusting to new offensive personnel?
In an effort to maximize an Atlanta offense crammed with talent, new coordinator Dirk Koetter has implemented an "11" formation that features three receivers and just one tight end and a tailback.
The newly-promoted third wideout, Louisville product Harry Douglas, makes his preseason debut on Thursday.
With aging Tony Gonzalez and Michael Turner in place, the Falcons look to get faster this year. Keep an eye on how Atlanta's starters are keeping pace against a formidable Cinci D.
Browns at Packers (Thursday, 8:00)
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Can Brandon Weeden improve from a rough first game?
2012 first-round draftee Brandon Weeden labored through his preseason debut against the Lions, completing only three of nine passes while allotting two turnovers.
Green Bay's secondary ranked a paltry 32nd in total pass defense last year, and Weeden will look to take advantage of lesser competition. Still, the Pack boast a ferocious pass-rush.
Without fellow rookie Trent Richardson in the backfield this summer, the Browns' offensive blueprint remains murky. But if Weeden can improve upon last week's effort, it will give Cleveland fans a bit of much-needed optimism.
Titans at Buccaneers (Friday, 7:30)
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How will Jake Locker fare in his first career start?
Tennessee faces an interesting battle under center this summer, with incumbent Matt Hasselbeck and touted prospect Jake Locker duking it out. On Friday, Locker will see starter's minutes for the first time ever.
Locker posted an impressive 99.4 QB rating in his rookie season. Now, he stands to become the Titans' field general with a strong summer.
Check out how Locker and the Titans play against an upstart Tampa team.
Lions at Ravens (Friday, 8:00)
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Which Ravens wideout will take charge?
Against the Falcons last week, the Ravens targeted a whopping 17 players. With vertical threat Torrey Smith shelved with a sprained ankle, Week 2 becomes proving ground for the Baltimore receiving corps.
Quarterback Joe Flacco is as confident as ever, and the Ravens will need a standout receiver to emerge. Anquan Boldin is still the team's primary option, but players like Jacoby Jones and Tandon Doss will be expected to carry some of the load this year.
The Lions enjoy a sturdy defense, perhaps Baltimore's best test this preseason. The Ravens o-line struggled in Atlanta.
Dolphins at Panthers (Friday, 8:00)
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Will the 'Phins' take a step towards naming a starter under center?
With David Garrard succumbing to injury, Miami's media-frenzied quarterback competition becomes a two-man race. Rookie Ryan Tannehill and incumbent Matt Moore will both see plenty of reps against the Panthers on Friday.
There's no consensus yet, but the Dolphins should look to find some separation with Friday's action. Tannehill seems to be a fast learner and completed 14 of his 21 attempts in Week 1.
The opposing Panthers exemplify the success a first-year QB can have, with the ever-versitile Cam Newton calling the shots for Carolina. See if there's any closure in this quarterback race after the weekend.
Bills at Vikings (Friday, 8:00)
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How will Mario Williams continue to progress for the Bills?
One of the most accomplished defensive players of the decade, Mario Williams finds himself in a new uniform after six seasons in Houston.
His presence means everything to a Bills team desperate for defensive improvement. "Super" Mario has already made a scintillant first impression in Buffalo, and it will be interesting to see how he performs against the Vikings.
Williams lines up against Matt Kalil, the fourth overall selection in April's draft.
Jaguars at Saints (Friday, 8:00)
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How will Justin Blackmon fare in his first preseason game?
Justin Blackmon has already seen a slew of hurdles thrown at his rookie campaign, most notably a DUI arrest in June. Now, he's facing his first pro snaps in New Orleans this weekend.
Blackmon stands to shake up Jacksonville's stagnant offense, which ranked in the bottom five of nearly every statistical category last season. He and second-year gunslinger Blaine Gabbert will be watched closely this summer.
With star 'back Maurice Jones-Drew still holding out of Jags camp, Blackmon will be called upon to produce early.
Raiders at Cardinals (Friday, 10:00)
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Can Kevin Kolb save his dwindling job?
Kevin Kolb may be forced out of the Cardinals' starting spot after a rough 2011 and a poor showing in last week's preseason clash with Kansas City. He completed just two passes on nine attempts last Friday.
Competitor John Skelton went 6-2 as a starter last season and will be vying for first-string responsibilities again this year. Kolb will need to turn in a better performance against the Raiders this time around.
Kolb and Skelton will both continue to work out receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.
Giants at Jets (Saturday, 7:00)
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Can the Jets' offense find its touch?
After a busy offseason highlighted by the addition of quarterback Tim Tebow, the Jets offense picked up right where it left off last year, struggling to find any sort of rhythm from the get-go on August 10. Could Gang Green's struggles against the Bengals portend a tepid 2012?
The Jets will look to further utilize Tebow and help starting quarterback Mark Sanchez get in a groove come Saturday, when they face the crosstown Giants.
Running back Shonn Greene will also be expected to step up. The Jets mustered just six points and 173 yards of offense last week.
Redskins at Bears (Saturday, 8:00)
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Can Robert Griffin III continue to dazzle?
The 'Skins enjoyed a solid debut from first-rounder Robert Griffin III last week, trumping the Bills by a 7-6 mark. Griffin III will continue to see first-team reps in Chicago on Saturday.
The dual-threat QB is pivotal to the Redskins' 2012 effort. He was four of six for 70 yards and a touchdown against Buffalo.
Griffin III seemed to develop a rapport with receiver Pierre Garcon. Let's see how that carries over in week 2.
49ers at Texans (Saturday, 8:00)
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What will Andre Johnson look like in his first preseason action?
Perennial Pro Bowler Andre Johnson bumbled through an injury-plagued 2011 and is set to return to Houston's huddle after missing last week's preseason opener against Carolina.
Johnson is a pivotal cog in a ferocious offense, and a healthy return means everything to the Super Bowl-hopeful Texans. He shouldn't see much time against the Niners, but first impressions are still important.
If Johnson's health holds up this year, Houston will be a team to be reckoned with.
Chiefs at Rams (Saturday, 8:00)
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Where is Jamaal Charles' game at?
Kansas City's Jamaal Charles enjoyed a phenomenal 2010 season, but was bumped to the injured reserve in Week 2 of last year. Now, he's set to galvanize a 7-9 Chiefs team.
Charles took three carries for 12 yards in last week's preseason game against the Cardinals. He and new Chief Peyton Hillis will anchor one of the league's most enticing ground attacks.
Like Andre Johnson and the Texans, Kansas City's success in 2012 is contingent on Charles staying on the field. See how he performs with an added workload this weekend.
Seahawks at Broncos (Saturday, 9:00)
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How comfortable are Peyton Manning and Terrell Owens in respective new systems?
Peyton Manning's heralded return to the gridiron takes another step on Saturday, when the Denver faithful get their first home look at the veteran quarterback. Manning threw an interception against the Bears in last week's preliminary action.
Meanwhile, All-Pro receiver Terrell Owens makes his return to the game after missing 2011, similar to Manning. Owens is now a Seahawk and will be fielding passes from quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Matt Flynn.
Both Manning and Owens should see a considerable amount of playing time as they each ready for a 2012 return.
Cowboys at Chargers (Saturday, 9:00)
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How will the Cowboys look without Jason Witten?
The preseason injury bug always seems to hit one team particularly hard each summer. In 2012, that team is the Dallas Cowboys, who have ostensibly lost star tight end Jason Witten for a considerable amount of time.
With quarterback Tony Romo seeing limited snaps this summer, we won't see Big D's offense in full swing. Still, it will be interesting to see how the Cowboys function without one of their top targets.
Though the 'Boys still roll with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant on the sidelines, losing Witten is a huge blow. See if there's any bright sides to Dallas' offense on Saturday.
Colts at Steelers (Sunday, 8:00)
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What will the Steelers' defense do to rookie Andrew Luck?
Andrew Luck's first professional play could not have gone any better. Running back Donald Brown took a check pass from April's No. 1 pick and went 63 yards for an opening-minute touchdown.
Albeit, Luck's success came against the woebegone Rams, and the Colts face a much stiffer challenge on Sunday when they travel to Pittsburgh.
The Steelers' staunch defense will be a huge test for the rookie QB. However, Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison may need surgery this summer, and the Steelers allowed an uncharacteristic 24 points to the Eagles last week. Sunday's matchup is definitely one of the more interesting games of the preseason.
Eagles at Patriots (Monday, 8:00)
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How will the Pats o-line hold up against a formidable Eagles' front seven?
The Eagles flaunt arguably the league's best pass-rush, and the Patriots have a bunch of questions to answer along the offensive line.
The Pats only allowed one sack to New Orleans last week, but they'll face an even bigger challenge against Philly on Monday.
Keep an eye out for how both units perform. Trent Cole and the Eagles' ends could propel them to a bounce-back season, while Tom Brady will need time in the pocket to deliver another successful season.