Football is back.
The National Football League preseason commences on Sunday night when the Cowboys and Dolphins square off in the annual Hall of Fame Game. In the next couple of weeks, franchises will be warming up for what’s sure to be another exciting season in the NFL.
While the upcoming matchups are only exhibition games and don’t really mean much, there are still a few that you can’t afford to miss—no matter which team you root for once the regular season begins on September 5. These contests feature the crème of the crop in terms of football talent.
Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers
Game Info: Thursday, Aug. 8 (Week 1) at 9 p.m. ET
We may not see the projected starting lineups for each squad for very long in Week 1, but you still can’t afford to miss Peyton Manning and the Broncos take on the Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers. These organizations are bound to be successful in the upcoming season, and both should easily make it into the postseason.
August 8 will be the first time Manning and Wes Welker will be on the same side of the field together, as the wide receiver signed with Denver this offseason. Welker, who spent the last six years with the New England Patriots, caught 118 passes for 1,354 yards and six touchdowns in 2012. He should be a primary target for Manning this season.
The Broncos had the fourth-best defense in terms of points allowed per game a year ago, per ESPN. Will it be able to slow down Kaepernick and the multi-dimensional San Francisco offense? Denver is going to have to play smart to keep Kaepernick and Frank Gore from breaking loose for large gains on the ground.
Prediction: San Francisco 27, Denver 13
Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers
Game Info: Friday, Aug. 23 (Week 3) at 8 p.m. ET on CBS
Don’t worry, Packers fans, there won’t be replacement referees for this Seattle-Green Bay matchup—even though it’s just an exhibition game. The Seahawks got the best of the Packers in Week 3 of last season, but they did have a bit of help from the guys calling the penalties and touchdowns during the referee lockout.
The two franchises don’t have a regular-season game scheduled against each other this season, but could definitely meet up sometime in the playoffs—should these teams make it, which is expected. Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers should both be on the field for a significant portion of the game, which means you must tune in.
It will also be interesting to see how Eddie Lacy does in the backfield for the Packers. The running back was a second-round pick in April’s draft and is expected to be Green Bay’s starter this year. Seattle allowed the 10th-fewest yards on the ground last season, per ESPN, so he may have a difficult time breaking through.
Prediction: Green Bay 31, Seattle 24
New England Patriots at Philadelphia Eagles
Game Info: Friday, Aug. 9 (Week 1) at 7:30 p.m. ET
New England and Philadelphia should have two of the most dangerous offenses in football this season. Tom Brady and the Patriots will be without Welker—as previously mentioned—but that likely won’t stop the quarterback from putting up insane numbers in 2013. He knows how to maximize return on what he has.
This will also be the debut of Chip Kelly with the Eagles. Kelly left Oregon to come to Philadelphia, and he should be in store for an exciting season. The Eagles haven’t made the postseason in the last two seasons, but there’s no question that with a new sheriff in town, things could be different this year.
Brady likely won’t be on the field for long, and everyone is going to be watching to see how Tim Tebow is incorporated in New England’s offense. Will he be throwing the ball, running the ball or catching the ball? All of those questions will be answered when the Patriots and Eagles take the field on August 9.
Prediction: New England 28, Philadelphia 24