The 2013 NFL preseason is officially underway, as the majority of teams get their first action this week after the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins kicked things off on Sunday, August 4 at the annual Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.
Considering all the position battles, top draft picks and familiar faces in new places, there is plenty to be excited for beyond the mere return of football.
A number of teams also had active offseasons, be it in upgrading roster personnel or completely shifting directions with new general managers and coaching staffs. That makes these otherwise inconsequential games all the more intriguing.
Below is an overview of the entire preseason schedule for Week 1, featuring all the matchups and predictions for each, and when and where to catch the games.
*For games that aren't nationally televised, check local listings.
Analyzing Best Week 1 Matchups
New York Jets vs. Detroit Lions
Assuming incumbent starting quarterback Mark Sanchez hits the field first against the Lions' top unit on the road at Ford Field, that thought alone makes this game worth watching.
Sanchez is trying to hold onto his job while being pushed by rookie second-round pick Geno Smith, who possesses superior arm strength and far more athleticism. Detroit has the likes of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley at defensive tackle—both of whom can collapse the pocket from the interior.
Thus, the Jets have to beware of freakishly athletic rookie Ziggy Ansah storming in off the edge.
If they miss a block or Sanchez fails to adjust a protection properly or hit his hot route, he could be in a for a short and painful preseason experience to begin 2013.
Being sharp against that type of front four would go a long way for Sanchez in the competition, because Smith has better elusiveness and should post better numbers with more reps against Lions backups.
Running back Reggie Bush joined the Lions this offseason, so it will be interesting to see how he's utilized. Chances are, Scott Linehan won't open up the playbook too much, yet he must be somewhat creative against the exotic defensive alignments Rex Ryan deploys.
Regardless of schematics, it's always fun to watch Matthew Stafford zing the ball around, particularly to Calvin "Megatron" Johnson, who broke the single-season record for receiving yards in 2012 with broken fingers.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. New Orleans Saints
It's a new era in Kansas City with Andy Reid at the helm as the new ball coach. Unlike recent years, the Chiefs now have a proven commodity at the game's most important position in quarterback Alex Smith.
Smith will open lanes up for Jamaal Charles to run, though he and Smith will only see limited time in the Superdome. No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher will also be interesting to watch as he continues the transition from left tackle at Central Michigan to the opposite side in the pros.
Still, the Chiefs should look sharp against what was the NFL's worst all-around defense last year. Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will try to revitalize the unit, but he lacks much raging success in his previous stops around the league.
A lot will be asked of physical first-round safety Kenny Vaccaro to key the turnaround, and he'll likely see a lot of reps.
One massive positive that is sure to bring delight to the New Orleans faithful in attendance is the return of Sean Payton to the sidelines. Fresh off a year-long suspension, Payton's presence should help the team recover from a disappointing miss at the playoffs.
Super Bowl MVP quarterback Drew Brees won't be on the field long, but watching him run the Saints offense is a thing of beauty and will provide a glimpse at what should be another spectacular campaign.
Buffalo Bills vs. Indianapolis Colts
Not to totally focus on quarterbacks, but it's hard not to when EJ Manuel—the only rookie signal-caller selected in the first round of the recent draft—is getting his first true experience as a pro.
Game situations are far different from the practice field, which is why it is exciting to see how Manuel's impressive camp thus far will translate on Sunday in Lucas Oil Stadium.
Head coach Doug Marrone is emphatic about up-tempo offense and attacking the opponent. Against this revamped Colts defense featuring new starters in the secondary in Greg Toler and LaRon Landry, that will be easier said than done.
2012 No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck guided the Colts to an 11-win season and the playoffs in his first year under center—only to lose to the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens in the Wild Card Round.
Year 2 of the Luck era should see the precocious field general begin to blossom into a more efficient and less mistake-prone quarterback. The comfort level will be ideal, since Luck's offensive coordinator from Stanford, Pep Hamilton, is now calling the plays.
The battle in the trenches between Indianapolis' offensive line and the talented front of Buffalo will be exciting to watch—even if Bills star Mario Williams can't play with his foot injury.