You could chalk up Thursday as just four more meaningless preseason games, but at first glance, we know that's not the case. Here are three reasons why I'm expecting to see a lot of snaps that have real implications for the real season.
The "What If?" Super Bowl
It's not every day we see the Super Bowl rematch on Thursday night. Or, what should be the Super Bowl rematch. Folks in Atlanta sure wonder what could have been if they had gotten those four yards.
Fantasy Running Back Handcuffs
Even if you're hardcore, fantasy implications are hard to read into in preseason. Whoever starts or works with the first team often doesn't mean much.
But tonight, Reggie Bush, Trent Richardson and Ryan Mathews are all playing. These "lead backs" will likely be your RB1 or RB2.
They'll also be one of your biggest injury risks, too, given their medical history.
You'll want to be scouting tonight to see if Mikel LeShoure or Danny Woodhead are really doing most of the work or if Montario Hardesty has beat out Brandon Jackson and Dion Lewis. Handcuffs are key if you invest a high pick on Bush, T-Rich, or Mathews.
The QB Battle in Philadelphia
You shouldn't miss a chance to potentially watch two of the most electrifying running quarterbacks in NFL history take the field at the same time. Cam Newton might not take the field for long, or at all for the Carolina Panthers.
My feeling is that you'll see the Falcons' offense on the field against the Baltimore one's for more than a series or two. The organization feels they should have made the big game last year–Steven Jackson's interview with NFLAM definitely gives off that vibe. They'll want to come out and make a statement by unleashing a quick, up-tempo scoring drive to show the punch they can pack.
I'm counting on another big-play from Vick tonight, despite Nick Foles being given the start tonight. His 47-yard pass to Jackson in Week 1 helped his case for starting because it displays what Foles doesn't have–the explosive big-play potential that only Vick offers. He's trying to win the job, and he will have the full repertoire on display tonight.