Six games of the NFL's Week 2 preseason action are slated for Saturday night, with several intriguing clashes standing out as the most exciting to watch.
The Green Bay Packers' explosive passing offense triggered by Aaron Rodgers will be tested by the tough defense of the St. Louis Rams on the road.
An aggressive offseason has reshaped the Miami Dolphins roster, which makes their progress interesting to monitor. A trip to Reliant Stadium to take on the Houston Texans will be a good way for head coach Joe Philbin to evaluate where his team is heading into the regular season.
To cap off the evening, though, is an epic matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos at CenturyLink Field. The raucous crowd should distract Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning as he faces a tough task against last year's No. 1 scoring defense.
Below are predictions for those three games. While they may not feature starters for long, the games will be worth catching.
Green Bay Packers vs. St. Louis Rams
A quiet preseason debut should be remedied by the Ram's top draft pick, No. 8 overall selection Tavon Austin.
Few players possess his agility and elusiveness in the open field, and his magnificent change of direction and breakaway speed make him the home run threat that St. Louis hasn't had in recent seasons.
All eyes will be on quarterback Sam Bradford, a former top overall pick who hasn't lit it up in his first three years as a pro but did show improvement in 2012.
Against a Packers defense that has been leaky despite talented personnel, it would serve Bradford and the offense well to have a strong showing in front of the home Edward Jones Dome crowd.
Then there's Rodgers, Bradford's counterpart, who has put himself in the conversation as the best quarterback in the NFL. Recovery from knee surgery has standout receiver Jordy Nelson out for the preseason, which makes Rodgers' job a little more difficult.
Green Bay has its own all-purpose offensive weapon, though, in Randall Cobb, who should be the go-to target for Rodgers in this contest. Unfortunately, he is also fighting through his own ailment, a biceps injury.
The tenacious Rams defense is yet another impressive, rising unit in the NFC West, and that superiority should allow the team to notch a win over the reigning NFC North champions.
Prediction: Rams 24, Packers 14
Miami Dolphins vs. Houston Texans
Two highly talented rookies headline this showdown but for different reasons. Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan is not even competing for a starting job and still struggling to overcome offseason shoulder surgery.
That's disappointing for the No. 3 overall pick. General manager Jeff Ireland made a big splash by trading up to nab him.
On the other hand, Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins had a magnificent debut, catching four passes for 52 yards and a stunning touchdown grab off a deep heave from quarterback T.J. Yates.
The combination of Ryan Tannehill and prized free-agent acquisition Mike Wallace will be intriguing to watch, too. Wallace recently said he wants to lead the NFL in receiving, and his speed combined with Tannehill's strong arm gives him a chance to make big plays.
Lockdown Pro Bowl cornerback Johnathan Joseph should draw Wallace the majority of the time, and that one-on-one matchup will make or break the Dolphins' success on offense. It will also be Wallace's first real moment to show he's worth the lucrative contract he signed to land in South Beach.
Houston has one of the better, deeper rosters in the league. With Case Keenum overtaking Yates for this game as the No. 2 quarterback, the hosting Texans have three reliable signal-callers along with Matt Schaub. That should keep the offense moving and result in a victory.
Prediction: Texans 27, Dolphins 20
Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks
This could prove to be a Super Bowl preview—if only a brief one. Protecting the legendary Manning will be of optimal importance for Denver head coach John Fox, but even he might be tempted to see the new-look passing attack in slightly extended action.
Seattle has arguably the best secondary in football, though. Safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor are Pro Bowlers who are capable of laying the boom, and the same goes for cornerback Brandon Browner.
Then there's Richard Sherman, the outspoken corner who sports fantastic size for his position and should be able to match up with whichever receiver he faces on the outside.
Percy Harvin's injury hurts the Seahawks offense a bit, but with breakout star quarterback Russell Wilson entering his second year as the clear starter in training camp, things should operate smoothly.
The dual-threat capabilities of the speedy Wilson should keep the Broncos on their heels, but the injuries to pass-rushers in Chris Clemons, Bruce Irvin and Cliff Avril leave Seattle thin to get pressure on Manning and the other Denver passers.
As solid as the Seahawks are in the defensive backfield, it will be tough to cover without getting in the quarterback's face. Thus, Seattle will suffer a rare home loss, but thankfully it won't count on the regular-season record.
Prediction: Broncos 31, Seahawks 21
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