NFL Preseason Week 4: Biggest Thursday Night Matchups, What They Mean

Alex KomaContributor IIIAugust 28, 2013

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 23:  Terrelle Pryor #2 of the Oakland Raiders drops back to pass in the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at Coliseum on August 23, 2013 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The NFL season is just a few days from beginning, but there are still a variety of position battles to be decided in the NFL Preseason Week 4. 

The following four matchups should each have roles in determining who starts at each position when the season opens and will make an otherwise uneventful week of the preseason worth watching. 

Buffalo Bills quarterbacks vs. Detroit Lions secondary

After rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel went down with a knee injury, the Bills’ quarterback situation became incredibly murky.

Kevin Kolb’s career may be over after he suffered a concussion, and the team may be forced to start rookie Jeff Tuel or newly signed journeyman Matt Leinart.

However, the Lions' secondary isn't particularly imposing. Chris Houston has had a checkered history at cornerback, and Darius Slay is starting as a rookie.

If either Tuel or Leinart can make a big statement against these players on Thursday, they could emerge as the new starter in Manuel’s absence.

Oakland Raiders quarterbacks vs. Seattle Seahawks secondary 

Matt Flynn may again find himself on the losing end of a quarterback competition if he can’t perform Thursday.

After losing out to Russell Wilson last year, Flynn may have déjà vu if he repeats his 19-yard, two interception performance from last week.

Terrelle Pryor racked up two touchdowns against the Chicago Bears last week, and if he can repeat that against Seattle, he could earning the starting spot.

But the Seahawks won't be pushovers.

Cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner and safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas made up one of the best secondaries in the league last year, and could stifle either quarterback even if they don't all play the whole game.

Pittsburgh Steelers running backs vs. Carolina Panthers linebackers 

The Steelers have had trouble running in the preseason, averaging 95.3 yards per game, good for 23rd in the league.

But they’ve just traded for speedster Felix Jones to compete with Jonathan Dwyer for a spot in the rotation to try and remedy that.

Now the duo will compete against the Panthers' defense, but that might not be the tallest order.

The team's linebackers are a spot of uncertainty after being a strength in years past. Luke Kuechly might be dominant, yet Jon Beason will be playing only his second preseason game after missing all of last season with an injury.

Arizona Cardinals safeties vs. Denver Broncos wide receivers 

Tyrann Mathieu and Rashad Johnson are scrapping with each other to determine who will start at free safety for Arizona.

The pair will have an easier time competing against the Broncos’ receivers without Wes Welker, but their performances will determine where each starts.

Analysts have taken notice of these critical match ups as well.

The quarterback controversies in particular have attracted special attention from analysts like the Wall Street Journal’s Kevin Clark and Fox Sports Radio’s Matt Smith. 

In all likelihood, Pryor and Tuel will walk away with the starting gigs, simply due to their unexplored potential.

Meanwhile, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Dwyer and the “Honey Badger” do the same with their combination of speed and youth.