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NFL Preseason Schedule 2014: Highlighting Complete Slate and Must-See Matchups

The Harbaughs will meet in the opening week of the preseason.
The Harbaughs will meet in the opening week of the preseason.Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Sterling XieCorrespondent IIApril 24, 2016

The craze for the NFL lends itself to knee-jerk reactions, a tendency perhaps best exemplified by the preseason. Teams do not game-plan for their opponents, instead running vanilla offensive and defensive schemes, using the exhibition slate to assimilate their players to contact more than anything else.

Nevertheless, that does not stop fans and media from breathless reactions to a handful of snaps, often against inferior competition. This is not to suggest that the preseason is useless. Coaches do use the time for evaluation, after all, and the live game action is a good way to evaluate basic position-specific traits—hand and footwork for linemen, route-running skills for receivers, etc.

The pure statistics should be taken with heaping grains of salt, as detailed film analysis is really the best way to derive meaningful takeaways from preseason games. But that will not stop anyone from tuning in as the football craze sets in. For those craving the NFL's return, check out the full four-week exhibition schedule below, as well as some of the games with the most intriguing storylines.

2014 NFL Preseason Schedule
DateMatchupTV Info (ET)
Hall of Fame Game
Sun., August 3NY Giants vs. Buffalo8 p.m., NBC
Week 1
Thu., August 7Indianapolis at NY Jets7 p.m.
Thu., August 7San Francisco at Baltimore7:30 p.m.
Thu., August 7New England at Washington7:30 p.m.
Thu., August 7Cincinnati at Kansas City8 p.m.
Thu., August 7Seattle at Denver9 p.m.
Thu., August 7Dallas at San Diego10 p.m.
Fri., August 8Miami at Atlanta7 p.m.
Fri., August 8Buffalo at Carolina7:30 p.m.
Fri., August 8Tampa Bay at Jacksonville7:30 p.m.
Fri., August 8Philadelphia at Chicago8 p.m.
Fri., August 8Oakland at Minnesota8 p.m.
Fri., August 8New Orleans at St. Louis8 p.m.
Sat., August 9Cleveland at Detroit7:30 p.m.
Sat., August 9Pittsburgh at NY Giants7:30 p.m.
Sat., August 9Green Bay at Tennessee8 p.m.
Sat., August 9Houston at Arizona8:30 p.m.
Week 2
Thu., August 14Jacksonville at Chicago8 p.m., ESPN
Fri., August 15Philadelphia at New England7:30 p.m.
Fri., August 15Tennessee at New Orleans8 p.m.
Fri., August 15Detroit at Oakland10 p.m.
Fri., August 15San Diego at Seattle10 p.m.
Sat., August 16Green Bay at St. Louis4 p.m.
Sat., August 16NY Jets at Cincinnati7 p.m.
Sat., August 16Baltimore at Dallas7 p.m.
Sat., August 16NY Giants at Indianapolis7 p.m.
Sat., August 16Buffalo at Pittsburgh7:30 p.m.
Sat., August 16Miami at Tampa Bay7:30 p.m.
Sat., August 16Atlanta at Houston8 p.m.
Sat., August 16Arizona at Minnesota8:30 p.m.
Sun., August 17Denver at San Francisco4 p.m.
Sun., August 17Kansas City at Carolina8 p.m., Fox
Mon., August 18Cleveland at Washington8 p.m., ESPN
Week 3
Thu., August 21Pittsburgh at Philadelphia7:30 p.m.
Fri., August 22Oakland at Green Bay8 p.m., CBS
Fri., August 22Jacksonville at Detroit7:30 p.m.
Fri., August 22Carolina at New England7:30 p.m.
Fri., August 22NY Giants at NY Jets7:30 p.m.
Fri., August 22Chicago at Seattle10 p.m.
Sat., August 23Tampa Bay at Buffalo4:30 p.m.
Sat., August 23Dallas at Miami7 p.m.
Sat., August 23Tennessee at Atlanta7 p.m.
Sat., August 23Washington at Baltimore7:30 p.m.
Sat., August 23New Orleans at Indianapolis8 p.m., CBS
Sat., August 23St. Louis at Cleveland8 p.m.
Sat., August 23Minnesota at Kansas City8 p.m.
Sat., August 23Houston at Denver9 p.m.
Sun., August 24San Diego at San Francisco4 p.m., Fox
Sun., August 24Cincinnati at Arizona8 p.m., NBC
Week 4
Thu., August 28Atlanta at Jacksonville6 p.m.
Thu., August 28Detroit at Buffalo7 p.m.
Thu., August 28Indianapolis at Cincinnati7 p.m.
Thu., August 28Kansas City at Green Bay7 p.m.
Thu., August 28St. Louis at Miami7 p.m.
Thu., August 28NY Jets at Philadelphia7 p.m.
Thu., August 28New England at NY Giants7:30 p.m.
Thu., August 28Carolina at Pittsburgh7:30 p.m.
Thu., August 28Washington at Tampa Bay7:30 p.m.
Thu., August 28Chicago at Cleveland8 p.m.
Thu., August 28Denver at Dallas8 p.m.
Thu., August 28San Francisco at Houston8 p.m.
Thu., August 28Baltimore at New Orleans8 p.m.
Thu., August 28Minnesota at Tennessee8 p.m.
Thu., August 28Seattle at Oakland10 p.m.
Thu., August 28Arizona at San Diego10 p.m.
via NFL.com

 

Week 1: San Francisco 49ers at Baltimore Ravens

Jim and John Harbaugh always draw storylines whenever they meet, and the joint practices leading up to the contest should be thoroughly entertaining. However, the on-field matchup provides plenty of interesting storylines as well.

The Niners have been beset by running back injuries in camp, with Kendall Hunter's season-ending ACL tear followed by LaMichael James' dislocated elbow. As of now, San Francisco's backfield depth chart is perilously thin:

The 49ers' impressive depth is being tested, though a three-headed committee of Frank Gore, Carlos Hyde and Marcus Lattimore would still best the vast majority of the league. But for one of the few teams that still relies on two-back power sets and smashmouth gap-blocking offenses, the Niners cannot afford to lose any more depth. Expect to see plenty of Hyde in this game, with Lattimore likely to receive reps as he works his way back into shape.

As for the Ravens, much has been made of their putrid 2013 running game. Baltimore's 3.1 yards-per-attempt average was last in the league, and though Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce did have uncharacteristically poor seasons, the Ravens' porous offensive line did not help either.

Baltimore has since revamped its line, with new starters at center, left guard and right tackle. The latter position remains a question mark, with unproven second-year player Ricky Wagner and unspectacular veteran Jah Reid competing for the role. Against one of the best front sevens in the league, Baltimore's new-look line will have a stiff test in their preseason opener.

 

Week 2: Cleveland Browns at Washington

No NFL article would be complete without a mention of Johnny Manziel. Although evoking the polarizing rookie is apparently mandatory at this point, a rational analysis would understand that he is a relatively raw prospect who will likely need time to develop.

The Browns appear to understand that reality. Manziel has struggled in the early parts of camp, falling behind likely starter Brian Hoyer. But the Browns never really suggested that Manziel was likely to start on opening day, something that was reiterated for the umpteenth time at the beginning of camp:

While the world would love to see what Manziel can do, many are confused about what Robert Griffin III will become. After a breathtaking rookie season, Griffin's sophomore campaign was mired in conflict and regression. The reports under new head coach Jay Gruden have been positive so far, though the honeymoon period is still in effect at this time of year.

Still, it would be disappointing if Griffin did not make significant strides as a pocket passer. Acquiring Desean Jackson and Andre Roberts in the offseason arms Washington with a much more multifaceted receiving corps filled with yards-after-the-catch potential. With steady possession receiver Pierre Garcon and budding matchup nightmare Jordan Reed in the fold as well, Griffin has few excuses for another poor campaign.

Neither Cleveland nor Washington figures to hold a prominent role in the playoff picture, though the mediocre NFC East could keep the latter team in the race. Yet when two of the league's most exciting and divisive quarterbacks meet, plenty of eyes will be honed into D.C.

 

Week 3: New Orleans Saints at Indianapolis Colts

The Super Bowl XLIV rematch pits two teams seen as secondary contenders in their respective conferences against each other. But while the Saints and Colts come with question marks, they also possess the core necessary to emerge as legitimate championship threats.

New Orleans has long lived off the right arm of Drew Brees. But with cap issues plaguing the Saints, Brees' supporting cast has thinned out in recent seasons, with the likes of Darren Sproles, Lance Moore and Robert Meachem among the departed.

The Saints rectified this issue by selecting Oregon State speedster Brandin Cooks in the first round. As a potential Sproles replacement and vertical threat, Cooks should help stress deep safeties and soften the middle for New Orleans' West Coast concepts. The early returns on the rookie have been positive:

The Colts, meanwhile, are in need of a pass rush with Robert Mathis suspended for the first quarter of the season. 2013 first-rounder Bjoern Werner disappointed in limited playing time during his rookie year, but it appears he will receive his chance to atone during Mathis' absence:

With a pair of high-powered attacks in Denver and Philadelphia looming to open the season, Indianapolis must use this preseason to develop reliable pass-rushing options apart from Mathis. With uninspiring veterans like Erik Walden and Cory Redding as competition, Werner looks like the Colts' brightest hope.

 

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