As much as Week 1 of the NFL preseason is a warm-up for the inhabitants of the league, it is very much a warm-up for fans, too.
After a lengthy hiatus, fans must also shake off the rust. Grease up the squeaky recliner, stock the fridge, clean off the grill that was allowed to sit out uncleaned since Seattle laughed Denver off the field and, most importantly, figure out which contests to actually watch.
There are no bye weeks to make the process any easier, either. A full 16-game slate lies on the horizon, and to make things even more complicated, the contests stretch out over a three-day period.
Below, let's take a look at the full opening-week schedule of the preseason and pick out a couple of contests to catch live.
NFL Preseason Week 1 Schedule
|Date||Matchup||Time (ET)||Predicted winner|
|Thu., August 7||Indianapolis at NY Jets||7 p.m.||Indianapolis|
|Thu., August 7||San Francisco at Baltimore||7:30 p.m.||San Francisco|
|Thu., August 7||New England at Washington||7:30 p.m.||New England|
|Thu., August 7||Cincinnati at Kansas City||8 p.m.||Cincinnati|
|Thu., August 7||Seattle at Denver||9 p.m.||Seattle|
|Thu., August 7||Dallas at San Diego||10 p.m.||Dallas|
|Fri., August 8||Miami at Atlanta||7 p.m.||Miami|
|Fri., August 8||Buffalo at Carolina||7:30 p.m.||Buffalo|
|Fri., August 8||Tampa Bay at Jacksonville||7:30 p.m.||Jacksonville|
|Fri., August 8||Philadelphia at Chicago||8 p.m.||Philadelphia|
|Fri., August 8||Oakland at Minnesota||8 p.m.||Oakland|
|Fri., August 8||New Orleans at St. Louis||8 p.m.||New Orleans|
|Sat., August 9||Cleveland at Detroit||7:30 p.m.||Cleveland|
|Sat., August 9||Pittsburgh at NY Giants||7:30 p.m.||NY Giants|
|Sat., August 9||Green Bay at Tennessee||8 p.m.||Green Bay|
|Sat., August 9||Houston at Arizona||8:30 p.m.||Arizona|
Each preseason game can be streamed with NFL Preseason Live.
Cincinnati at Kansas City
Talk about a tale of two identical franchises, in terms of alleged weaknesses, at least.
Last year, Kansas City had a sound first season under Andy Reid to help chase off the demons of a two-win Romeo Crennel squad, but a horrific postseason collapse put a damper on things. Quarterback Alex Smith remains under the spotlight for the obvious reasons.
Which team wins?
While criminally underrated, many are right to wonder if Smith's late-season performance will carry over to this year, especially as he hunts for a new contract and defenses have a year of film to analyze.
To make matters worse, even though the blame will fall on Smith either way due to his position, the front office did not exactly upgrade well around him. The team is counting on a comeback season from 29-year-old wideout Dwayne Bowe, but his continued downward spiral suggests to not get any hopes up:
Cincinnati is in a similar position expectations-wise as Andy Dalton heads into his fourth season after three straight postseason berths and on the hunt for a new contract. Although he is not too concerned about the matter, as captured by NFL.com's Around the League Twitter account:
Like any preseason matchup, though, the real focal point will be on the depth of each AFC postseason contender.
Look at Kansas City and No. 23 overall pick Dee Ford, who will have a chance to prove his worth without players such as Tamba Hali soaking up the spotlight. Or how about former Oregon star De'Anthony Thomas, who will have a shot to tote the rock without Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis in the way, as well as take returns on specials teams.
Thomas might just be the player to watch Thursday, as he will be used in creative ways by Reid, as BJ Kissel of the Chiefs' website helps to explain:
De'Anthony Thomas continues to move around all over the place. Will be fun to watch in preseason. #Chiefs— BJ Kissel (@ChiefsReporter) July 30, 2014
Flip to the other side, where Cincinnati will look to test out new running back Jeremy Hill, who figures to form a one-two punch with Giovani Bernard in the regular season, should he play well. There is also first-round corner Darqueze Dennard, who has to steal playing time from the likes of Leon Hall, Adam Jones and Terence Newman.
In short, the mesh of old and new—paired with grandiose expectations—makes this a must-see affair.
Seattle at Denver
Does this really need a ton of explanation, other than the hint in the intro?
Based on how the offseason has gone for both sides—Denver loaded up with talent such as DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib, while Seattle remains the deepest team in the league—even the lack of a full four-quarter duel between Russell Wilson and Peyton Manning makes this a matchup to watch.
Which team wins?
The losers of the Super Bowl have a ton of work to do, not just because of that humbling defeat, but because of all the pieces in flux. Not only are there a ton of free-agency additions, rookie corner Bradley Roby has to prove he belongs, as does wideout Cody Latimer.
The Seahawks do not come equipped with a high-profile rookie outside of wideout Paul Richardson, but the battle in the backfield makes up for it.
Marshawn Lynch officially reported to camp after a holdout, but that does not mean Robert Turbin and Christine Michael cannot make some noise. As Sports on Earth's Dan Pompei points out, the former is very similar to Beast Mode:
2. The Seahawks are different without Marshawn, but can plug & play Robert Turbin if Lynch continues holdout. Turbin is good enough.— Dan Pompei (@danpompei) July 31, 2014
As for Michael, well, he may just turn out to be the best back from his draft class once he actually gets high usage rates. As Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times muses, he is well on his way to an increase in totes thanks to his superb preseason thus far:
We all know the story with Michael. Limited to just 79 yards on 18 carries, fourth on the team, while working behind Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin a year ago, but entering camp with a chance to earn a much larger role this season. His play in the spring did nothing to quell the idea he will get regular carries this season. The only question is how many.
The two franchises are interesting enough on their own thanks to these battles and new faces, but the NFL was smart to toss the two into the ring on the very first day of the preseason to draw interest.
It should, and what better way to start a new season in Week 1 of the preseason with the way the last one ended?