Something magical happens during the NFL preseason.
During the first week of preseason football, you're excited for football but know the quality on the field will be pretty rough at best. By the second week, you can feel a wave of anticipation rising in your gut. By the third week, you've been whipped into a full frenzy. And by the fourth week, you basically can't think about anything else.
It happens every year, pretty much without fail.
With football back on the dial, though, the question remains as to which games are the most appealing and important to watch. So below, I've picked out one matchup from each week (well, sort of) that you should absolutely watch if you can.
Because there's no cure for this fever.
Week 1: Seattle Seahawks vs. Denver Broncos
Yes, it's the first preseason game. Yes, the teams will be rusty and many of the normal starters will only play for a quarter or not at all.
But c'mon, you just know this game is going to be a little charged after the Seahawks absolutely smoked the Broncos in the Super Bowl last year. Well, unless you listen to John Fox, who had quite the different message for Nicki Jhabvala of The Denver Post:
Like every year, no matter who your opponent is, you get tired of banging on each other for 14 days. You use preseason as kind of a measuring stick where you are, because you haven't hit anyone since the earlier season.
Really, last year's forgotten. Everybody is 0-0. This is the 2014 season. It's no different than any other years. A year ago we lost to Baltimore (in the playoffs). I've said many times if you don't win the last game there's disappointment. That's behind us. We're so far along now, with different players and different schemes that we don't think about (the Super Bowl) much.
The first quarter in this game may just be the most intriguing quarter in the entire preseason. The Broncos can underplay it all they like, but the truth is, they were embarrassed by the Seahawks in February.
Athletes don't forget being embarrassed. Expect the Broncos to come out buzzing in this one and for the Legion of Boom to return the favor.
Week 2: Cleveland Browns vs. Washington Redskins
The former is probably the most talked-about rookie in NFL history. The latter is probably the most talked-about player in the NFL in the past two seasons.
Both are electrifying. Both thrive when they are allowed the freedom to scramble. Both are the future of their franchises. Only one is the definite starter coming into the year.
We don't even know if Johnny Football will win the job in Cleveland, but this will be one of his four chances on the preseason stage to prove the job should be his. Oh, and he might just start this game, too, per Nate Ulrich of Ohio.com:
Hoyer took all of the first-team practice snaps until Monday, when Manziel got his first chance to work with the starters. Hoyer took the reigns again Tuesday, but Manziel was back with the first stringers Wednesday.
Considering how the quarterbacks are splitting time with the starters, it would be logical for the coaches to give Manziel the starting nod for the second preseason game Aug. 18 against the Washington Redskins.
'That's possible,' [head coach Mike Pettine] said. 'That seems like about a month away to me.'
Be honest—anytime Manziel plays, don't you want to see him in action?
Of course you do. Don't miss this one.
Week 3: Carolina Panthers vs. New England Patriots
In Week 3, you generally get to see the starters remain in the game the longest—at times up to three quarters and generally at least for a half.
In other words, this is the week you try to find the best matchup. And while the New Orleans Saints taking on the Indianapolis Colts should also be a fun one this week, both the Panthers and Patriots were division winners last year and should play a smashmouth, defensively oriented contest.
Plus, don't you want to see the continued evolution of Cam Newton? Or Darrelle Revis in a Pats uni? And maybe Rob Gronkowski, if the Patriots actually allow him on the field before the regular season?
There are plenty of intriguing things to watch for in this game. On the Week 3 schedule, this is the headliner.
Week 4: Find the Rookies
This is the week to scout Teddy Bridgewater on the Minnesota Vikings, or Bishop Sankey with the Tennessee Titans, or Jordan Matthews on the Philadelphia Eagles, or Sammy Watkins on the Buffalo Bills, or Manziel, or Jadeveon Clowney on the Houston Texans, or Eric Ebron on the Detroit Lions, or Carlos Hyde on the San Francisco 49ers, or...
Well, you get the drift.
With the starters generally resting on the bench in Week 4 of the preseason, these games are all about positional battles and rookies making their last case to earn starting gigs. The young quarterbacks will be given their chance to shine. The young running backs will be given plenty of touches.
Week 4 is all about scouting for the future. If that turns you on, well, welcome to the league of extraordinary football nuts.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!