Football fans are so desperate for any crumb of NFL activity that they clamor for preseason action, an opportunity for the league's brightest stars to play a few minutes before watching three quarters just like us.
For some fans, preseason football represents the first chance to scout their beloved squad and identify potential breakout stars. For others, it's simply a way to kill a few hours on an otherwise uneventful night.
But for many players, they're fighting for their livelihoods. Precious roster spots hang in the balance, and starting positions are also up for grabs. It may not seem to matter much, but tell that to those guys.
The outcomes are especially insignificant, but we all need to dust off our rust before the season begins. How are we supposed to predict Week 1's games without a practice run? That's a recipe for breaking your typing fingers, so let's get a head start by delving into the preseason pool.
|Date||Matchup||Time (ET)||TV||Predicted winner|
|Thu., August 14||Jacksonville at Chicago||8 p.m.||ESPN||Chicago|
|Fri., August 15||Philadelphia at New England||7:30 p.m.||NFL Network||Philadelphia|
|Fri., August 15||Tennessee at New Orleans||8 p.m.||Tennessee|
|Fri., August 15||San Diego at Seattle||10 p.m.||NFL Network||San Diego|
|Fri., August 15||Detroit at Oakland||10 p.m.||Oakland|
|Sat., August 16||Green Bay at St. Louis||4 p.m.||NFL||St. Louis|
|Sat., August 16||NY Giants at Indianapolis||7 p.m.||New York|
|Sat., August 16||NY Jets at Cincinnati||7 p.m.||Cincinnati|
|Sat., August 16||Baltimore at Dallas||7 p.m.||NFL||Baltimore|
|Sat., August 16||Buffalo at Pittsburgh||7:30 p.m.||Pittsburgh|
|Sat., August 16||Miami at Tampa Bay||7:30 p.m.||Miami|
|Sat., August 16||Atlanta at Houston||8 p.m.||Houston|
|Sat., August 16||Arizona at Minnesota||8:30 p.m.||Minnesota|
|Sun., August 17||Denver at San Francisco||4 p.m.||NFL Network||San Francisco|
|Sun., August 17||Kansas City at Carolina||8 p.m.||FOX||Kansas City|
|Mon., August 18||Cleveland at Washington||8 p.m.||ESPN||Washington|
Each preseason game can be streamed with NFL Preseason Live (subscription required).
Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots
As far as preseason matchups go, this clash between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots should provide a whole lot of fun.
Chip Kelly's mile-a-minute offense is always exciting to watch, and Bill Belichick is crazy enough to play a preseason matchup like it actually matters. Well, not "play Tom Brady the entire game" crazy, but "give him two or three drives" crazy.
Last season, New England and Philadelphia ranked third and fourth, respectively, in terms of points scored per game. They also, as Bart Scott would so lovingly put it, couldn't stop a nosebleed. The Patriots' 373.1 yards allowed per game placed No. 26, while the Eagles fared even worse at No. 29, yielding 394.0 yards per contest.
Both teams are welcoming returning offensive stars to the fold this season. For New England, Rob Gronkowski is once again fighting Father Time in hopes of taking the field Week 1. While he still hopes to return from his ACL injury at full strength, he did not partake in a competitive practice with Washington before the team's opening preseason bout.
He won't suit up for this bout, but ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss reported that he should at least return to practice this week.
Bill Belichick on Rob Gronkowski: "This week was an opportunity to re-up the treatments...expect we'll see him back on the field next week."— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) August 7, 2014
On the other side, look for Jeremy Maclin to dip his feet in the water after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. With DeSean Jackson gone, Nick Foles will lean heavily on the 26-year-old to become Philadelphia's top possession receiver.
Again, preseason stats don't count, but Foles will still certainly like to erase any memories of his lackluster performance against the Chicago Bears last week. Despite completing six of his nine passes, the second-year starter coughed up two interceptions.
Two interceptions, that sounds familiar. ESPN Stats & Info reminds us why.
Nick Foles threw as many interceptions (2) in Friday's preseason game against the Bears as he did in the entire 2013 season.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 9, 2014
That's confirmation of something everyone should have already known: Nick Foles will throw more than two interceptions this season unless he gets hurt or permanently benched after surrendering one. Even Brady averages 11 picks per season.
Miami Dolphins vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A preseason game doesn't need two Super Bowl contenders to warrant recognition. If anything, those guys have nothing to prove.
The Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are both interesting squads on the uptick, and there's the local Florida rivalry to enhance the tension. New faces on the player and personnel fronts also puts this high on the priority list.
Tasked with jolting a humdrum Miami offense, Bill Lazor is prepared to accelerate the pace and open up the playbook. If last weekend's sneak peek is any indication, the Dolphins should accumulate more points this season.
In his first crack at running Lazor's system, Ryan Tannehill went a perfect 6-of-6 with 62 yards and a passing touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons. The fluid drive impressed the NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah.
Great drive for Tannehill. This offense will take advantage of his ability to throw on the move. #MIAvsATL— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) August 8, 2014
Last season, the Dolphins ranked No. 27 in total offense. Given their previous struggles, it's hard not to get excited about any positive results, no matter how small the sample size.
Tampa Bay also must make considerable strides offensively. It ranked last in total offense due to an anemic aerial assault that tallied just 176.3 yards per game. Josh McCown parlayed his success with the Bears into a new contract, but he'll still have to beat out incumbent Mike Glennon for the starting job.
After throwing a pick-six during his brief Tampa Bay debut, the veteran will look to rebound. Rookie wideout Mike Evans, drafted No. 7 last April, will be present to help him out.
If Lovie Smith can revitalize the passing offense, the Buccaneers have the weapons to make a splash this season. He must, however, embrace the NFL's changing culture that Greg Schiano stubbornly resisted by overly committing to the run.