Even though it's easy to scoff at the NFL preseason, like how the league charges regular season prices for tickets, this is a crucial time for all 32 teams. Roster spots are up for grabs and position battles are still waiting to be won.
In the scheme of things, the final results don't make a difference until September 7. Yet every play matters in terms of evaluation and trying to see how players have evolved during the offseason.
Week 2 of the preseason has gotten underway with five games on Thursday and Friday, but there are still 11 games left to be played and more than a few storylines worth tracking through the weekend.
Here's a look at the schedule for the second week of preseason action and what you need to be watching.
|Date, Time (ET)||Matchup||TV Info|
|Aug. 14, Final||Chicago 20, Jacksonville 19||ESPN|
|Aug. 15, Final||New England 42, Philadelphia 35||NFL Network|
|Aug. 15, Final||New Orleans 31, Tennessee 24||WKRN (Tennessee); WVUE (New Orleans)|
|Aug. 15, Final||Seattle 41, San Diego 14||NFL Network|
|Aug. 15, Final||Oakland 27, Detroit 26||ABC 7 (Detroit); Fox 2 (Oakland)|
|Aug. 16, 4 p.m.||Green Bay Packers at St. Louis Rams||NFL Network|
|Aug. 16, 7 p.m.||New York Giants at Indianapolis Colts||WNBC 4 (New York); WISH 8 (Indianapolis)|
|Aug. 16, 7 p.m.||New York Jets at Cincinnati Bengals||WCBS 2 (New York); WKRC 12 (Cincinnati)|
|Aug. 16, 7 p.m.||Baltimore Ravens at Dallas Cowboys||NFL Network|
|Aug. 16, 7:30 p.m.||Buffalo Bills at Pittsburgh Steelers||WKBW (Buffalo); KDKA (Pittsburgh)|
|Aug. 16, 7:30 p.m.||Miami Dolphins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers||CBS 4 (Miami); WFLA (Tampa)|
|Aug. 16, 8 p.m.||Atlanta Falcons at Houston Texans||CW69 (Atlanta); KTRK (Houston)|
|Aug. 16, 8:30 p.m.||Arizona Cardinals at Minnesota Vikings||ABC15 (Arizona); FSN Plus (Minnesota)|
|Aug. 17, 4 p.m.||Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers||NFL Network|
|Aug. 17, 8 p.m.||Kansas City Chiefs at Carolina Panthers||Fox|
|Aug. 18, 8 p.m.||Cleveland Browns at Washington||ESPN|
Key Storylines For Week 2
Cleveland's Quarterback Battle
The biggest position battle still left unsettled is moving closer to a resolution. Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel have been fighting to become Cleveland's starting quarterback all summer, but Monday will be the last day either one has a chance to prove himself.
Head coach Mike Pettine told the Associated Press (via USA Today) that the Browns intend to name their starter for the regular season on Tuesday.
"Something unforeseen could come up, but we're hopeful because I do want to see if I can cut the quarterback questions down by about 90 percent after next week," Pettine said. "The chemistry, the continuity, it's important to establish that."
Hoyer has been given the opportunity to start against Washington on Monday, but Pettine told Mary Kay Cabot of the Northeast Ohio Media Group that both quarterbacks will split reps with the first-team offense.
In an interesting twist, Manziel told reporters, via Tom Withers of the Associated Press (h/t Yahoo Sports), that he isn't ready to be the starter against Pittsburgh in Week 1 "right now."
Manziel did use very calculated wording there, but you do get the sense that he understands better now how different the NFL is compared to college after getting some in-game experience last week against Detroit.
Given how tight-lipped Pettine has been about the quarterback battle, it's impossible to pinpoint a favorite at this point. Fortunately for Cleveland, things will come into greater focus on Monday night.
Tony Romo's Return
Even though there's no controversy over who the starting quarterback is in Dallas, the return of the lightning rod that is Tony Romo warrants attention. He was having a fantastic 2013 season, even though the team was mediocre, with 31 touchdowns and 3,828 yards before being shut down prior to Week 17 with a back injury.
Now, after sitting out last week's preseason opener, Romo will be playing in a game for the first time since December 22, 2013.
In addition to the pressure that comes with being quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, Romo has to carry a team that lost key defensive players DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher to free agency, Sean Lee to a torn ACL and Orlando Scandrick to a four-game suspension.
Keep in mind Dallas' defense last year ranked 26th in points allowed and last in yards allowed, so the burden on the offense was already high enough before injuries and suspensions took away more defensive players.
We won't see a lot of Romo on Saturday, though. Head coach Jason Garrett told reporters, via Desmond Purnell of NFL Network, his quarterback will play between 10 to 12 snaps against Baltimore:
Whatever Romo does on Saturday, it will be a breath of fresh air for Cowboys fans who need something to be excited about after a brutal offseason.
The Opening Of Levi's Stadium
Denver and San Francisco figure to be two of the best teams in the NFL this season after making it to the Super Bowl and NFC Championship game, respectively, before both fell to Seattle.
The two teams with lofty expectations will lock horns in a nationally televised game that will also serve as the official debut of San Francisco's new home, Levi's Stadium. The 49ers have already been in their new home, practicing in the stadium with video from Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News:
The Broncos and 49ers have most of their positions settled, though, San Francisco is still trying to figure out who will take control of the inside linebacker spot that is vacant until NaVorro Bowman returns later this season.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee listed rookie linebacker Chris Borland as one of his 10 players to watch in the game against Denver because of the likelihood he starts the game and what the 49ers hope to see from him:
He's likely to start his second straight game but only because the 49ers are being cautious with Patrick Willis. Losing NaVorro Bowman is awful. Losing Bowman and Willis? Disaster. The undersized Borland is fun to watch because he darts about the field like a hyperactive terrier. Coaches want to see him hone that enthusiasm over the last three warm-up games.
With the 49ers being careful with Patrick Willis, the coaching staff will have plenty of opportunities to evaluate Borland and Michael Wilhoite.
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