One more week. NFL fans must endure just one more week of preseason football before advancing to the games that count.
Whereas coaches will take the third matchup semi-seriously as their tuneup game, the last batch of exhibition contests mostly boil down to keeping everyone healthy. Not the greatest pitch to watch, but let's be real: "It's football" is all most people need to know.
Besides, there are still roster spots to be won and fantasy football squads to be drafted. Any information is better than no information, so why not absorb every last nook and cranny before the season kicks off?
Here's a look at the Week 4 preseason schedule, with every game taking place on Thursday, Aug. 28. All preseason games can be streamed with "NFL Preseason Live."
|Matchup||Time (ET), TV||Prediction|
|Atlanta at Jacksonville||6 p.m.||31-26 JAC|
|Detroit at Buffalo||7 p.m.||24-17 DET|
|Indianapolis at Cincinnati||7 p.m.||33-28 IND|
|Kansas City at Green Bay||7 p.m.||14-10 KC|
|St. Louis at Miami||7 p.m.||27-23 MIA|
|NY Jets at Philadelphia||7 p.m. (NFL Network)||25-20 PHI|
|New England at NY Giants||7:30 p.m.||34-24 NE|
|Carolina at Pittsburgh||7:30 p.m.||9-6 PIT|
|Washington at Tampa Bay||7:30 p.m.||20-13 TB|
|Chicago at Cleveland||8 p.m.||30-13 CHI|
|Denver at Dallas||8 p.m.||21-20 DEN|
|San Francisco at Houston||8 p.m.||17-14 HOU|
|Baltimore at New Orleans||8 p.m.||29-23 NO|
|Minnesota at Tennessee||8 p.m.||34-31 MIN|
|Seattle at Oakland||10 p.m.||17-12 SEA|
|Arizona at San Diego||10 p.m. (NFL Network)||24-21 SD|
Minnesota Vikings at Tennessee Titans
The most interesting quarterback battle involving a rookie passer is not happening in Cleveland. After both Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater made their best case to start Week 1, the Minnesota Vikings finally reached a decision.
According to Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, Minnesota has elected to start the veteran.
Vikings players were informed this morning that Matt Cassel will be the starting QB in Minnesota over Teddy Bridgewater— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) August 25, 2014
Both quarterbacks played well, which is undoubtedly encouraging for Bridgewater's future under center, but the experienced Cassel received the edge.
Although nothing the first-round pick does against the Titans will help him abscond the starting job, another strong performance is one more step toward illuminating the absurdity of the Louisville standout falling to pick No. 32 because of a subpar pro day performance.
There's no such quarterback quandary in the Music City, where Jake Locker will look to bounce back from a foot injury that cost him most of last season. Not only will he get more opportunities to air it out in Ken Whisenhunt's offense, but he's also afforded a burgeoning nucleus of skill players surrounding him.
If Kendall Wright produced a few more touchdowns alongside his 94 catches and 1,079 receiving yards last year, he'd get discussed as a top wideout. Rookie Bishop Sankey should erase memories of the regressing Chris Johnson as this year's high-impact rookie rusher.
Then there's Justin Hunter, who caught four passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns against the New Orleans Saints two weeks ago. The 6'4" receiver figures to become an immense end-zone target, with The Tennessean's John Glennon calling his fade route "all but unstoppable."
Locker joined the praise.
"He's so big and so long, and he has the ability to jump, and he has such a big catch radius," Locker told Glennon. "You're able to put the ball a lot of places to give him a chance. That puts a lot of pressure on the defense at that point."
Watching their albeit brief presence on Thursday night should be fun.
San Francisco 49ers at Houston Texans
The San Francisco 49ers offense is having a rough go of the preseason. Through three games, the starting unit has not orchestrated a touchdown. It took Blaine Gabbert, of all people, to end the suffering.
TOUCHDOWN 49ers!!! It took almost 10 quarters, but SF finally gets its first TD of the preseason, a 6-yard Gabbert pass to McDonald.— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) August 24, 2014
A usually stout running game has not showed up yet, as San Francisco's usually impeccable offensive line has exhibited some leaks. After examining their lackluster preseason performance, Bleacher Report's Ty Schalter ultimately pointed to Colin Kaepernick to fix it.
Great protection or poor protection, great running game or poor running game, Kaepernick has plenty of weapons around him and all the physical tools he needs to succeed. If the 49ers are again going to contend for the Super Bowl—or for that matter, win more games than they lose—he's going to have to put the team, and the responsibility, on his shoulders.
Before dismissing this as just the preseason, remember that offense wasn't a strength last season either. The 49ers ranked 24th with 323.8 yards amassed per game, placing a meager 30th in passing yards (186.2) accrued.
Kaepernick's 58.4 completion percentage ranked a horrifying 31st, below the likes of EJ Manuel and Kellen Clemens. If the 49ers can only go as far as their newly extended quarterback takes them, they won't go far enough.
If the two sides played any meaningful reps at full strength, he'd certainly get tested against the Houston Texans' ferocious defensive line. Despite finishing with the NFL's worst record, Houston sported the league's third-best passing defense.
A cavalcade of pick-sixes buried the Texans, but expect them to rise from the bottom of the pack to relevancy. Even if they're not playoff contenders, they should at least aim for a .500 record with Jadeveon Clowney joining J.J. Watt in their pass rush.