Six days. Six days until football. I mean, sure, it's preseason football, which is like calling a tofu burger a hamburger, but still. A reasonably approximated version of the sport we all love is coming back to us this weekend.
Sunday's Hall of Fame Game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings serves as the official kickoff to the 2015 preseason, which is a long time coming. We're five months removed from football being played on the world's biggest stage and another month away from games counting.
However, nearly every week has a nationally televised contest with long-term implications, and there are a number of storylines that need to be covered before the "real" Week 1 gets underway.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the entire 2015 NFL preseason schedule and highlight some of those big talking points we'll be focusing on throughout all of August.
|Hall of Fame Game||TV||Stream|
|Pittsburgh vs. Minnesota||NBC||NBC Sports Live|
|Carolina at Buffalo||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Dallas at San Diego||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Denver at Seattle||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Green Bay at New England||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Indianapolis at Philadelphia||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Kansas City at Arizona||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Miami at Chicago||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|New Orleans at Baltimore||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|NY Giants at Cincinnati||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|NY Jets at Detroit||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Pittsburgh at Jacksonville||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|San Francisco at Houston||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|St. Louis at Oakland||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Tampa Bay at Minnesota||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Tennessee at Atlanta||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Washington at Cleveland||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Buffalo at Cleveland||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|St. Louis at Tennessee||Fox||Fox Sports Go|
|Cincinnati at Tampa Bay||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Atlanta at NY Jets||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Baltimore at Philadelphia||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Chicago at Indianapolis||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Dallas at San Francisco||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Denver at Houston||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Detroit at Washington||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Green Bay at Pittsburgh||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Jacksonville at NY Giants||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Miami at Carolina||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|New England at New Orleans||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Oakland at Minnesota||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|San Diego at Arizona||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Seattle at Kansas City||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Detroit at Jacksonville||CBS||NFL Game Pass|
|Seattle at San Diego||CBS||NFL Game Pass|
|Houston at New Orleans||Fox||Fox Sports Go|
|Arizona at Oakland||NBC||NBC Sports Live|
|Atlanta at Miami||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Chicago at Cincinnati||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Cleveland at Tampa Bay||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Indianapolis at St. Louis||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Minnesota at Dallas||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|New England at Carolina||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|NY Jets at NY Giants||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Philadelphia at Green Bay||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Pittsburgh at Buffalo||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|San Francisco at Denver||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Tennessee at Kansas City||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Washington at Baltimore||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Arizona at Denver||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Baltimore at Atlanta||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Buffalo at Detroit||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Carolina at Pittsburgh||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Cincinnati at Indianapolis||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Cleveland at Chicago||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Houston at Dallas||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Jacksonville at Washington||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Kansas City at St. Louis||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Minnesota at Tennessee||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|New Orleans at Green Bay||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|NY Giants at New England||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Oakland at Seattle||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Philadelphia at NY Jets||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|San Diego at San Francisco||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Tampa Bay at Miami||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
Can Tim Tebow Make the Eagles?
Well, given the rate at which Chip Kelly seems to be jettisoning players with actual NFL accomplishments, the answer might just be "yes."
Tebow's signing this offseason was treated much more like a joke than an actual football move. Some theorized he might be effective under the new two-point conversion rules, but Tebow hasn't thrown a pass since 2012 and a 53-man roster can only be stretched so far.
Apparently, the narrative has shifted. Eagles linebacker Brandon Graham appeared on WGPR 107.5 FM last week and seemed impressed with the work the former Florida star is putting in.
"Tim Tebow is going to shock a lot of people because he is going to make the team," Graham said. "And I think he will play a lot."
Now, there are a few ways to look at this. Graham could be toeing the company line. Kelly has done a nice job of keeping the Tebow circus to a minimum, something even Bill Belichick failed to do in New England. Keeping players on brand with diplomatic answers is the best way to keep that going, even if Tebow throws like this.
But it's at least theoretically possible that Graham's quote is on the up and up.
No one has ever doubted Tebow's work ethic. The dude loves playing football. He puts as much time if not more into getting better than anyone in the league. He spent 18 months retooling his delivery without even the slightest guarantee of an NFL tryout.
Who knows? Maybe it finally is Tebow Time after all. OK, probably not.
Jimmy Garoppolo's Moment(s) in the Spotlight
The NFLPA and NFL are pushing for a resolution to Tom Brady's four-game suspension appeal before the beginning of the regular season, which means this all could be moot come September.
For now, though, Jimmy Garoppolo is planned as the Patriots' Week 1 starter.
While he was part of a long-term succession plan, this is all happening far sooner than anyone in New England thought. A second-round pick in 2014, Garoppolo is Brady's heir apparent.
Belichick has dabbled with weird timing in choosing quarterbacks on draft night in the past—Ryan Mallett, anyone?—but the timing with Garoppolo seemed right.
Brady is 38 years old and has three years remaining on his deal. If he were to play out the entirety of his contract, Garoppolo would have spent his entire rookie-scale contract behind Brady. While that's not an ideal use of assets in theory, it could also open Garoppolo's representatives to the possibility of signing a cheaper, long-term deal.
That was looking a few years into the future. In the here and now, Garoppolo could either become the NFL's most valuable backup quarterback or torpedo his value in a matter of weeks.
After playing at Eastern Illinois, Garoppolo will be looking at the closest thing he's seen to real NFL defenses—at least assuming New England allows him some reps with the first team. Garoppolo threw 27 passes last season, nearly all of which were in garbage time.
“The comfort level is a huge thing,” Garoppolo said, per Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post. “Being in the same place with most of the same people [is important], and it’s a great opportunity to just go out there and improve on little things every day.”
If Garoppolo isn't ready, the Patriots' Super Bowl defense may be on life support before Brady even gets off his suspension.
Griffin, Manziel Fight for Their Careers
Three years ago, Robert Griffin III was the most exciting player in football. He was the Platonic ideal of a modern-day quarterback. He was accurate underneath, had a booming arm downfield and ran with a confidence we haven't seen since prime Michael Vick.
You know the rest. A torn ACL injury led to broken trust between the Mike Shanahan-led coaching staff and Griffin, ultimately leading to the former's departure.
It's also seemingly ruined the trust Griffin had in himself, as he's regressed from a cocksure star in the making into a fangless also-ran.
Last season, Griffin's first playing under Jay Gruden, was his worst. He threw for just 1,694 yards and four touchdowns against six interceptions in nine games, eventually getting benched for Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy at different points.
His carries have gone down from 120 in 2013 to 86 in 2014 and all the way down to 38 last season.
"He is done," an anonymous offensive coach told Mike Sando of ESPN. "The reason is, the injury slowed his legs, and his ego will not allow him to hit rock bottom and actually grind his way back up the right way."
Many already feel Johnny Manziel is "done" despite having thrown only 35 professional passes. Granted, those attempts amounted to a series of nightmares during Manziel's newsworthy-for-all-the-wrong-reasons rookie campaign in Cleveland.
The former Texas A&M star lost a position battle to Brian Hoyer in training camp, saw numerous teammates trash him publicly and privately, and struggled with substance-abuse issues all while failing on the field.
Manziel's rehab stint was great for him as a man—as is any time a young man recognizes he needs help—but he still faces an uphill battle in reviving his career. The Browns signed Josh McCown this offseason to take over as a stopgap starter.
Even if McCown isn't great—and he sure hasn't been for most of his career—it says a lot that Manziel opened camp as a clear backup.
If he doesn't show something in camp, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Cleveland move on from him altogether next offseason.