2011 NFL Preseason Schedule: 5 Games with the Biggest Storylines
Has any NFL preseason ever been this anticipated?
Because the lockout lasted until mid-July and there were no OTAs and teams were forced to make all their free-agency signings in a hurry, the excitement surrounding anything and everything NFL, even preseason football, is heightened (good move, NFL).
Preseason games kick off Thursday Aug. 11, so let's take a look at five of the biggest games in the coming weeks.
Baltimore at Philadelphia
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Right off the bat, one of the most exciting teams from last season and one of the busiest so far this offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles welcome one of the league's best defenses, the Baltimore Ravens.
Baltimore comes to Philadelphia Thursday Aug. 11 to put the Eagles' Dream Team tag to the test.
Andy Reid added one of the top free agents in the market in Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to the already stacked defense for the Eagles, and on the other side of the ball is one of the most dynamic players in the NFL, Michael Vick.
But Vick isn't the only one Ed Reed and Ray Lewis need to worry about.
DeSean Jackson has ended his holdout, and Ronnie Brown, LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin are just a few of Vick's offensive options. Or maybe Vince Young will get a few snaps to try and revitalize his career.
The Dream Team's fate won't be decided in this first preseason game, but it'll be all anyone talks about.
Seattle at Denver
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This game is all about the quarterback, or rather who is the quarterback?
One of the biggest storylines since the lockout ended has been who will be the No. 1 QB in Denver, Tim Tebow or Kyle Orton?
Miami was supposedly close to signing Orton which seemed to answer the question, but John Elway isn't giving anything away.
Both QBs (and maybe Brady Quinn) will take a number of snaps in the first two preseason games which will either give us a pretty good idea of who will be leading the Broncos this season, or it will just make Broncos fans more nervous.
Seattle comes to Denver in Week 3 of preseason with quarterback questions as well. Matt Hasselbeck is gone, and Charlie Whitehurst nor Tarvaris Jackson really inspire much confidence.
Though Jackson has been named the starter for now, there's no way his job is secure. Whitehurst can certainly steal it.
Will Jackson's previous relationship with fellow former Minnesota Viking Sidney Rice give him the edge, or did Whitehurst gain some new confidence in the playoff-clinching win over St. Louis last season?
Carolina at Cincinnati
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On one side of the ball, you've got the No. 1 overall draft pick and the most talked-about college player last year, for good and bad reasons.
On the other, you don't really know who you're gonna get.
The Carolina Panthers visit the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday Aug. 25, and the third week of preseason should have brought some clarity to both teams.
Cam Newton will have plenty of pressure on his shoulders even during preseason, and he'll be itching to prove he wasn't just a one-season wonder in college.
Carson Palmer and Mike Brown are both holding firm, and chances are this game of chicken will go right down to the wire—even though Brown would be very smart to trade the unhappy quarterback and get something in return for his woeful team instead of just letting him retire and leave the team hanging.
Learn when to take a stand and when to take advantage, Brown.
Will Newton show some understanding of the pros, or will the pressure be too much for him this early?
Will this stupid battle between Palmer and Brown still be dragging on, or will Pete Carroll give his old apprentice new life in the NFL (don't say you haven't been thinking it)?
Jacksonville at New England
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Four years ago, Bill Belichick brought diva wide receiver Randy Moss to New England, and everyone scoffed. Everyone then ate their words a few months later as Belichick brought out the absolute best in Moss.
Belichick is at it again, but this time he's double-dipping. Chad Ochocinco is Tom Brady's newest star wide receiver, and troublesome defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth is Belichick's newest project.
Rookie cornerback Ras-I Dowling is also looking to make an immediate impact on the Patriots pass defense, a weakness last season.
The new-look Patriots' first preseason game sees them welcome the Jacksonville Jaguars to Gillette Stadium Thursday Aug. 11.
The Jags have some question marks of their own, especially surrounding quarterbacks David Garrard and No. 10 overall pick Blaine Gabbert, but this game will be all about if the Patriots can repeat their amazing 2007 season, with a different ending obviously.
Philadelphia at New York Jets
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In the final week of preseason,= new-look Philadelphia come to New York to face the Jets, the team they were battling for many of the top free agents.
The Eagles got Nnamdi Asomugha, while the Jets got Plaxico Burress.
Plenty of people will be calling this a Super Bowl preview, which may be a stretch, but it'll certainly be entertaining.
Burress hurt his ankle during training, so he may not see any action until this final tuneup game, and what better time to send him out than against one of the top secondaries in the league?
And if any team can battle Philadelphia's dynamic offense, wouldn't it be Darrelle Revis and Co.?
This game has edge-of-your-seat excitement written all over it, and what a way to go into the most anticipated NFL season in years.