One. More. Week.
That single week of NFL preseason games is all that stands in between football fans and the glory of the regular season. Final scores and the standings will take precedence again come Thursday, Sept. 1, when the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots kick off the year, but there are still jobs to be won and roster spots to be determined in the preseason.
With that in mind, here is a look at the schedule and broadcasting information for the final week of exhibition contests, as well as the matchup to watch.
|NFL Preseason Schedule and Broadcast Info|
|Arizona at Denver||Sep. 3||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Baltimore at Atlanta||Sep. 3||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Buffalo at Detroit||Sep. 3||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Carolina at Pittsburgh||Sep. 3||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Cincinnati at Indianapolis||Sep. 3||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Cleveland at Chicago||Sep. 3||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Houston at Dallas||Sep. 3||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Jacksonville at Washington||Sep. 3||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Kansas City at St. Louis||Sep. 3||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Minnesota at Tennessee||Sep. 3||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|New Orleans at Green Bay||Sep. 3||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|NY Giants at New England||Sep. 3||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Oakland at Seattle||Sep. 3||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Philadelphia at NY Jets||Sep. 3||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|San Diego at San Francisco||Sep. 3||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
|Tampa Bay at Miami||Sep. 3||Local Affiliates||NFL Game Pass|
Ticket Info: Tickets and information for NFL preseason games can be found at ScoreBig.com.
Matchup to Watch: San Diego Chargers at San Francisco 49ers
The showdown between the San Diego Chargers and San Francisco 49ers is a California-oriented one fans don’t often get to see, but more than just the regional interest stands out.
The 49ers feature one of the most intriguing preseason battles for a roster spot across the league with running back Jarryd Hayne. Hayne is a story just for the mere fact he is a former two-time player of the year in Australia’s National Rugby League, but his performance on the field in San Francisco’s first two preseason games turned plenty of heads.
He led the 49ers in rushing yards in each of those contests and was also a dangerous threat on punt returns (29.25 yards a return against the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys). However, his production dipped against the Denver Broncos in the third game when he tallied two carries for zero yards and a single punt return for 12.
To be fair, the third preseason game is typically when regulars see more time as something of a dress rehearsal for the season. The Hayne storyline took a back seat to Carlos Hyde, Colin Kaepernick and Mike Davis, among others.
Still, it raised questions about Hayne’s immediate future, which coach Jim Tomsula addressed, per Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com: “Well, Jarryd obviously has himself in the conversation. I don’t want to sit here and make statements, but Jarryd has himself in the conversation. Special-teams value is very high when you are talking about the last few spots on the team.”
It is hard to ask for much more than a spot in the conversation at this time, and Hayne has clearly made the right impression with some of the plays in the following video.
That versatility he provides on special teams with impressive vision and a speed and power combination that was honed in rugby gives him an advantage as roster spots are trimmed.
It is difficult to envision Hayne cracking the regular running back rotation with Hyde as the projected starter, Reggie Bush as a proven commodity and Davis as a youngster with upside, but the former rugby star looks natural returning punts. Thursday against San Diego is his final chance to prove himself in live action, and his special teams play will be most important.
As for the Chargers, their running back position will also take center stage, but not because someone is fighting for a spot on the team.
Rather, rookie Melvin Gordon is yet to seize the reins as a dominant playmaker in the backfield, and San Diego fans would likely feel much more confident about the season if they saw it happen Thursday.
The Chargers finished a disappointing 30th in the league in rushing offense in 2014. The fact they remained in the postseason chase for most of the year is a testament to Philip Rivers and the defense, especially since no individual back topped 600 rushing yards in the season (Branden Oliver finished with 582).
Even though Oliver, Donald Brown and Danny Woodhead are back in 2015, there is plenty of opportunity for Gordon to permanently win the starting job.
Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com pointed out the former Wisconsin Badger may be thinking too much in the preseason with a spot atop the depth chart at stake:
Melvin Gordon has to turn off his mind and let his legs and natural instincts do the work.
Not that the San Diego Chargers’ offensive line provided a lot of room to run against a stout Seattle Seahawks’ defensive front. But when the Chargers created a crease, Gordon again failed to take advantage of it.
Case in point: On first-and-10 from Seattle’s 26-yard line late in the first half, Gordon had an open lane and a one-on-one opportunity with talented Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.
Sherman’s an elite defensive player, but these are battles good running backs in the NFL win on a consistent basis.
Gordon could have bounced outside and beat Sherman to the corner. Instead, he hesitated, bounced inside and was tackled for a 2-yard gain.
Gordon finished with 34 yards on 14 carries against the Seattle Seahawks and 11 yards on six carries against the Dallas Cowboys.
San Diego still hasn’t seen the explosive plays he routinely turned in during his Wisconsin career. After all, we are talking about a running back who finished with 2,587 rushing yards and 32 total touchdowns last year alone, so it’s not a question of talent.
The 49ers were seventh in the league against the run in 2014. While Thursday’s contest is only preseason and the starters likely won’t see much action, a solid effort from Gordon against a unit that contained opposing running backs last year would leave a positive final impression before the games count.
It would also help Gordon’s confidence at the NFL level.
San Diego finished 9-7 last season even though it didn’t establish a consistent running threat. Gordon doesn’t have to be the superstar fans saw at Wisconsin (it would be unfair to expect that during his rookie season), but the Chargers need more production from the backfield if they hope to compete for a deep postseason run in 2015.
That starts with the rookie.