Week 2 of the 2018 NFL preseason has some serious expectations to match.
The return of football the week prior provided some wow-worthy moments, with huge rookie performances and close contests raising the bar higher than normal. While the second week isn't the third—where teams actually play starters for about a half or more—it will clearly have some must-see action if the first week is anything to go by.
And remember, while a game's result doesn't matter, individual results do. Coaches screen every snap a player takes during these "meaningless" games and it ends up deciding roster battles, regular season snap counts and more.
Which isn't so meaningless. The Week 2 slate starts Thursday and gives fans four days of football over five days.
Thursday, August 16
Philadelphia at New England, 7:30 p.m. ET
N.Y. Jets at Washington, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Pittsburgh at Green Bay, 8 p.m. ET
Friday, August 17
Kansas City at Atlanta, 7 p.m. ET
N.Y. Giants at Detroit, 7 p.m. ET
Buffalo at Cleveland, 7:30 p.m. ET (NFLN)
Miami at Carolina, 7:30 p.m. ET
Arizona at New Orleans, 8 p.m. ET
Saturday, August 18
Jacksonville at Minnesota, 1 p.m. ET (NFLN)
Oakland at L.A. Rams, 4 p.m. ET (NFLN)
Cincinnati at Dallas, 7 p.m. ET (NFLN)
Tampa Bay at Tennessee, 7 p.m. ET
San Francisco at Houston, 8 p.m. ET
Chicago at Denver, 9:05 p.m. ET
Seattle at L.A. Chargers, 10 p.m. ET (NFLN)
Monday, August 20
Baltimore at Indianapolis, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Note: Live stream available with NFL GamePass.
N.Y. Jets at Washington
The New York Jets have instantly become one of the NFL's most interesting teams thanks to the guys fighting for time under center.
This was going to be a dogfight from the start. No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold was always going to push for time, likely backed by support from fans. The heartwarming story of Teddy Bridgewater getting another shot after a devastating career-threatening injury offered some intrigue behind Josh McCown as well.
In Week 1, Darnold went out and posted a 13-of-18 line with 96 yards and a touchdown during a 17-0 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Bridgewater responded in kind, going 7-of-8 for 85 yards and a score. Hard to say who was more impressive, but poise and accuracy have fans excited about the new first-round pick:
Don't let a fun quarterback situation distract from the Washington Redskins, though.
While those Redskins just lost hyped rookie Derrius Guice to a torn ACL, the battle to take his spot as an every-down starter behind him should be interesting thanks to guys like Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine—not to mention if a free agent gets added to the mix.
Otherwise, Washington offers intrigue because this seems close to a final attempt for Jay Gruden to get it right. Kirk Cousins is gone, Alex Smith is in and tasked with leading a new-look offense with high expectations.
Fans tuning in might just get a shootout between two teams seemingly on the rise.
N.Y. Giants at Detroit
Everybody knows to watch a New York Giants game this preseason thanks to No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley.
Barkley made this apparent enough during his team's 20-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns in Week 1 by ripping off 43 yards on only four carries, meaning a 10.8 average.
In fact, the Penn State product didn't waste any time reinforcing the idea he's must-see television, popping off for 39 yards on his first-ever NFL carry:
But the Detroit Lions have a rookie runner of their own worth watching.
While Kerryon Johnson isn't as hyped as Barkley, the Auburn product and second-round pick might be able to make some noise right alongside him in Rookie of the Year discussions thanks to Detroit's offense and a guy named Matthew Stafford.
Case in point, it was Johnson, not perceived workhorse LeGarrette Blount, who went for 34 yards on seven looks in the first week of the preseason.
"To me, didn't make enough plays at the beginning, didn't make enough plays at the end," Johnson said after the game, according to the Associated Press (via ESPN.com). "I still have work to do. We still have work to do. It was the first game. First-game jitters out for everybody."
Humble and explosive, Johnson has the makings of a star in the league and seemed to land in the perfect offense. Barkley would excel no matter where he wound up, so this running back battle is one to watch Friday night.
Buffalo at Cleveland, 7:30 p.m. ET
This one doesn't need much in the way of explaining, right?
The Cleveland Browns are one of the most interesting teams in the NFL, and not just thanks to the massive underdog story presented, but also thanks to the cameras of Hard Knocks.
Oh, and a guy named Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield went out against those Giants in a 20-10 win and looked poised in the pocket and accurate, which isn't always a guarantee from a quarterback selected No. 1 overall. He went 11-of-20 with 212 yards and two touchdowns, also turning three rushes into 13 yards.
Emerging weapons like Antonio Callaway helped lend credibility to the fact this is an offense on the rise:
Granted, Mayfield isn't promised a job over Tyrod Taylor anytime soon—but that doesn't mean it isn't great preseason viewing.
Speaking of quarterback battles, these Buffalo Bills also have an interesting one mostly thanks to No. 7 pick Josh Allen, who went 9-of-19 with 116 yards and a score in his debut:
Even the first incompletion is a must-see affair because of Allen's rocket arm, so he's worth watching. Like Mayfield, he also made plays with his feet by turning three rushes into 29 yards.
While neither rookie passer might emerge a starter by the time the regular season rolls around, the next generation has arrived at the pro level and is well represented in this contest.