10 Preseason Games to Care About

10 Preseason Games to Care About

10 Preseason Games to Care About

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The NFL preseason kicks off on Sunday night, and while it may be truly difficult to derive anything meaningful from Jim Sorgi throwing passes at the feet of rookie free agent receivers, the Hall of Fame Game matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins does indeed mark a beginning of sorts.


That contest is the first on the NFL's bloated summer schedule of 65 preseason tilts, and thanks to the presence of the NFL Network in some of our lives, it is now possible to watch a majority of those games.

Why watch preseason football?

Well, for me, it's because I need something to look at while listening to the new album by The Hold Steady. Also, if the owners and player's union can't agree on a new collective bargaining agreement in the near future, I need to familiarize myself with some of the people who will eventually serve as replacement players.

There are, however, some legitimately intriguing storylines to monitor during the month of August. Here are 10 exhibitions I'll have a passing interest in during the dog days of summer:

10. Steelers vs. Bills (Toronto), Aug. 14th - There have been whispers that the Bills have had some trouble selling tickets to their regular season date against the Dolphins in Toronto on Dec. 7th. The Bills say that they're happy with the way ticket sales have gone for that date, but if Canucks are as lukewarm on the prospect of NFL football as some suggest, the attendance at this tilt will offer a strong indication of that fact.

9. Texans at Saints, Aug. 16th - Jeremy Shockey's home debut as a Saint is expected to come in Week 2 of the preseason, and it will be interesting to see how the New Orleans faithful greet him. It will also be entertaining to see whether Shockey shows up Drew Brees when he fails to deliver him the ball accurately, like he used to do at least once a game to Eli Manning.

8. Falcons at Jaguars, Aug. 9th - Mike Smith's first sideline appearance as Falcons head coach comes against the Jaguars, for whom he served as an assistant for the past five years. But the more fascinating storyline will be the anticipated first live NFL reps for No. 3 overall draft pick Matt Ryan, the man expected to make Atlanta fans forget about that Vick guy.

7. Rams at Chiefs, Aug. 28th - Not many citizens of the Show-Me State will care who wins the Governor's Cup. Perhaps many have no idea what the Governor's Cup is. But fans at Arrowhead Stadium will get an extended look at their former hero, Trent Green, as the Ram-turned-Chief-turned-Dolphin-turned- back-into-Ram gets extended minutes in relief of starter Marc Bulger. If Brodie Croyle has played poorly to this point in the preseason, K.C. fans might wonder why the team let Green go in the first place.

6. Buccaneers at Dolphins, Aug. 9th - New Miami head coach Tony Sparano has indicated that he'd like to have a quarterback starter named by the first preseason game. Thus, whoever trots onto the field first at Dolphin Stadium on this particular Saturday - Josh McCown, John Beck, and Chad Henne are the current candidates - will lead Miami boldly into the post-Cleo Lemon era. Our money is on McCown, who wouldn't have left Oakland to be a backup with a team worse than the Raiders.

5. 49ers at Bears, Aug. 21st - I have a morbid fascination with this game, which could set quarterback play back roughly 20 years. This will be the best chance for the Niners' three starting QB candidates (Alex Smith, Shaun Hill, and J.T. O'Sullivan), and the Bears signal-calling duo (Kyle Orton, and Rex Grossman), to distinguish themselves in advance of the regular season. Chances are a couple of these guys will distinguish themselves...in a bad way.

4. Patriots at Giants, Aug. 28th - Super Bowl rematch! No, I'm not honestly trying to get people excited about that prospect, since the only similarity between the two games will be the uniforms. What will be somewhat intriguing, however, is the play of the backup quarterbacks, since the depth charts behind Tom Brady and Eli Manning are hardly set. Expect to see a lot of Kevin O'Connell (Patriots) and Andre Woodson (Giants) late in this one.

3. Colts at Panthers, Aug. 9th - The way Carolina is rolling the dice in respect to their quarterback situation is highly vexing. Going into a year in which they either win or everyone gets fired, John Fox and company are banking on Jake Delhomme, who comes off Tommy John surgery. The quarterbacks behind him on the depth chart are Brett Basanez and Matt Moore. Yes, THE Matt Moore. If Delhomme looks shaky in his limited minutes against the Colts, look for Carolina fans to begin getting very nervous.

2. Steelers at Vikings, Aug. 23rd - This contest is scheduled for Week 3 of the preseason, also known as the dress rehearsal for Week 1 of the regular campaign. No matter how the Brett Favre situation shakes out, this is going to be a critical date for Minnesota, which must convince its frustrated fan base that it has done the right thing at the quarterback position. If Favre is not a Viking by this point, and Tarvaris Jackson struggles, it's going to get tense at the HHH Metrodome.

1. Packers at Broncos, Aug. 22nd - Mike McCarthy, Ted Thompson, and Aaron Rodgers all have to be breathing a major sigh of relief that the Packers' most important game of the preseason won't be played at Lambeau Field. It's easy to imagine just how hostile it could get in Green Bay if Rodgers were to stink up the joint under such a circumstance. Even while appearing in Denver, Rodgers will have to look sure of himself and ready to lead as he gets set to begin the post-Favre era. If Rodgers plays poorly against the Broncos, neither he nor McCarthy and Thompson will be especially eager to get on that team charter back to Wisconsin.

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