From here on out, we will have football every week/weekend till the dark, cold, depressing days of February.
Let that sink in for a moment.
This past Sunday, we had our first taste (an appetizer say you will) of game action between the Buffalo Bills and the New York football Giants in the annual Hall of Fame game, kick-starting the preseason slate. While the game probably didn't excite most, it gave the collective football fandom the warm fuzzy feeling that football is back for good in 2014.
One down. 64 to go. Preseason games that is
Four weeks from this Thursday and we shall be celebrating the official start of the 2014 season. But it all has to start somewhere, and start it will tomorrow night with games set across the country.
In a weekend where many will simply hold their collective breath (no injuries), it's time to lace 'em up and enjoy some NFL action. Don't expect the starters to play more than a few series though.
Here's the top five games to watch this weekend;
1. Cleveland Browns @ Detroit Lions- Saturday 7:30 PM
You can bet your bottom dollar the national media will have its collective eyes fixed on this match up downtown Detroit on Saturday night.
The main reason = Johnny Football.
Is the hype real? Only time will tell as Manziel will be making his professional debut under perhaps the most scrutiny and pressure for any rookie quarterback, ever. (Yes, ever).
In a world dominated by 24/7 sports coverage, we've grown tired of hearing the exploits of Mr. Manziel in Las Vegas during the off-season, etc. His every move is followed as if he were a member of the Rolling Stones or Beatles.
Manziel appears to have all the tools but will be backing up starting quarterback Brian Hoyer to start the preseason in what has been deemed an 'open competition'. Look for Manziel to be thrust into action near the end of the 1st quarter or early 2nd.
He certainly has his share of both fans and detractors and it will be interesting to follow him throughout the preseason as Cleveland looks to change their losing ways with the savior from Texas A&M.
New Lions head coach Jim Caldwell will also be making his debut. Throw in a little Calvin Johnson (Megatron), and quarterback Matthew Stafford and this makes for an entertaining contest.
2. San Francisco 49ers @ Baltimore Ravens- Thursday 7:30 PM (NFL Network)
The Harbaugh Bowl part deux, (or part thrice) whatever you may want to call it.
A Super Bowl rematch from 2012, the 49ers and Ravens meeting is always a spectacle to behold for any average football fan. Brother vs. Brother, mono-e-mono.
Despite Jim vs. Jon, the 49ers and Ravens both sport one of the more talented and deep rosters in all the NFL.
The 49ers have high hopes of overtaking the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in the highly competitive AFC West, whom they lost to in the NFC championship back in January (Richard Sherman anyone?)
The Ravens have had a tumultuous off-season including the suspension of star running back Ray Rice for two games after a violent domestic incident involving his wife in Atlantic City, NJ.
Much criticism has come down on both Rice and Commissioner Roger Goddell for suspending Rice for only two games.
While that can be debated around the water cooler for weeks, this match up still brings intrigue and bears watching come Thursday night.
3. Indianapolis Colts @ New York Jets- Thursday 7:00 PM
Are the Jets really committed to the 'Geno Smith" era? A question that will be answered over the course of this preseason.
With fellow quarterback and longtime veteran Michael Vick waiting in the wings, Smith needs to prove his worth as the Jets long term franchise answer with a strong preseason.
This is the number one positional battle of the preseason, bar none.
The Jets were also very active in the off-season bringing aboard former 2,000 yard rusher RB Chris Johnson and wide receiver Eric Decker. The Jets have a plethora of new offensive weapons so all of the pressure will rest on either Smith's or Vick's shoulders.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is simply a pure pleasure to watch play the game of football. Teammate’s running back Trent Richardson and free agent pickup wide receiver H'akeem Nicks look to bounce back from awful 2013 seasons and make the Colts one of the top offenses to watch in the NFL.
4. New England Patriots @ Washington Redskins-Thursday 7:30 PM
RG3 vs. Brady.
If that's enough to garner some eye balls well then I don't know what else could if you're a football fan.
Both the Redskins and Patriots have held joint practices under much fanfare this week in Richmond, VA leading up to the Thursday opener. The Patriots have done this each of the past two seasons (Tampa Bay, Philadelphia) and it should make for at least some testy football.
The Redskins will be debuting an entire new offense under new head coach Jay Gruden. Can they keep Griffin III upright? Will he grow in his third full season as starter? Questions to be answered.
The off-season acquisitions of both wide receiver Andre Roberts and DeSean Jackson have the ability to make the offense dynamic. Defensively, they've added defensive end Jason Hatcher, and safety Ryan Clark to improve a unit that finished 30th in the NFL last season.
The Patriots added a certain island in the off-season named Darrelle Revis. As Jets' fans loathe the 'Benedict Arnold' addition of Revis in the Patriots secondary, he gives head coach Bill Bellichick (or just, “Belicheat”) a massive upgrade to defend the likes of Peyton Manning and the Broncos come playoff time.
Add in a Brandon Browner (suspended first six games), from the champion Seahawks at corner and the Pats could have the most formidable secondary in the AFC.
5. Seattle Seahawks @ Denver Broncos- Thursday 9:00 PM
Super Bowl rematch, what could be better for the first week of the preseason.
Unfriendly foes reunite once more, seven months after the horrific beat down the Seahawks put on the Broncos, 43-8 at Metlife Stadium in Super Bowl XLVIII.
In what had to be Broncos' quarterback Peyton Manning's most embarrassing moment as a professional, one would imagine he'd like to get some revenge on the loud-mouthed, brash and boastful Seahawks.
Both teams will face each other in the regular season, so this preseason game could mean absolutely nothing (and probably will).
With the holdout of Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch until the second week of training camp, young running back backups Christine Michael and Robert Turbin have a chance to show their worth and should be players to keep an eye on.
Enjoy the first week of preseason folks! I know I sure am going to watch with great earnest.
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