10. Washington vs. Cleveland
This might seem like a game to sleep through but there are some very important things to watch for in this first week matchup. First will be to see how Robert Griffin III looks after another offseason in this new system. He struggled mightily last year and likely won’t play a ton but seeing out on the field for the first time will be something to watch. The focus will also be on this remade Washington defense with Junior Galette and Preston Smith as the pass rushers and Brian Orakpo no longer in the picture. For Cleveland, the biggest takeaway will be who they march out at quarterback to start the game. Mike Pettine has not given much indication as to who will start. This will also be our first chance to get a glimpse of Terrelle Pryor at wide receiver.
9. Denver vs. Houston
Two good teams facing off obviously but with several of things to watch for. Peyton Manning probably won’t take the field, but if he does then it will be interesting to see what kind of shape he is in. There will be some noticeable absences in other parts of the Bronco offense too with Julius Thomas and Manny Ramirez now suiting up for different teams. For Houston, this is another case of who comes out as the starting quarterback. Beyond that, there will be some intrigue as to who excels in the Houston backfield with Arian Foster now expected to miss the beginning of the season due to injury. Plus, it’s probably worth tuning in just in case J.J. Watt does something cool.
8. Buffalo vs. Detroit
Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh left Detroit in free agency so all eyes will be on the Lions defensive line to see who steps up to take the starting job. And while he won’t play much most likely, seeing how Calvin Johnson looks after spending most of last season somewhat banged up will be something to keep an eye on. For Buffalo, this game will likely include a lot of their back ups, including E.J. Manuel. This will probably be his last audition for the Bills to keep him or for him to show enough for another team to sign him in the future. Oh and LeSean McCoy is in a Bills uniform.
7. Chicago vs. Cincinnati
This game features two perennial underachievers in the third week of the preseason. That tends to be the week where the starters play the most. That means we will see if Jay Cutler looks any better throwing to Alshon Jeffrey and Kevin White. It also means we will get to see how many carries Giovanni Bernard will receive in as close to a real game scenario as possible. The game might not count but both of these teams are under intense pressure to perform this season. This will be a chance to see how each team looks in their final dress rehearsal.
6. Kansas City vs. Arizona
Kansas City travels to Arizona during the first week of the preseason and their are a lot of things I want to keep an eye on here. First and foremost is the status of Carson Palmer’s knee. He won’t play much but this will be his first game action since tearing his ACL last November. I also want to see who is getting the majority of the touches in the Arizona backfield as well as how the Cardinal defense is adjusting without Todd Bowles calling the shots. For Kansas City, this will be Jeremy Maclin’s first appearance in a Chiefs uniform which is exciting. It will also be our first glimpse at breakout candidate Travis Kelce this year.
5. Atlanta vs. Miami
The headlines here begin with Ndamukong Suh getting significant playing time in a Dolphins’ jersey. This game is in week three and we will see if Ryan Tannehill really has built on last season. He has better targets this year with DeVante Parker playing alongside Greg Jennings and Jarvis Landry now. Those guys will be going up against a new look Atlanta defense. Former Seahawks coordinator Dan Quinn arrived as the new head coach and has spent a lot of time attempting to remake this defense. This will be a good indicator of whether his work was worth it.
4. Philadelphia vs. Indianapolis
No team underwent more change this offseason than Philadelphia did. LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin are gone. As are Evan Mathis, Nick Foles, Brandon Boykins and a handful of other Eagles starters from a season ago. This will be the first chance to see the new look Eagles in action. The secondary also has a tall task of defending Andrew Luck, which will be a good first sign to see if the group is gelling. For the Colts, Andre Johnson and Frank Gore won’t play much but they will be in Colts’ uniforms for the first time ever which definitely is something to look forward to.
3. Pittsburgh vs. Minnesota
Adrian Peterson returns in the Hall of Fame game. Teddy Bridgewater has a chance to get some game action with his new weapons and the Steelers will begin to adjust to life without LeVeon Bell. The starters won’t play a ton in this one but it will allow us to see Vikings’ receiver Stefon Diggs in action as well, who has been drawing comparisons to Steelers receiver Antonio Brown in training camp. We will also get to see how Trae Waynes and Bud Dupree are adjusting to the NFL for the first time.
2. Green Bay vs. New England
There are a number of reasons to tune into this one. For starters, this could be a Super Bowl preview in the preseason. On top of that, Jimmy Garappolo will likely see a lot of playing time, which is a big deal if he has to start the first four games of this season. The Patriots and every fan on Earth will be eager to see what Garappolo can do as he is about to have to fill in for a future Hall of Famer. For Green Bay, this is mainly the same team but some questions still remain in that secondary. This is the first place they might find answers.
1. New York Jets vs. New York Giants
This is easily my favorite game of the preseason to watch. It is the New York rivalry game. Looking beyond that though the Jets are searching for an answer at quarterback and this will be either Geno Smith’s or Ryan Fitzpatrick’s best chance to prove they deserve to start week one. Not to mention, watching Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie match up across from Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz will be so much to watch. It will also be our first chance to see Cruz in extended game action after, suffering that terrible knee injury a year ago.