Top Ten 2014 NFL Pre-Season Match-Ups
Which 2014 Pre-Season NFL Match-Ups Do You Have to Watch?
2014 NFL Off-Season
Are you ready for some football? Er…pre-season football, at least. The pre-season schedules for all 32 NFL teams were released yesterday, so today we’re going to take a look at the top ten most intriguing match-ups. I know pre-season isn’t everyone’s part of the year, but it’s better than nothing! We can still assess quite a bit about our teams from how they look in August. This year is especially interesting with several starting QB jobs on the line (you’ve been following the Jets’ saga, right?)
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1. Seahawks at Broncos - Even though this Week 1 contest isn’t as exciting for fans or players as a regular season Super Bowl rematch, it is far from meaningless for Denver. This game will be the first time the Broncos get to test out their newly bolstered D (Ware, Talib, and Ward should all be on the field)…against the team that proved their old squad nearly worthless in February, no less. Expect this to be a fun one all around!
2. Jets at Eagles - This has the potential to be one of the pre-season’s most intriguing games, but a series of very specific things have to happen first. To begin with, last year’s Jets QB Geno Smith has to beat Michael Vick for the club’s starting job. Secondarily, both the Jets and the Eagles have to actually rest their starters as is traditionally done during Week 4 games. Regardless of if we actually see Vick under center during this game, it’ll be interesting to watch him return to the place where he was given the second chance that many didn’t feel he deserved.
3. Cleveland Browns at Washington Redskins - This is the first MNF game of the year and marks the first time the always-struggling Browns have appeared on ESPN in half a decade. The main reason I’m excited for this one, though, is that Redskins head coach Jay Gruden, QB RGIII, and WR DeSean Jackson will have had an off-season (and a home game in Week 1 of the pre-season) to put together what could turn into an explosive offense.
4. Broncos at 49ers - I know, I know, it seems we just can’t escape the Broncos. But this game will be the first ever played at the Niners new stadium, Levi’s Field (fondly, and somewhat hilariously, nicknamed the Field of Jeans). No fan can deny that it’ll be fun to see Colin Kaepernick and Co. take the field for the inaugural time, especially when they’re facing the team they could have played in Super Bowl XLVIII if certain circumstances (read: Richard Sherman’s interception) had gone a bit differently.
5. New Orleans at Indianapolis - One of the primary reasons I like this match-up is the fact that it occurs in Week 3 of the pre-season, when starters often get to play the longest. Not only is this a rematch of Super Bowl XLIV, but it’ll probably be our best chance to see Colts WR Reggie Wayne back in action after his season-ending ACL injury last year. Furthermore, you can’t tell me it won’t be fun to watch New Orleans’ newly minted safety tandem of Kenny Vaccaro and Jairus Byrd in prime time for more than a quarter or so (and this is coming from a Colts fan, so you know I think they could be something special).
6. Miami at Tampa Bay - This Week 2 contest features two Florida teams who are attempting to get back on track after challenging 2013 seasons. The Buccaneers, on the watch of new head coach Lovie Smith, have already signed 17 new players, which is more than any other team. Smith and his Bucs have something of a chip on their shoulders after several years of being near the bottom of the barrel. Miami, on the other hand, is out to prove that last year’s Richie Incognito bullying disaster is truly a thing of the past and that their players can work together as a cohesive unit.
7. Kansas City at Carolina - This match-up features two of 2013’s most surprising teams from the AFC and the NFC, respectively. The Chiefs got off to a 9-0 start for the first time in over a decade and the Panthers peaked right before the play-offs, heading into the post-season on fire. Both of these squads lost key players to free agency, so it’ll be interesting to see if they show the same sparks they did last year.
8. Minnesota at Tennessee - While this game isn’t an immensely exciting match-up in and of itself, I’m looking forward to seeing how both teams look with new head coaches in-place. The Titans’ Ken Whisenhunt is one of the best when it comes to developing QBs, so maybe Jake Locker will finally come into his own and the Vikes’ Mike Zimmer has one of the greatest defensive heads in the industry. Even though it takes place in Week 4, this one could be a showdown between these two very different head coaches.
9. Buffalo Bills vs. New York Giants - The Hall of Fame game wasn’t announced yesterday, but it still kicks-off the pre-season festivities in earnest. This match-up intrigues me because it features two former powerhouses trying to find their footing once again. Both teams have been in rebuilding mode (Coughlin and Co. have signed 15 new players and the Bills’ brass recently gave QB EJ Manuel a real target in WR Mike Williams), so it will be fun to gauge whether or not all of these changes will have a positive impact once the actual season commences.
10. Cowboys at Chargers - Since this game takes place during Week 1 of the pre-season schedule, San Diego’s K Nick Novak will be required to take extra point snaps from the 20-yard line (this is approximately equal to kicking a 38-yard FG). This is only significant because Novak had a league-low 81% success rate hitting FGs between 30 and 39 yards in 2013. It’ll be interesting to see how Novak handles this change.