Welcome to NFL pre-season football. It all seems a little abrupt. I feel like I’m being rushed off to the hotel room on prom night without even going to the dance. I blame the cancellation of the Hall of Fame game. That was always the awkwardly early NFL game each year that snapped you to attention. Now on a sleepy Thursday night we’ve got five games to kick things off. And, all on a Phillies off-day.
I think the opening pre-season game provides the biggest emotional swing of any game all year in terms of energy level for the fans. The die-hard Eagles fans I know are going to be fired up at 7:30 tonight. They’ll be doing little dances when Michael Vick comes into the game, they’ll fist pump the nonsense out of that first Ronnie Brown TD, and then by about 8:05 they’ll be flipping over to see who is getting evicted on Big Brother. If you’ve ever watched a pre-season game in its entirety, you are my hero. If the reason you watched the whole thing was because you bet on the game? Well, then you are a sick puppy. I feel badly for the season ticket holders who have to trudge down to the stadiums to watch this slop, but that’s the price you pay. If you must go, or watch, what to look for:
Jaguars @ Patriots.
You could conceivably watch this game for the young quarterbacks? Blaine Gabbert is starting for Jacksonville, which is…interesting. I don’t think New England’s defense is going to be going all out, but it’s hard to believe Gabbert is ready for much after just a few weeks of practice. I have no idea what the Patriots intend to do with Ryan Mallett. I say throw him out there and drink in that mobility. But, if I’m a Pats fan, I’m probably just checking in for a minute to see if Albert Haynesworth looks to be in shape and/or interested. If he sacks Gabbert on the first series, expect all Pats fans to announce themselves definitive Super Bowl favorites.
Seattle @ San Diego
Did Seattle win the division last year? Did that happen? This game has massive DA Fantasy implications. Seattle’s three-headed monster is: Tarvaris Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst and some guy named Josh Portis. Portis is notable for going to three colleges, finishing up at noted powerhouse, California University…of Pennsylvania. The problem with the Seahawks is they’ve added some targets. Zach Miller and Sidney Rice are pretty decent additions if anyone can get them the ball. This has to be Tarvaris Jackson’s last shot, right? As far as San Diego goes, you can do a little Fantasy research and see if Ryan Mathews still looks like an awful bust.
Broncos @ Cowboys.
Kyle Orton is the most polarizing figure of the pre-season. They want him in Miami. In Denver, some fans still have a little Tebow myopia. But, we bought his jersey! Unfortunately, the only person that really liked Tebow (Josh McD) is now in St. Louis. And, by all accounts Tebow is looking horrific in practice (giggle). You can’t send a naive schoolboy like Tebow into a battle against a grown man with a neck beard. That isn’t a fair fight. Both QBs should see action. Elsewhere: Decide if you are going to poison your fantasy team with Knowshon Moreno for a 3rd straight year, or talk yourself into Felix Jones again.
Arizona @ Oakland.
I expect the headlines in Phoenix tomorrow morning will read something like, “DRC and a Pick?!?” That’s just a guess. I don’t remember Kevin Kolb ever looking that great in the pre-season in Philly, so I imagine that won’t change in Arizona. I know now that the Eagles have traded Kolb that I should probably just let it go, but I really can’t. I’d be gleeful, yes gleeful, if he stinks it up in Arizona. I imagine it won’t be long until John Skelton is nipping at Kolb’s heels. The Raiders? I don’t know, maybe it’s finally Darius Heyward-Bey’s year. Guy’s fast. If you didn’t know.
Baltimore @ Philadelphia
The traditional opener. The good news is, there will be no cancellations due to issues with the field turf. If you haven’t noticed, the Eagles have issues at wide receiver. Jeremy Maclin is nowhere near the field, DeSean Jackson is finally in camp, but is dare I say a bit injury prone? The issue was addressed by adding the (NY) Steve Smith yesterday, but Smith is recovering from knee surgery himself. What’s this mean? Well for the pre-season it means that Jason Avant will be looking like a star, as usual. For the regular season, they need guys to get and stay healthy. On the other side, it’s all about whether the linebackers can do anything. Casey Matthews starting in the middle? Really? That’s a bit like batting Ozzie Canseco clean-up at this point for my liking. Hopefully Baltimore obliges by pounding the football and the Eagles can see what they’ve got.
There you go, welcome to football season. The other great part about the pre-season is the local broadcasts. Just terrible. Oh, you want a lock? Give me the Pats (-3.5). I’m willing to dangle that extra half point to buy Blaine Gabbert’s trail by fire.