The first week of preseason games is in the books and NFL teams are set to open up their playbooks a bit in Week 2. First-team players will see more playing time, and starting roles will start to become clearer as the regular season draws near.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the best games scheduled for the second week of preseason football in 2014.
Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers (Aug. 17, 4 p.m. ET)
We got an early Super Bowl preview last year as the Broncos and Seahawks met in the preseason before they finally clashed in the big game at MetLife Stadium. Might this Broncos-49ers matchup be another Super Bowl preview?
The brand new Levi’s Stadium will make its gameday debut with two high-profile offenses taking the field. Not short in starpower, fans should get the opportunity to see more of the starters now that everyone has shaken the rust off from Week 1.
Colin Kaepernick and the Niners should pose a great challenge to the new-look Broncos defense—a group which hopes to improve Denver’s chances for a return to the Super Bowl this season. The same can be said for San Francisco’s defensive group, which will pose a tough challenge for Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots (Aug. 15, 7:30 p.m. ET)
These two powerhouse teams enter Week 2 following unsettling debuts last week.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady didn’t play in the preseason opener, but it appears likely he’ll suit up when the Eagles come to Gillette Stadium. Still, the bigger focus on offense will be how Ryan Mallett bounces back from an ugly performance and whether or not rookie Jimmy Garoppolo can outplay the 26-year-old gunslinger for the second week in a row.
For the Eagles, there are vast concerns throughout the roster. The team must already find ways to replace key departures like receivers DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant, although Jordan Matthews is looking like he could be a playmaker in Chip Kelly’s offense. But the secondary will need to improve upon a league-worst 298.8 passing-yards-per-game allowed last season. And quarterback Nick Foles is coming off a poor showing last week in which he tossed two interceptions.
San Diego Chargers at Seattle Seahawks (Aug. 15, 10 p.m. ET)
This matchup pits the defending Super Bowl champions against one of the NFL’s most intriguing teams this season.
The Chargers, coming off a late-season rally that catapulted them into the playoffs in 2013, will be looking to build upon all they accomplished last season. They meet their first difficult challenge of the summer with the Seahawks’ physical defense standing in their path.
This is another game that could potentially be a Super Bowl preview. The Chargers are a young team on the rise with a QB (Philip Rivers) in his prime, and the Seahawks—current favorites to win the Super Bowl—are looking to be the first team to repeat as champions since the New England Patriots did it in 2004.
Arizona Cardinals at Minnesota Vikings (Aug. 16, 8:30 p.m. ET)
Here’s a matchup featuring two young teams vying to be something more in 2014. But so much of that is dependent on the quarterback position.
The Vikings have an assortment of issues on both sides of the football, but the growth of Teddy Bridgewater from first-round pick to capable starting quarterback will have the greatest impact on Minnesota’s chances this season and going forward.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, were one of the NFL’s hottest teams last season under new head coach Bruce Arians. Carson Palmer continues to be a reliable quarterback, however his inability to avoid turning the football over will forever be a thorn in his team’s side. The Bengals know all too well.
This game features Bridgewater, Patrick Peterson, Logan Thomas, Anthony Barr, Cordarrelle Patterson, John Brown. It will be an exciting game if only for the potential both rosters hold.
Cleveland Browns at Washington Redskins (Aug. 18, 8 p.m. ET)
All eyes are fixated on Johnny Manziel and the Browns’ thrilling quarterback battle. The rookie quarterback had a quality outing in his first taste of NFL football in Week 1 against the Detroit Lions, and all reports indicate the former Heisman Trophy winner is primed to see more playing time in Week 2.
But he’s not in competition with himself. Brian Hoyer showed flashes of brilliance this season and the Browns coaching staff has been adamant about Hoyer being the starter since day 1. Manziel has a lot of ground to make up.
This game also presents another opportunity for the Redskins to showcase their new offense with Robert Griffin III behind center at what appears to be full health. The Skins had an impressive outing in Week 1, decimating the Pats via stout defensive play and stellar quarterbacking from backup Kirk Cousins.
The Manziel-RG3 matchup predicts to be an entertaining affair that has a regular-season feel. We just missed out on seeing the two quarterbacks square off in Big 12 play, but it didn’t happen. For now, we’ll have to settle for a brief showdown in the preseason.