The 2011 NFL preseason schedule finally starts on Thursday night with five games. The first game kicks of at 7:30 p.m. (ET) and the last one kicks off at 10:00 p.m. (ET) so for the first time in six months we have a night full of football.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Philadelphia Eagles: The first team units may only play a series or two but could this be a better matchup for the first preseason game? The Ravens are a perennial contender and the Eagles made the biggest splashes in free agency acquiring, among many players, CB Nnamdi Asomugha. Great first game to watch.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New England Patriots: Another good game for a couple of reasons. First, we can get out first look at QB Blaine Gabbert, who will start for the Jaguars Thursday night. Second, we can get our first look at WR Chad Ochocinco in a Patriots uniform, if he plays. We're not sure if DT Albert Haynesworth will be playing.
Seattle Seahawks vs. San Diego Chargers:The Seahawks added TE Zach Miller and WR Sidney Rice in free agency so if they play they'll be the ones to watch. The Chargers, as usual, kept a lot of their own guys and didn't make significant moves in free agency. With QB Philip Rivers, we know they're going to be good.
Denver Broncos at Dallas Cowboys: The Broncos, under John Elway, are trying to make a come back. Their quarterback situation -- Kyle Orton vs. Tim Tebow vs. Brady Quinn -- has been one of the biggest story lines of training camp so it'll be interesting to see who comes out of that battle (it'll likely be Orton). The Cowboys meanwhile will draw a huge TV rating as they always do.
Arizona Cardinals at Oakland Raiders: The battle out west. The Cardinals acquired QB Kevin Kolb from the Eagles this offseason so folks want to see if they're now a legit team with him at quarterback. The Raiders were on the rise last year but lost their best offensive player (TE Zach Miller) and best defensive player (CB Nnamdi Asomugha) in free agency. That's not a good combination.