Six more NFL preseason games hit the schedule Friday night, and we'll learn more about several notable quarterback competitions.
The games don't count but there are still things you should be watching for, starting with...
Ryan Tannehill can earn the starting job Friday night
The Cam Newton show continues in Carolina while Ryan Tannehill is just getting started. Nearly everyone expects Newton to take a leap in 2012, which is saying something considering the season he had in 2011. He's just so good at what he does. If Tannehill wants to see what a successful rookie season looks like, he should look no further than Newton.
Newton may not have had the win-loss record to prove it, but he was a beast throughout the season, playing as if he were a multi-year veteran.
Newton will be the best quarterback on the field Friday night, as the Dolphins come to town with their unsettled quarterback competition, Matt Moore vs. rookie Ryan Tannehill (and, to a degree, vs. an injured David Garrard). Joe Philbin wants to make a decision on his starting quarterback sometime this week, which means this is a significant game for Tannehill.
As SB Nation's Ryan Van Bibber wrote this week, Miami fans are high on Tannehill (some might say even too high). There's a belief that Tannehill can and should win the starting job, especially now that Garrard, who was the presumed leader, is no longer in the competition.
The Phinsider says we should expect to see a full half from Tannehill before Moore replaces him.
Titans offense has questions to answer against Bucs
Keep an eye on the play of Jake Locker, who is getting his first career start. He looked decent but not great last week in the Titans' first preseason game. Meanwhile, Matt Hasselbeck threw two interceptions in the Week 1 loss to the Seahawks. Locker, who some say is leading the Titans' quarterback competition, has a chance to separate from Hasselbeck with a solid performance with the first team. Music City Miracles writes of Locker:
Of course it will not all be determined by how he plays tonight, but it is clear that the coaching staff has seen enough in camp to be pretty sure he is ready. Locker can put any concerns they have to bed with a good performance in this one.
Another important offensive note is the play of running back Chris Johnson, who rushed for eight yards on five carries last week. Johnson is coming off a pretty miserable season (by his lofty standards) where some people are already wondering if he's lost it. He's only 26 years old so he shouldn't have lost it yet. He needs to reclaim the magic that let him run for more than 2,000 yards three years ago. It's just preseason, but averaging more than five yards per carry on Friday night should be doable.
Lions, Ravens have similarities
This is my weekly "I wish this actually counted" game.
Up-and-coming defensive line, meet established defensive line. The Lions sport one of the league's top defensive lines with guys like Ndamukong Suh and Cliff Avril. The Ravens, meanwhile, are annually an elite unit, thanks to Haloti Ngata. I don't envy either quarterback in this game.
But, speaking of quarterbacks, this is a big year for both starters in this game, Joe Flacco and Matthew Stafford. Flacco is entering a contract year and wants to be able to legitimately command big-time quarterback money. Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick in 2009, showed what he could do last year when healthy, surpassing 5,000 yards. It's two young quarterbacks each on the verge of taking a big step.
Our Ravens blog, Baltimore Beatdown, predicts a two-touchdown victory for the Ravens.
Saints, Jaguars don't have similarities
The Saints go from playing one of the league's best teams in the Patriots to playing one of the league's worst teams (at least without MJD ... sorry, Jags fans). New Orleans has a top-three offense and a top-three quarterback, which is pretty much the opposite of the Jaguars. Jacksonville was last in yards in 2011 and fourth to last in points.
These two teams met in the regular season last year with the Saints winning, 23-10. Will Friday's game have a bigger point differential?
There are other things to watch in this game. Here are six of them from Big Cat Country.
No Adrian Peterson sightings this week, but maybe next week
The Vikings will hold him out on Friday night against the Bills as he continues to rehab from his torn ACL, MCL and meniscus. The following week, the Vikings' third preseason game, is where you could potentially see Peterson play. If he does, the comeback from those torn ligaments in just eight months would be very impressive. He's been practicing this week -- defenders have been told they'll be cut if they tackle him -- so it's reasonable to think he'll make an appearance next week.
Raiders-Cardinals could be ugly
We know preseason means very little. Some teams game-plan for the opponent while others don't. But some teams look pretty bad in the preseason, like both the Raiders and Cardinals last week. The Cowboys-Raiders game, which Dallas won 3-0, is a candidate for the ugliest preseason game of the year. The Cardinals, who lost to the Chiefs last week, saw KC's first-team offense put up 14 points in their first 16 plays.
Oakland continues to break in Carson Palmer while hoping Darren McFadden can stay healthy because, when he is, he's one of the best in the league. The Cardinals continue on with their quarterback competition between John Skelton and Kevin Kolb, with Skelton reportedly the current favorite.
There's no way this game can be as bad as the Cowboys-Raiders game, right?
The complete schedule for Friday night's games:
- Titans vs. Bucs (7:30 p.m.)
- Lions vs. Ravens (8:00 p.m. FOX)
- Dolphins vs. Panthers (8:00 p.m.)
- Bills vs. Vikings (8:00 p.m.)
- Jaguars vs. Saints (8:00 p.m.)
- Raiders vs. Cardinals (10:00 p.m.)