NFL preseason 2013: What to watch in Thursday's games

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Six games are scheduled around the NFL on Thursday night, including a pair of national TV games as the Bengals play the Falcons on ESPN before the Seahawks and Chargers face off on the NFL Network.

The NFL preseason slate includes six games on Thursday night, including a potential barn-burner between the Cincinnati Bengals and Atlanta Falcons that will be featured on ESPN. The rest of the games will not feature luminaries like Robert Griffin III, Trent Richardson, Percy Harvin and Michael Crabtree, but there are still some fun things to watch for those deciding to tune in to preseason football.

Ravens vs. Buccaneers (7:30 p.m. ET)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are committed to starting quarterback Josh Freeman this season, but the high-potential player could be on his way out if he struggles this year. He likely won't get much of a chance to show what he can do in the team's first preseason game, but it'd be nice if he can find his confidence early and let it continue to build throughout the season -- because, even if it's just for a quarter on Thursday night, that's a quarter against the defending champions.

Bengals vs. Falcons (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Cincinnati might not garner a ton of attention when the games start to matter and losses pile up this season, but the Bengals' preseason action is must-watch material -- even if the only way fans watch it is via HBO's Hard Knocks. This season's premiere happened on Tuesday night, but one can bet next week's episode will feature plenty of action from the Bengals' opening preseason game. Hopefully said action involves little rookie running back Giovani Bernard, a player who looks like he might end up being a fan favorite this season.

Rams vs. Browns (8 p.m. ET)

The running back situation is going to end up being the story for both teams this preseason. The Browns' situation isn't overly tenuous since Trent Richardson has a pretty firm grasp on the starting job, but he'll miss this week's game due to a shin injury sustained after getting kicked at practice last week. The Rams lost Steven Jackson to the Atlanta Falcons and now have to decide whether Daryl Richardson or Isaiah Pead is going to lead the team into a new era.

Redskins vs. Titans (8 p.m. ET)

Robert Griffin III won't be playing in Thursday night's game and doesn't even get that sort of opportunity in practice, having to play 7-on-7 instead of 11-on-11 as the Redskins force him to take his knee injury rehab slower than he'd like. Without RGIII in the fold, Washington will rely on the triumvirate of Kirk Cousins, Rex Grossman -- who many believe is the best third-string quarterback in the NFL -- and Pat White.

Broncos vs. 49ers (9 p.m. ET)

The Broncos and 49ers are two Super Bowl favorites and, if all things go as planned, they will meet in their first and last games of the season. The Niners have been dealing with injury issues thus far this offseason with Michael Crabtree and Patrick Willis both banged up. Meanwhile, Broncos new addition Wes Welker is just excited he doesn't have to deal with Bill Belichick anymore.

Seahawks vs. Chargers (10 p.m. ET, NFL Network)

The Seattle Seahawks are another potential Super Bowl favorite, but injury issues will keep them from allowing some key players to find their stride during the preseason. Percy Harvin, Cliff Avril, James Carpenter, Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin all play different positions for Seattle and they'll all miss at least the first game of the preseason -- and much more for Harvin, unfortunately.

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