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This weekend’s must watch games in the first week of NFL preseason

The NFL preseason is in full swing this weekend as all 32 teams will be in action. The New York Giants and New England Patriots will kick off the weekend.

Trey Lance con los 49ers
Thearon W. HendersonGetty

Training camps are wrapping up and 30 NFL teams across the league are set to make their preseason debuts this weekend. There are 16 games from Thursday to Sunday night and these are the games you should be keeping an eye on.

Raiders and Jags commenced preseason from Canton

The Jacksonville Jaguars and the Oakland Raiders kicked the preseason off last Thursday, but that was just a morsel of what is to come over the next three weeks.

The headline games going into Week 1 of the preseason, as always, are centered around quarterbacks and teams with an open competition for the starting job. The upcoming rookie class will get their time to shine as we get a first glimpse of the upcoming draft class. There are also some big names in new places, but many of the stars that we see on Sundays during the regular season will get little to no time at all this weekend.

New York Giants @ New England Patriots, Thursday at 7 p.m. ET

The Patriots will host the Giants in the first official game of Week 1 of the preseason. New England is coming off of a surprising season in which their rookie Mac Jones led them to the playoffs. Don’t expect the sophomore to to see too many snaps in the preseason opener. We will, however get a first look at rookie lineman Cole Strange who the Pats drafted to protect Jones when he drops back in the pocket.

The Giants have been consistently underwhelming since Saquan Barkley and Daniel Jones arrived. Barkley needs reps after missing much of the last two seasons with injury, but how much do the Giants want to risk him in the preseason? The patience is wearing thin with Daniel Jones and there are talks of the New York making a trade to add some competition at the QB position.

Cleveland Browns @ Jacksonville Jaguars, Friday at 7 p.m. ET

The Browns have been the story of the offseason, and for reasons that they would have liked to avoid. Their quarterback situation is a mess right now with the length of Deshaun Watson’s suspension still undetermined. Watson will be able to play in the preseason, but the focus will be on getting the other QBs, Jabcoby Brissett, Joshua Dobbs and Josh Rosen ready for Week 1 of the regular season.

The Jacksonville Jaguars already have a game under their belt this preseason, and needless to say they failed to impress. Their rookie pass rusher was about the only one who impressed as continuously bothered Raiders QBs in the opener. Trevor Lawrence didn’t play, neither did Travis Etienne who missed his rookie season with a foot injury. Both should get minutes, just not many.

Packers Packers @ San Francisco 49ers, Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET

It’s a rematch of the NFC Divisional Round playoff game that was played under heavy snow in Lambeau last year. The Packers special teams blew the game late in the fourth quarte, and have no doubt spent all season trying to solve their issues in that facet of the game after bringing in the Raiders interim head coach Rich Bisaccia to sure things up on special teams. Aaron Rodgers is a back to back MVP winner and the top paid player in the league, so don’t expect to see him in this game. Jordan Love however, should get a nice portion of snaps in the first half. Unfortunately for the former Utah State QB the preseason is about the only time he has had to shine since getting drafted.

Kyle Shannahan and the San Francisco 49ers seem ready to hand the keys to the car to Trey Lance. Jimmy Garappolo is still on the books even though both parties are looking for a way out for the QB who took San Fran to the Super Bowl three years ago. Without question the look of the offense will change as the offensive genius Shannahan molds the playbook to his new QB1′s liking. Don’t expect to see any of these two much on in the Niners first preseason game. We should see a decent bit of San Fran’s second round pick, defensive lineman Drake Jackson and third round pick, running back Tyrion Davis-Price.

Washington Commanders vs. Carolina Panthers, Saturday at 1 p.m. ET

Ron Rivera’s side flirted with the playoffs last year, and now have a revamped look on the offensive side of the ball with quarterback Carson Wentz hopping aboard in the nation’s capital. Taylor Heinicke isn’t going to make it easy for Wentz to step right into a starting role. Rookie receiver Johan Dotson will get a chance to showcase his skills hoping to make an immediate impact.

Carolina has been desperate to settle their struggles at the quarterback positions for the last few years. They brought in Sam Darnold last offseason, and this year they made a trade for Baker Mayfield. Darnold failed to shine in his first year in Carolina, and will have to fend off the favorite for the QB1 spot in Mayfield. Rookie offensive tackle Ickey Ekwonu should get some time protecting both QBs, and Panthers second pick in the 2022 draft Matt Coral could make the QB competition interesting if he has a nice preseason.

Seattle Seahawks @ Pittsburgh Steelers, Saturday at 7 p.m. ET

Two teams who start new chapters face off after both sides lost their franchise quarterbacks over the offseason. The Seattle Seahawks shipped Russell Wilson to the Mile High City after 10 years in the Pacific Northwest. Now it’s time for Drew Lock and Geno Smith to show what they’ve got. Both should share snaps, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Pete Carroll swaps them from possession to possession, at least for the first half.

The Steelers are in a similar position after Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement this offseason. Pittsburgh knew they would have to replace him and they brought in a local guy in the draft. Kenny Pickett and Mitch Trubisky will battle in what should be one of the QB competitions of the preseason.


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