The NFL Preseason really kicks off tonight with 4 games showcasing 8 teams. The match ups are; New England vs. Philadelphia, Dallas vs. Oakland, Washington vs. Baltimore, and Arizona vs. Pittsburgh (Super Bowl rematch). For you fantasy lovers I have decided to write about a few things for each game which you should look at that could have a potential impact on your fantasy team.
New England vs. Philadelphia
New England- This is a no-brainer. All eyes will be on All-World QB Tom Brady. He will be making his first start since Week 1 of last season, where as everyone knows, he ripped his knee apart and was missed for the season. Watch how Brady reacts when pass rushers close in. Watch his follow through after he throws the ball. Watch his body language. Though he'll probably only play a series or two, a couple of drop-backs could give fans all they need to see if Brady is really back. Another thing worth watching is if Brady still has that record-breaking relationship with WR Randy Moss.
Philadelphia- RB Bryan Westbrook will not play so keep your eye on rookie RB LeSean McCoy. Some have compared his abilities to Westbrook, so it could be interesting to see if he shows some of those abilities. Watch out for his receiving abilities, speed, quickness, and power. Westbrook, when healthy, is one of the best all-around backs in the league, so McCoy will have pretty hefty shoes to fill in Westbrook's absence. Also, pay attention to the Eagles new re-vamped offensive line. With little to no chemistry between the five men, the new line could prove to make or break the Eagles season and championship hopes.
Dallas vs. Oakland
Dallas- The disappointment of the 2008 season is still on the minds of the Dallas Cowboys. Everyone knows about the drastic changes they made in the off-season (Releasing Terrell Owens and Roy Williams, Not re-signing Chris Canty, Kevin Burnett, and Tank Johnson), so seeing how the offense looks now will certainly be a story-line. The relationship between QB Tony Romo and WR Roy Williams will be the main focal point. Any mis-step between the two will surely cause the sky to fall in Dallas, but that is not the only thing to watch in Dallas' offense. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett (who, trust me, is feeling the heat this season) says he wants to focus on the running game since they have probably the most talented back-field in the NFL in Pro Bowler Marion Barber and second year players Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. So pay attention to the play calling to see if Garrett is still up to his old ways in throwing the ball more or really committed to the run.
Oakland- All eyes in Oakland will be on QB JaMarcus Russell. He has to show improvement. He has to show management that they were not wrong in selecting him number one overall two years ago. If not, the regime could turn to veteran QB Jeff Garcia to lead the team this year. Garcia is a proven winner, and he definitely wants another opportunity to shine. Also, pay attention to RB Darren McFadden. The fourth overall pick in last year's draft had a shaky rookie campaign marred by injuries. Oakland fans are hoping this year he can show the flash he had in college that constituted the team taking him so high in the draft. Pay attention to how he reads the defense and if he has a burst that can take him through the hole and into the secondary.
Washington vs. Baltimore
Washington- After potentially getting burned twice in the off season, QB Jason Campbell still has a lot to prove. He got off to a superb start last year before failing in the last 8 games. The team tried to trade for Jay Cutler but failed, then tried again to trade up in the draft to get USC QB Mark Sanchez, but again failed. Campbell is in a contract year so he'll be out to perform this season. Tonight though, watch how he directs the offense. He is following the same system for the second year in a row for the first time since high school, so he should have a great grasp on it. Also, pay attention to Albert Haynesworth. The fat contract he received in the off-season has lead some to believe he will get fat and happy and perform below expectations. But he has vowed to still play with the fire and passion he always had. Watch how the defense looks and if they will be able to stop the run this season. They should be improved with Haynesworth and first round pick Brian Orakpo seeing significant time
Baltimore- Second year QB Joe Flacco should be improved from an already impressive rookie year. So as long as he does not take a step back, the Ravens have found a franchise QB they can rely on for years. The defense however is what is intriguing. The Ravens have always had one of the best defenses in the league. This year however they will look and act a little bit different. Longtime coordinator Rex Ryan left to take the head-coaching job with the New York Jets and he brought along LB Bart Scott. With new play calling, the defense could look different on the field. Watch to see how much they blitz, where S Ed Reed is at, and what LB Ray Lewis is doing. The defense should still be one of the best, but it should be interesting to see if there is a difference in how they play.
Arizona vs. Pittsburgh
Arizona- The defending NFC Champions did not make many changes in the off-season. They did not re-sign RB Edgerin James and drafted Ohio State RB Beanie Wells to replace him. Wells will not play tonight due to an ankle injury, so second year RB Tim Hightower will start in his place. The thing to watch however, is the play-calling. The Cardinals called pass plays 66% of the time last season (by far the most in the league) behind offensive coordinator Todd Haley's play-calling. Haley left to take the Head Coaching job at Kansas City, so that could lead to a more balanced attack. Watch to see if the Cardinals run the ball a bit more tonight. That could lead to the possibility of selecting Wells earlier then you thought based on the opportunity for more carries. One more thing worth watching is back-up QB Matt Leinart. During the Tennessee Titans game on Sunday, Vince Young looked horrible. The other QB selected in the first round of the 2007 needs to show that if Pro Bowl QB Kurt Warner goes down, he can lead the team back to the playoffs. Leinart has done very little since entering the league and with a 38-year old leading the way the possibility for injury is very likely. He needs to show that the team is still in good hands with him.
Pittshburgh- The offense is the same. The defense is still going to be dominant. The Steelers are poised to take a stab at another title in 2009. So what is there to watch? Second year RB Rashard Mendenhall had a disastrous rookie year that ended when Ravens LB Ray Lewis demolished his shoulder. He is trying to prove that he has what it takes to take over the starting job from Willie Parker. No better way to do that then with a strong pre-season. Pay attention to how he runs the ball in the red-zone as he is likely to be the team's goal line back. Also, see how the teams uses WR Santonio Holmes. He is looking to become the number one WR for the Steelers so he should get more balls thrown his way.