Daily Six-Pack: NFL Preseason Saturday

Six games highlight Saturday’s preseason action in the NFL. Below are six things to keep an eye on tonight in the NFL.

1. It’s the start of a new era in Detroit.
Word out of Lions camp is that rookie Matthew Stafford is way ahead of the curve when it comes to first-year quarterbacks. Even though Detroit would love to see veteran Daunte Culpepper take the majority of the snaps behind a brutal offensive line this season, it appears that Stafford has made quite the impression and it may be hard for the Lions to keep him on the sidelines. Today when the Lions host the Falcons in both teams’ preseason opener, Detroit isn’t going to overact to Stafford’s performance either way. If he goes out and throws two interceptions in two series, they’ll shrug it off as a learning experience. If he throws two touchdowns on his first two pass attempts, the team will chalk it up to preseason luck and hope the live game experience will be valuable in his development. The point is that it’s only preseason and chances are, his performance won’t be an indication either way of how well he’ll fair in Detroit. The key is that the Lions can officially put their disastrous 2008 season behind them today, and Stafford represents the future.

2. Cutler makes his Bears’ debut.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a Chicagoan who isn’t thinking playoffs (or even Super Bowl) after the Bears acquired quarterback Jay Cutler from the Broncos this offseason. You’ll have to excuse Chicago fans for their budding enthusiasm because, you see, they’ve been waiting a long time for a quarterback of Cutler’s ilk to pass through their great city. Sure, the Bears still don’t have the greatest set of receivers and there are still question marks surrounding the offensive line, even after the offseason addition of Orlando Pace. But none of that will matter once Cutler lines up under center tonight against the Bills and riffles his first completion, because the Bears finally have their quarterback.

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Daily Six-Pack: NFL Preseason Friday

NFL preseason action continues tonight with four games on the schedule. Below are six quick-hit thoughts and things to watch for during tonight’s slate of games.

1. Are the reports true about Palmer?
All indications from Bengals camp is that Carson Palmer is in the best shape of his career after missing virtually the entire 2008 season with a right elbow injury. Palmer is expected to get 12-15 snaps tonight when the Bengals travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints. Just as the Patriots were hoping for a strong showing from Tom Brady last night (he threw for 100 yards and 2 TDs, by the way), Cincinnati is hoping that Palmer flashes the arm strength that once made him the top overall pick. Another thing to keep an eye on is how the young Cincinnati offensive line looks in protecting Palmer. The Bengals have a physical unit in Andrew Whitworth, Anthony Collins, Kyle Cook, Nate Livings and Bobbie Williams, but they’re an inexperienced unit on a whole and Cincy would love to see some cohesion from the group tonight.

2. The starting quarterback battle for the Vikings begins tonight.
Head coach Brad Childress reported that Sage Rosenfels will get the start Friday night against the Colts, which isn’t a huge surprise considering Tarvaris Jackson missed some time in camp with a sprained knee. Still, Rosenfels getting the starting nod tonight may be an indication that he’s pulled ahead in the race for the Vikes’ starting quarterback job. Rosenfels doesn’t have a high ceiling in terms of potential, but he’s steady and could be a good game manager for a Minnesota team that is expected to keep the ball on the ground a lot with Adrian Peterson. While Jackson will certainly get his opportunity to start in preseason, a strong first impression tonight would go a long way for Rosenfels.

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Daily Six-Pack: NFL Preseason Thursday

Four games are on the Week 1 NFL preseason schedule tonight and there are some interesting headlines to follow. Below are six quick-hit thoughts on tonight’s action.

1. Brady returns to live action
The last time Tom Brady took a snap in a live NFL game, he tore both his MCL and ACL after suffering a season-ending hit in Week 1 of the 2008 season. Brady returns to action tonight and will start against the Eagles in Philadelphia. He probably won’t get more than a series or two, but if everything goes well, it’ll be yet another promising sign that Brady has recovered from the devastating knee injury that almost ruined his career.

2. Is Flacco in store for a major sophomore slump?
Reports out of Baltimore haven’t been promising for second-year quarterback Joe Flacco, who has struggled in the passing game thus far in training camp. He apparently has struggled reading defenses, is missing open receivers and has thrown a high number of interceptions. The Ravens would like to open the playbook more in Flacco’s second year, but if his struggles carry into the preseason, then the team might have to scale back his responsibilities and once again make him more of a game-manager like he was as a rookie.

3. How will the T.O.-less Cowboys look?
During the offseason, one of the main reasons the Cowboys cut toxic (but highly productive) receiver Terrell Owens was so that quarterback Tony Romo wouldn’t have any distractions entering the 2009 season. Dallas wants Romo to step up and be more of a leader both in the locker room and on the field and it would appear that the 29-year-old’s career is at a crossroads. One preseason game in Oakland isn’t going to answer whether or not Romo is ready to become the leader that Dallas wants him to be, but it’ll be interesting to see how well he gels with his receivers without T.O. commanding his attention. Apparently Romo and Roy Williams are finally starting to get their timing down.

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