Tonight marks the beginning of the 2016 NFL (pre)season. We’ve laughed, cried, argued and made up, and now it’s time to do some more of it.
Can the 2015 AFC North champion Bengals pull a Hillary and silence their critics after losing key contributors? Will the Steelers continue to Feel the Bern of suspensions to key players, or overcome them? Are the Ravens going to honor Ben Carson again in 2016 and fall asleep on the big stage? Can the Second Amendment people stop the Browns from shooting themselves, or more importantly, RG3, in the foot?
Here’s our schedule for Week One of the preseason:
Thursday: Carolina Panthers @ Baltimore Ravens, 7pm
Friday: Detroit Lions @ Pittsburgh Steelers, 7pm
Minnesota Vikings @ Cincinnati Bengals, 7:30pm
Cleveland Browns @ Green Bay Packers, 8pm
Ravens: TE and RB are both crowded positions, so look for RBs Kenneth Dixon (R), Stephen Houston (R) and Terrence West to try and separate themselves behind presumed incumbent Justin Forsett and Buck Allen. At TE, Darren Waller and Nick Boyle ( both suspended) need to make the most of their preseason opportunities to make the team behind Pitta, Watson, Gilmore and Williams. Juszczyk’s role remains unclear.
Steelers: The Steelers’ secondary has been talent-starved and inconsistent for the past few years. Ross Cockrell has separated himself from the pack early, but with Senquez Golson battling another injury, look for Shamarko Thomas, Doran Grant and Artie Burns (R) to try and solidify roles.
Bengals: After losing Mohammed Sanu and Marvin Jones in free agency, and with Tyler Eifert (TE) possibly missing up to four games to start the season, the Bengals are looking for reliable pass catchers. Rookie Tyler Boyd seems to be leading the pack, but he and James Wright, Mario Alford and rookies Cody Core, Alonzo Russell and Alex Erickson will have an open competition for WR4 and beyond.
Browns: With a complete roster overhaul, the Browns should have plenty of competition at many spots. With RG3 being named the starter, the offensive line protection is of paramount importance. Focus on rookie RT Drango Spencer and second year center Cam Erving. The Browns emphasized the wide receiver position, drafting Corey Coleman, Rocardo Lewis, Rashard Higgins, Jordan Payton and Dennis Parks to fill roles behind Terelle Pryor, Andrew Hawkins, Taylor Gabriel, and, after a four game suspension, Josh Gordon.