The preseason wraps up with two more nationally televised games on Thursday night.
Rejoice, NFL fans, because the preseason is almost over. By this time next week, we’ll be looking forward to real games that count in the standings, which is cause for celebration. It’s going to be a loaded schedule on Thursday night with all 32 teams playing, but only two games will be televised nationally.
One of them that won’t air is an in-state matchup between the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys. NFL Network announced it would air the game after Hurricane Harvey forced it to be relocated to AT&T Stadium. However, the NFL later decided to cancel the game so the Texans could go back home and focus on helping recovery efforts.
The third preseason game is often treated as the “dress rehearsal” for starting lineups, while backups and fringe roster talent play out the final game. So don’t expect to see a lot of starters suiting up for this week’s games. The main focus will be on depth chart battles, because Saturday marks the deadline to cut down rosters to 53 men. This year, the NFL eliminated the 75-man roster cut limit, so there are a lot of names for head coaches to sort through this week as they make final preparations for the regular season.
Originally, the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets was supposed to air on NFL Network, but the Jets are dealing with football armageddon right now so they have bigger things to worry about. Instead, the Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Chargers will get the 7 p.m. ET spotlight on NFL Network. But don’t worry, Eagles and Jets fans: If you’re still wondering how to watch the game, we’ve got you covered.
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Jets
The Jets gave Christian Hackenberg plenty of chances to win the starting job this month, and he flopped each and every time. So Josh McCown was named the starter, despite attempting just four passes the entire preseason. Yeah, it’s going to be that kind of year for the Jets.
The Eagles at least have their franchise QB set, with Carson Wentz expected to sit this one out. Backup Nick Foles is dealing with an elbow injury, so we should see plenty of Matt McGloin and Dane Evans in this game. Philadelphia starts the regular season on the road with two away games against Washington and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Eagles player to watch: RB Donnel Pumphrey
The pint-sized Pumphrey (5’9, 176 pounds) was electric at San Diego State, setting the FBS record for most career rushing yards. Unfortunately, his first NFL training camp hasn’t gone quite as well. Pumphrey fell deep down the depth chart behind Darren Sproles, LeGarrette Blount, and Wendell Smallwood. He’s possibly competing for a roster spot with fellow rookie Corey Clement and figures to get plenty of snaps Thursday night to make his case.
Jets player to watch: QB Christian Hackenberg
McCown probably won’t play and Bryce Petty has been dealing with a knee injury, so we should be in for even more of the Christian Hackenberg Experience. He was dismal once again in the third preseason game, completing only 12 of 22 passes and throwing two pick-sixes. If it wasn’t for Petty’s injury, Hackenberg might’ve been a serious cut candidate. He simply isn’t an NFL-caliber quarterback, but the Jets might be forced to use him in the regular season if McCown gets hurt. Strap in.
Compared to other preseason games, is this worth my time?
There’s trainwreck potential with Hackenberg, but otherwise this is skippable, especially with all the interesting playmakers (Alshon Jeffery, Sproles, Matt Forte, Bilal Powell) sitting out. No wonder NFL Network opted to pass on this one.
Seattle Seahawks at Oakland Raiders
The Seahawks are 3-0 in the preseason heading into Thursday’s showdown with old AFC West rivals. Their running game still has a lot of question marks — Thomas Rawls and C.J Prosise missed most of the preseason with injuries, while rookie Chris Carson has outplayed Eddie Lacy. Another position battle is the backup QB position spot, with Trevone Boykin and Austin Davis competing for the right to hold Russell Wilson’s clipboard.
The Raiders are coming off their first playoff appearance since 2002, and they’ll hope to be back with a healthy Derek Carr this time. Connor Cook started the Wild Card loss, but he’ll be competing with EJ Manuel for the backup spot this year. The Raiders also added Marshawn Lynch and Jared Cook to bolster the offense, although the defense still has some big flaws even with reigning Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack.
Seahawks player to watch: WR Kasen Williams
Williams spent the past two seasons on the practice squad, but he has a serious shot to make the final roster this season. The former Washington Husky has been making some outstanding plays in preseason and could find himself a role with Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson both banged up.
Raiders player to watch: RBs DeAndre Washington/Jalen Richard
Lynch isn’t playing in the final preseason game, so Washington and Richard will split time in the backfield. Washington figures to be first on the depth chart if Lynch goes down, but Richard will get a chance to put some heat on the No. 2 back. This position fight is worth paying attention to given Lynch’s injury-marred 2015, the last year he played in the league.
Compared to other preseason games, is this worth my time?
These are both playoff contenders with fairly deep rosters, so the quality of play should be higher than your average fourth preseason contest. However, unless you’re a hardcore Seahawks or Raiders fan, there aren’t a lot of reasons to keep watching beyond the first or second quarter.
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