NFL Preseason Schedule, August 12
A look at what's on tap for Thursday, August 12:
New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots, 7:30 p.m. ET:
The reigning Super Bowl champs take the field to start their quest for a repeat. The last team to pull off back-to-back titles? New England.
Drew Brees and the Saints' potent offense won't see more than a series or two -- same for Tom Brady and just about every other No. 1 QB in the league for this first preseason week -- but what happens after Brees departs is worth keeping an eye on. With Mark Brunell departing New Orleans this offseason, the Saints don't have a set backup behind Brees. Patrick Ramsey and Chase Daniel should get plenty of playing time Thursday as they battle for the role.
The biggest thing to watch for on the other side of the field is Wes Welker's status. Can the shifty receiver make his return just months after a devastating knee injury? New England won't want to push him, but it's possible Welker makes it out there for a series.
Carolina Panthers at Baltimore Ravens, 8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN:
Not the sexiest of matchups for ESPN to jumpstart its prime-time coverage with, but there are a couple of story lines to follow.
First and foremost is Carolina's QB situation. Matt Moore will get the start Thursday night and should have the inside track to the Panthers' regular-season job as well. But Jimmy Clausen is lurking behind him on the depth chart. Clausen, the former Notre Dame superstar, will make his NFL debut against Baltimore's punishing defense -- a test, no doubt, for the brash quarterback.
Baltimore will show off a couple of new pieces as well: QB Marc Bulger and WR Anquan Boldin. The latter probably won't be on the field much, but it's an early opportunity for him to generate some chemistry with Joe Flacco. Bulger, meanwhile, has been solid in camp and appears to be holding off Troy Smith for Baltimore's backup job. A solid showing here would help solidify that -- and possibly push Smith further onto the trading block.
Oakland Raiders at Dallas Cowboys, 9:00 p.m. ET:
Dallas takes the field for the second time, just four days after knocking off Cincinnati in the Hall of Fame game, but the extra exhibition left the Cowboys banged-up. They'll head into this one with just two available tight ends after a rash of opening-night injuries, and will no doubt be extra careful with all their starters.
For Oakland, this is a chance to show off new quarterback Jason Campbell -- a guy who's plenty familiar with the Cowboys, having played his first five seasons in Washington.