NFL Preseason Brings Opportunities For New Faces to Shine

Matt FlynnWe’re well into the first week of preseason games as 12 teams already squared off on Thursday. The bulk of the action comes on Friday with eight mores games on tap while Saturday and Sunday hold just one game apiece.

Here’s a look at some of the main storylines to keep an eye on over the weekend:

New Faces, New Places

We should get our first look at a number of new faces who are in new places for 2013. The Oakland Raiders have a new starting quarterback after trading for Matt Flynn in the offseason. We’ll see how he fares in silver and black when the Raiders host the Dallas Cowboys on Friday night. Meanwhile, the Raiders starting quarterback from last season, Carson Palmer, is now the main man under center for the Arizona Cardinals. The Cards are a three-point underdog in Green Bay this week.

The Kansas City Chiefs also have a couple of new faces, as Alex Smith is their new signal caller and Andy Reid is now the team’s head coach. We’ll see what the new-look Chiefs can do in New Orleans on Friday night.

All three teams scored less than 19 points per game last season while finishing 26th or worse in points scored. They’re all hoping that new solutions at quarterback can provide a lift on the offensive end.

Prospect Watch

A number of rookies will be making their NFL preseason debuts this weekend and while many of the high draft picks probably won’t play much, it’s still important to observe their first acts on the field.

The Houston Texans spent their first round pick on explosive wideout DeAndre Hopkins with hope that he can immediately add a new dimension to their offense. They already have a top-5 running game and an elite receiver in Andre Johnson, but they need someone to distract some defensive attention away from him. Their lack of wide receiver depth was a big reason why they fell short in the Divisional Round of the playoffs last season. Currently, they’re at 18-1 at Bovada to win the Super Bowl in 2013, but Hopkins will have to be a big factor right off the bat if they plan to make a longer postseason run. Hopkins and the Texans will take on Minnesota on Friday night.

One of the players that should be contending with Hopkins for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award is running back Le’Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers (28-1 to win Super Bowl). The Steelers are expected to feed the rookie runner as much as he can take in order to remove some of the offensive burden off of 31-year-old quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. We’ll get our first look at Bell in the role of a workhorse on Saturday when the Steelers host the New York Giants.

On Sunday, we should get a peek at E.J. Manuel, the first quarterback selected in the 2013 NFL Draft out of Florida State. Given how good he’s looked in training camp so far, there’s a good chance that he’s the Buffalo Bills opening day starter in Week 1. His first preseason performance will go a long way in helping the coaches make that decision. The Bills visit the Indianapolis Colts in their lone preseason contest on Sunday.

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