Feb 2, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker (83) runs against Seattle Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas (29) during the second half in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim O

NFL Preseason Week 1: Keys For Thursday Games

Thursday marks the first full slate of NFL preseason games to start 2014.  What are some subplots to watch for?

Indianapolis Colts at New York Jets

Geno Smith and Michael Vick have gained no separation from each other in their New York Jets quarterback derby, so this game will be the first measuring stick.  Meanwhile the Indianapolis Colts are anxious to figure out how the defense performs without star pass rusher Robert Mathis, and also their new addition at wide receiver in Hakeem Nicks.

San Francisco 49ers at Baltimore Ravens

NaVarro Bowman is going to be out for awhile so the San Francisco 49ers defense has to figure out how to adjust to life without him.  A good first test will be the Baltimore Ravens, who are eager to get back to the ground game but also would like to showcase their new toy for Joe Flacco in veteran receiver Steve Smith.

New England Patriots at Washington Redskins

They will only face off for a few series but the New England Patriots and Washington Redskins may feature the most intriguing matchup of the NFL preseason in week one.  In it will be the remade Patriots secondary featuring corners Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner against a Redskins receiving corps that just added DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts.  Both sides would love to flex their muscles a bit in this tilt.

Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs

Andy Dalton has a fat, new contract and Alex Smith is still waiting for one.  Indeed the upcoming game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs will center on the quarterbacks, but not just the starters.  Fans will get their first look at rookie A.J. McCarron for Cincy while also viewing the progress on Aaron Murray of the Chiefs, still in the process of returning from his torn ACL.

Seattle Seahawks at Denver Broncos

Super Bowl feelings are bound to still run high, even in an NFL preseason game between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.  Have the Broncos made any progress on their roster since their 43-8 beatdown?  Much of that will come from how their defense and offensive line perform against that tough Seahawks lineup.

Dallas Cowboys at San Diego Chargers

Two teams with two quarterbacks overburdened by questions.  Tony Romo is coming off back surgery for the Dallas Cowboys and faces creeping doubts about his effectiveness.  Philip Rivers has an improved roster for the San Diego Chargers but turns 33 in December and is running out of chances to get his team over the hump.  Also keep an eye on the two defenses, both of which feature a lot of new pieces.

Tags: Baltimore Ravens Cincinnati Bengals Dallas Cowboys Denver Broncos Indianapolis Colts Kansas City Chiefs New England Patriots New York Jets NFL San Diego Chargers San Francisco 49ers Seattle Seahawks Washington Redskins

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