Football

NFL preseason Week 1 viewer’s guide: Baker Mayfield vs. Saquon Barkley highlights slate

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA TODAY SPORTS)    —   The Hall of Fame Game was just an appetizer.

The 2018 NFL preseason kicks off with a hefty 12-game slate Thursday night. The evening’s itinerary includes the pro debuts of the top two picks in the 2018 NFL draft and the anticipated return of one of the game’s best quarterbacks after missing the entire 2017 season.

THURSDAY

(All times Eastern.)

Cleveland Browns at New York Giants, 7 p.m. (NFL Network)

The top two picks in this year’s draft are set to square off. With starter Tyrod Taylor likely to get a limited workload, No. 1 pick and Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield should see extended playing time. Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley — the No. 2 pick in April’s draft — also is expected to make his professional debut after impressing thus far in training camp.

Carolina Panthers at Buffalo Bills, 7 p.m. 

The public gets its first look at the Bills’ quarterback competition, as AJ McCarron (acquired in a trade with the Bengals this offseason), Nathan Peterman and rookie first-round pick Josh Allen vie to be the team’s starter.

Chicago Bears at Cincinnati Bengals, 7 p.m.

The Bears are hoping Year 2 of the Mitchell Trubisky era has a similar look to the season Jared Goff had for the Rams last year under a new head coach. Matt Nagy will be tasked with ending a run of four consecutive fourth-place finishes in the NFC North.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles, 7 p.m.

When the defending Super Bowl champions take the field for the first time since hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, the team’s quarterbacks might be Nate Sudfeld and Joe Callahan as Nick Foles and Carson Wentz could sit out the preseason opener due to injuries.

New Orleans Saints at Jacksonville Jaguars, 7 p.m.

Looking to improve upon last season’s 10-6 mark, the Jaguars are hoping a go-to target emerges for quarterback Blake Bortles after the departures of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns this offseason.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Miami Dolphins, 7 p.m.

Ryan Tannehill — who hasn’t appeared in a game since December of 2016 — is expected to return for Miami. The Buccaneers, meanwhile, are looking to get their offense in order with starting quarterback Jameis Winston facing a three-game suspension.

Washington Redskins at New England Patriots, 7:30 p.m.

The Alex Smith era begins for the Redskins, who consider the former 49ers and Chiefs quarterback to be an upgrade over Kirk Cousins.

Los Angeles Rams at Baltimore Ravens, 7:30 p.m.

The two teams have been holding joint practices this week, so this could get salty. Ravens rookie QB Lamar Jackson will look for a more even outing a week after a up-and-down NFL debut in the Hall of Fame Game.

Tennessee Titans at Green Bay Packers, 8 p.m. 

A quarterback competition is underway between Brett Hundley and DeShone Kizer to serve as backup to Aaron Rodgers, who should have the Lambeau Field crowd buzzing after missing the bulk of last season.

Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs, 8:30 p.m.

The Chiefs’ fortunes ride on the second-year quarterback and new starter Patrick Mahomes. On the other side of the field, another passer who was a first-round pick in 2017 — Deshaun Watson — returns after suffering a season-ending knee injury.

Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers, 10 p.m. (NFL Network)

Dak Prescott has the preseason to work through a new rotation of receivers. Will a newcomer, or an incumbent such as Cole Beasley or Terrance Williams, emerge as Prescott’s primary target in the passing game?

Indianapolis Colts at Seattle Seahawks, 10 p.m.

After missing the entire 2017 season after having surgery on his throwing shoulder, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is ready for his much-anticipated return. New coach Frank Reich said Luck should play “about a quarter.”

FRIDAY

Atlanta Falcons at New York Jets, 7:30 p.m. (NFL Network)

The Jets feature what is arguably the league’s best preseason quarterback battle, as veteran Josh McCown tries to fight off highly touted rookie Sam Darnold and free agent addition Teddy Bridgewater.

Detroit Lions at Oakland Raiders, 10:30 p.m. (NFL Network)

After nine seasons away from coaching, Jon Gruden is back as an NFL head coach. It’s been 20 years since Gruden started his first tenure as Oakland’s coach, and fans are eager to see what he can do for quarterback Derek Carr and the rest of the offense.

SATURDAY

Minnesota Vikings at Denver Broncos, 9 p.m. (NFL Network)

The Vikings made Kirk Cousins the highest-paid player in NFL history this offseason. Minnesota’s starting quarterback in 2017 — Case Keenum — is now with the Broncos, who hope they finally have a long-term solution at the position.

Los Angeles Chargers at Arizona Cardinals, 10 p.m. 

The Cardinals overhauled their quarterback room this offseason. Can veteran Sam Bradford hold off rookie first-round draft pick Josh Rosen?

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