We finally will have football to watch tonight and all month long with NFL Network showing all the pre-season games. It's time to retreat to the man cave until the end of February. I know that these games don't mean much but I think this year is more of an exception than most years. The lockout wreaked havoc on the league's routine of mini camps and coach/player interaction. Personally, I can't wait to watch some real live games and see how some pre-season battles are turning out. Here are five that I think are noteworthy, especially in keeper and dynasty leagues.
1. Carolina Panthers starting quarterback
Cam Newton vs. Jimmy Clausen - Clausen is listed as the starter on the team's depth chart but Cam Newton is taking an equal amount of snaps in camp. It is no match in athletic ability as Newton is an athletic beast with the ability to throw the ball a mile and run like a RB. Clausen really struggled last year and looked totally over his head. The one thing Clausen has going for him is that year of experience. The Panthers have said that they will not settle on a starter until further down the road. They face the Giants on Sat. night and it will be interesting to watch the rookie dual threat (Newton) vs. the sophomore incumbent (Clausen).
2. Dallas Cowboys 3rd wide receiver
Kevin Ogletree vs. Dwayne Harris - With the Cowboys cutting Roy Williams loose and Dez Bryant moving into the starting lineup, the third receiver spot is available for the taking. Ogletree played in 13 games (incl. 2 playoff games) as a rookie in 2009 but only 5 games in 2010. He'll be entering his third season, so that definitely gives him the edge. Dwayne Harris is a rookie and while at East Carolina he showed the ability to make tacklers miss running after the catch. The Cowboys are a very good offensive team and the third receiver should have some nice numbers. Dallas will take on Denver tonight.
3. Denver Broncos starting running back
Knowshon Moreno vs. Willis McGahee - The Broncos will be much more balanced in their offensive attack under coach John Fox. Moreno is a third year first round draft pick but has experienced health issues the last two pre-seasons. He played in only 13 games in 2010 and may not be big enough to carry the whole load. McGahee has only been allowed to practice with the team for the last week but may win the starting job as he gradually receives more snaps with the first team. As above, they will take on the Cowboys in their first pre-season game tonight.
4. Detroit Lions 4th wide receiver
Derrick Williams vs. Rashied Davis - Big things are expected from the Lions offense and if Matthew Stafford can stay healthy the passing attack should be great. Williams is entering his third season and has not lived up to expectations. He is in the lead for the fourth WR spot presently. Rashied Davis was used a lot his first three seasons in Chicago but the last two years very sparingly. The Lions will play Cincinnati on Friday night.
5. New England Patriots 5th wide receiver
Taylor Price vs. Brandon Tate - New England really likes to spread the ball around and these young receivers have speed to burn. Tate showed he had skills last year, when he returned 2 kickoffs for touchdowns. Price appeared in the season finale against the Dolphins and showed that he is a work in progress. The addition of Ochocinco dropped their value but the winner will have upside and opportunities as the deep threat. New England faces Jacksonville tonight.
Let us know what you think in the comments below.