August is a hard month for the NFL fan. We want to jump in with both feet because, even if it's fourth-stringers playing, it's still football. But you can really torpedo your vacation by saying things like, "I'm sorry, but we can't do the water park Friday because there's a game at 6."
Can you really miss a bachelor party because your team is playing on the West Coast at 10:30 p.m. on a Saturday? Maybe not. Preseason needs to be done CliffsNotes-style. So here are the top 10 games of the next month that you have to pay attention to. And don't forget about NFL Preseason Live to watch the entire preseason.
PRESEASON WEEK 1
Yes, the cutaways of Darrelle Revis in pewter shorts will be a shocking sight, but more so will be the first time you see the Ravens defense introduced without the names Ray Lewis and Ed Reed being mentioned. This would be like trying to watch "Breaking Bad" in its final season, except Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul have been replaced by Larry David and Zac Efron.
This will be our first glimpse at Chip Kelly's offense in a game situation. Can he really run a play every 12 seconds like he wants to? Are the Eagles well conditioned enough to execute it? Everyone is eager to see if the latest "it" college offense can translate into the NFL. And the happiest guy in the world will be Donovan McNabb, because you know what he'll be saying during the game: "Man, I hope someone throws up so people can stop asking me why I puked in the Super Bowl. Ooh, LeSean's taking his helmet off! Come on, dude, do it!"
PRESEASON WEEK 2
Alex Smith takes on the team that dealt him away in the offseason. It doesn't matter that this is a preseason game: Smith will be playing it like it's the Super Bowl -- or what he thinks it would be like to actually play in the Super Bowl. "Here you go Harbaugh, take that for letting me go! Ah, crap. Threw it to the wrong uniform again. This didn't happen when I was on the other team."
Because 1) We'll find out if Carson Palmer is on the same page with Larry Fitzgerald and company. If they are, the NFC West could be the best division in football this season, 2) You know "Jerry Maguire" is going to be mentioned in the broadcast at least twice, and 3) If Dallas wins to go 3-0, someone will let it "leak" to sources that Dallas is thinking about an undefeated regular season.
Maybe the only time Jaguars-Jets ever will be must-see, but New York wants to pick their starting QB as soon as possible. This will be the showdown game between Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith, so the winner of the derby can get the bulk of the playing time the following week. And if Sanchez -- the scourge of the fans -- comes out victorious? Picture the scene from "World War Z" where the zombies build a pile of zombie bodies to get over the wall and get at the humans. That's what the Jets faithful will do to try to reach general manager John Idzik and coach Rex Ryan.
This week, the Packers lost left-offensive-tackle-in-training Bryan Bulaga to a torn ACL. Aaron Rodgers is great, but I've yet to see a quarterback complete a pass from flat on his back -- though I'm sure Brett Favre tried it on a couple of occasions. Green Bay has a couple of weeks to try to fix this issue, but if Rodgers is routinely getting hit during what likely will be his longest preseason outing, the Packers will be in full panic mode as their Super Bowl chances will be in free fall. And the happiest guy in the world this week? Ryan Braun, because everyone in Wisconsin will stop caring about him.
This game will decide if Kevin Kolb -- as long as he doesn't slip on anything threatening like a floor mat or a shark between now and then -- or EJ Manuel wins the Bills starting quarterback gig. It's hard to believe that a quarterback taken in the first round of the NFL draft nowadays might start the season on the bench, but if Manuel doesn't light the world on fire, it could happen. And if it does, coach Doug Marrone will win less games on the 2013 NFL schedule than he would have with Syracuse's 2013 ACC schedule (where he probably would win about seven, and that's being generous).
Who's the real No. 1 wide receiver on the Broncos? This nationally televised game will give us (and fantasy owners everywhere) the best answer they can get. Is Sam Bradford on track to start out hot instead of being mediocre for 13 weeks and then revving it up for the final month of the season, like he usually does? If Tavon Austin has a huge game for St. Louis, he'll get compared to everyone from Wes Welker to Percy Harvin. And every fantasy owner who wanted to draft Austin late will slam their heads into a wall because now he's going to be taken way earlier than they hoped. Did I say this game has big fantasy implications?
If Robert Griffin III makes his preseason debut for a few plays -- which could happen -- you'll be glad you got to see RG III do his thing at least once before the regular season begins. And if he doesn't? It's another week of backup Kirk Cousins, which actually is a big deal. Because his success filling in for Griffin last season combined with a lot of playing time in August means that, if your team is looking for a quarterback, guess who's going to be at the top of their wish list in the offseason? Pay attention to the crowd because it will be filled with scouts from Cleveland, Oakland, Minnesota, Tennessee and Jacksonville. In fact, just the representatives from those teams by themselves might make this game a sellout.
This one just because I can see the storyline coming from a mile away. Matt Flynn will have won the starting quarterback job in a very pedestrian-like manner in Week 3. So Terrelle Pryor will get the bulk of the playing time in this one, and he'll have a huge night. Like three-touchdown-passes-and-75-yards-rushing huge. Forget the fact that Seattle will be playing their backups, the call to start Pryor by Raiders fans will be overwhelming. Only the Raiders could name a starting QB, and then have a controversy occur after it happens.
Jason Smith writes fantasy and other pith for NFL.com. He hosts NFL Fantasy Live during the regular season on the NFL Network, and you can download the weekly NFL Fantasy Live podcast with him alongside Michael Fabiano and Elliot Harrison. Talk to him on twitter @howaboutafresca. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.