The sheer value of these contests rests firmly in the eye of the beholder, but try telling Wayne Hunter they don't matter after the New York Jets' right tackle went down in a ball of fire against the New York Giants.
Jones: A Giant mistake
Bad blood everywhere.
We watch this Jets offense the way one sits through a crumbling high-school play: Fidgeting in our seats; swimming in awkwardness; everyone's lack of talent on full, screaming display.
Which means we better get down to handing out some hardware:
Quarterback of the week
Rookie passers continue to dominate the imagination, but what Matthew Stafford did against Baltimore bordered on the metaphysical: 184 yards and two touchdowns in the first half alone. Five of those completions, 111 of those yards and one of those scores went to Calvin Johnson. Detroit's going to lean heavy on the pass and we expect Stafford to challenge his 5,038 yards from a year ago. This man has a rocket for an arm and will never pay for a drink again in the darkened taverns of Detroit.
Honorable mention: Atlanta's offense has been tough on the eyes in recent years. For all the wins, this has been a grim team to watch. There's hope down South, because the new-look attack under Dirk Koetter has been anything but dull. Matt Ryan -- with 329 yards in parts of two preseason games -- is about to terrorize the conference. Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Colts went on a vicious slide last season, but I don't agree with the mob of forecasters calling this team the worst in football. This Andrew Luck cat is the real deal. Dan Hanzus told me so.
Coaching effort of the week
Never thought I'd be typing this, but Mike Mularkey has energized the Jaguars. With Maurice Jones-Drew on the lam, Mularkey has guided Jacksonville to roughly 30 points per game (they averaged 15 last season). Blaine Gabbert has shown improvement in wins over a pair of heavyweights in the Giants and Saints. If Gabbert's growth is real, Mularkey might not wind up with the worst team in the AFC South.
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Defense of the week
Lost amid the white noise of Jake Locker's ascension, this Tennessee Titans defense has been a nuisance for opponents. After holding a bewildered Josh Freeman to 21 yards in a 30-7 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday, Tennessee leads the league with just 199 yards allowed per game. The Titans sit out there as an AFC dark horse if they can take this play into games that matter. Our honorable mention goes to the front four of the Oakland Raiders. These behemoths know nothing of epic Russian literature, but were nerd-level obsessed with dominating Arizona's O-line on Friday. Tommy Kelly alone had Kevin Kolbdreaming of a promising new career in data entry.
Defense of the weak
August football can be a statistical red herring, but get this: The mighty Baltimore Ravens have allowed an NFL-worst 425.5 yards per game, which translates to 6.2 yards per play. It's easy to forget the Ravens have burned through four coordinators in five seasons. That alone would rock lesser teams, but the scheme hasn't changed in Baltimore, meaning we don't expect a falloff when September rolls around.
On our radar, Offense
For years, the Chicago Bears rolled with a frustrating band of pipsqueak wideouts who struck fear into exactly nobody. Those ugly days are over. Along with Brandon Marshall, rookie wideout Alshon Jeffery gives Jay Cutler a big, physical receiver who looked the part in Saturday night's win over the Washington Redskins. We saw a preview of Jeffery's speed on a 34-yard grab and expect him to shift into a starting role early in the season.
On our radar, Defense
Giants rookie cornerback Jayron Hosley single-handedly launched the Jets into an abyss Saturday night with his 78-yard pick six of an errant Mark Sanchez throw (a term that's becoming redundant). Hosley's performed well in camp and should see plenty of snaps in that injury-riddled secondary.
Preseason narrative that's badgered us for weeks, will amount to nothing, and ultimately be remembered as a grave annoyance
And while Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow flounder, the quarterback we should be talking about ...
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The free fall for last year's starter has been swift. You couldn't trade Jackson today for a bag of G.I. Joe figures, but when calamity lays its hand on the starting passer for some doomed franchise, T-Jax becomes golden. Out he'll go, to the next town, the next assignment: Spartan room and board in exchange for that hyper-average arm.
Such is life for your average joes in a league that chews up players and coaches alike.
After all, this preseason -- like the dozens before it -- is the kindling for an all-consuming fire that will swallow 31 teams without remorse.