Considering their previous high-profile faceoffs, there’s no better way to finish off an NFL season than Patriots vs. Giants.
Problem is, Wednesday night’s game is a preseason finale for both teams. So it doesn’t count, and just about every big star, including the Elis and Toms, Gronks and Tucks, will be watching mostly obscure players try to earn roster spots.
That’s in keeping with the current dynamics of the NFL’s exhibition schedule, which concludes with three games Wednesday and 13 more on Thursday. With the exception of those few key position battles remaining, there’s virtually no luster or intrigue. Everyone is saving that for kickoff weekend.
That means little game-planning and no chance any nicked-up players get on the field, especially Tom Brady after he was hit far too often for New England’s liking this summer.
“We really just want to try to focus on all the things we need to improve in for the Patriots and not worry too much about anybody else right now,” coach Bill Belichick said. “Just making sure that we’re making progress in the direction that we need to go.”
That direction for the Patriots is to the Meadowlands for what certainly won’t look like a rematch of the Giants’ 21-17 victory in early February. Or the 2008 17-14 win over the previously perfect Patriots. The Giants are particularly banged-up.
“Obviously we’ve got another week before we play our first game to get guys rested,” Eli Manning said. “We need that and hopefully they’ll be back for the Dallas game.”
Also Wednesday, it’s Tampa Bay at Washington and Miami at Dallas.
On Thursday, it’s Atlanta at Jacksonville; the New York Jets at Philadelphia; Minnesota at Houston; Baltimore at St. Louis; Kansas City at Green Bay; New Orleans at Tennessee; Cincinnati at Indianapolis; Buffalo at Detroit; Chicago at Cleveland; Carolina at Pittsburgh; Oakland at Seattle; San Diego at San Francisco; and Denver at Arizona.
Miami at Dallas: Dolphins have lost all three exhibitions and have been outscored 66-30.
Tampa Bay at Washington: Last rehearsal could decide starting RB for both teams.
Kansas City at Green Bay: After early-season injury debacles in 2011, Chiefs merely want to go unscathed.
San Diego at San Francisco: Chargers go for unbeaten preseason but have had some key injuries.
Baltimore at St. Louis: Ravens put 2011 Defensive Player of Year Suggs on PUP list, likely won’t have him until November.
Minnesota at Houston: Texans veteran kicker Shayne Graham has been a preseason star (5 for 5, including 53-yard FG).
Carolina at Pittsburgh: Steelers still have uncertainty on offensive line and in running game.
New York Jets at Philadelphia: Jets setting futility records with no TDs in entire preseason.
New Orleans at Tennessee: Joe Vitt’s last game as interim coach before beginning six-game suspension for role in Saints bounty program
Denver at Arizona: Don’t even bother looking for Peyton Manning in this one.
Buffalo at Detroit: New Bills backup QB Tarvaris Jackson could get thrown into action right away, has plenty to learn.
Chicago at Cleveland: Bears starting offense looked weak against Giants, but isn’t likely to get on field here.
Atlanta at Jacksonville: Any chance Maurice Jones-Drew rides in to rescue Jaguars’ offense? Nope.
Cincinnati at Indianapolis: Would be a nice regular-season Andrew affair: Luck vs. Dalton. Both probably will sit, though.
Oakland at Seattle: So the rookie Russell Wilson beat out the high-priced free agent QB, Matt Flynn, in Seattle.