5. The first-ever female NFL official.
Shannon Eastin will be just one of many replacement officials on NFL fields Thursday night, but she'll be scrutinized like no other. It's a tough spot for anyone. Even veteran officials tend to struggle in the first game of the season — how many times have you heard a commentator say, "It's the preseason for the officials, too"? — and it'll be her first game at this level, period. She hasn't even done an FBS football game.
To me, this sounds like a recipe for disaster, and maybe it'll turn out that way. If it does, though, let's try to remember that it's not because she's a female, it's because she's inexperienced and got thrown into a nearly impossible situation.
4. Drew Brees vs. Tom Brady.
It's only preseason Brees vs. Brady, but under what circumstances are you going to turn down any Brees vs. Brady? Brees was razor sharp in his first preseason game, and Brady should be, too. The first quarter or so should be fun.
3. The debut of Robert Griffin III.
Robert Griffin III begins his quest to blossom from Bob Griffin into RGIII. It will be difficult to extrapolate too much meaning from his performance, but if you're a Redskins fan, you'll find something to get excited about.
Maybe it'll be his running ability. Maybe it'll be his touch and velocity on the football. Maybe it'll be goofy socks. If I'm the Redskins, though, I'm doing everything I can to put Griffin III in good positions and keep his confidence up. And if I'm a Redskins fan, I'm probably going to get unreasonably excited about whatever happens Thursday night.
2. Who carries the water for the Chargers?
A lot of people favor Ryan Mathews to finally break out and run like a superstar this year. Thursday night, we'll get a glimpse of how much the Chargers plan to lean on him, and how capable he is of approaching 1,300 or 1,400 yards this season.
Without Vincent Jackson around, it'll also be interesting to see what Philip Rivers plans on doing with the football. He's always liked to spread it around, but maybe one of the Chargers receivers — Malcom Floyd, Robert Meacham, Vincent Brown and Eddie Royal — will step up and become his favorite target.
1. Peyton Manning in orange.
This one's going to be weird. In practice uniforms, casually tossing the ball around, Peyton Manning in orange is one thing. In a full-game atmosphere, though, it's going to be jarring to see Peyton Manning in something other than blue and white.
I expect, too, that he'll unleash at least one deep ball, if only to quiet the doubts about his ability to gun it deep like he used to. Perhaps we'll also see which Broncos receiver is going to become his go-to guy.
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