Bryan Altman, CBS Local Sports
Preseason games take a lot of flack for a lot of different reasons and I’m certainly not here to defend them from all of them by any means. But let’s look at the oft-maligned, four-game start to the NFL season in a different light and instead of talking about how the preseason is too long and nobody cares, let’s talk about some of the positive things the NFL preseason has to offer
Here are five reasons it’s actually worth your time to tune into some NFL preseason action.
1. QB Battles And Other Juicy Training Camp Storylines Start Taking Shape
This year there are more than just a few compelling training camp battles at the most important position in all of sports and at a bunch of other positions that will garner national headlines. You have No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff vs. the incumbent Case Keenum to start the first game for the Los Angeles Rams in decades, Mark Sanchez vs. Trevor Siemian in Denver for the right to start at QB for the reigning Super Bowl champions and many more quarterback situations that may seem to have been settled, but we all know aren’t (IE: RG III vs. Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Geno Smith, the Eagles’ three-headed monster/mess, ETC…).
Then there’s the ongoing DeflateGate drama in New England that’s finally come to a close but has concluded with Jimmy Garoppolo starting the first four games – and, ostensibly – much of the preseason for the Patriots. Who can honestly say they don’t want to see what he’s got in the preseason?
And that’s only the drama and battles at one position. Every team will be shaped based on preseason performances so don’t dismiss these games too quickly.
2. Increase Your Fantasy Football Knowledge
Speaking of all of these training camp and preseason battles, how do you expect to stay up on the latest NFL news or find the ultimate sleeper pick in your fantasy league this year if you’re not keyed into what’s going on in the preseason?
In 2010 if I weren’t watching the Jets and Giants play in their now-annual ‘Snoopy Bowl’ and happen to catch the undrafted and then-unknown Victor Cruz light up the Jets to the tune of six catches, 145 yards and three touchdowns, I wouldn’t have thought to take him in the 16th round of my draft in 2011 and wouldn’t have been spurred to victory on the wings of his breakout season.
Point being, there are tons of unknown guys on the offensive side of the ball that will be trying their best to make a difference in preseason play and you can be sure that at least a few of them will go on to be difference makers in fantasy football leagues across the country when the real season starts.
So keep your eyes open and remember that your fantasy season may well depend on watching these games.
3. Watch Players On The Cusp Play Their Hearts Out For Jobs
Besides the aforementioned training camp battles heating up is the fact that a lot of players are simply competing for their livelihood. While the first-team guys are more likely to mail it in, you can guarantee that third stringers and guys trying to cling on to an NFL team- whether it’s the one their with or if they’re trying to put up for other teams that might be watching – will be playing their hearts out for that chance.
That goes for rookies and veterans alike who are looking for a chance to either nail down either a starting spot, a spot on the 53-man roster, or even just a spot on the team’s practice squad.
The drama is high when you look at things from purely a personnel perspective as opposed to a wins and losses perspective.
With that in mind, it’s unfair to say the games don’t matter, because they certainly do at the individual level even though the result is unimportant.
4. The First Quarter And Almost All Of Game 3 Matter
If you’re strictly looking to watch your favorite players or the league’s biggest stars the preseason still has you covered! For much of the first half, or at the very least the first series or the first quarter of the first two games of the preseason, the NFL’s biggest stars will be on the field competing against one another.
Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers, Antonio Brown, Adrian Peterson, Julio Jones… the list goes on and on. First team units up against first team units trying to figure things out before the games really matter.
Then in the third game of the year it’s more than a half of real football as teams take this game almost as seriously as their opening game of the season.
The fourth game of the preseason… not so much. But hey three out of four ain’t bad.
5. It’ll Whet Your Appetite For The Regular Season
Think of the the preseason as being the warm up band when you go to see your favorite band in concert. Sure, you don’t know any of their songs, don’t really care all that much about them, and they’re really just there to kill time until your favorite band takes the stage, but, on occasion, they actually have something to offer.
Maybe you hear that one song that resonates and makes you a fan. Or maybe you even hear a song that you vaguely recognize and it gets you amped up.
Sometimes, preseason games will have stellar plays made by unheralded players, big hits, late-game drama… you know, things you usually have to wait for the main act – or the regular season – to get a glimpse of.
But the point is, folks, there is some good football here for the taking. It may not be the regular season, or anything close to it most of the time, but football is football and ready or not, here it comes.
Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for a championship for any of his other three teams.