How To Watch An NFL Preseason Game

%name How To Watch An NFL Preseason Game

The return of NFL Football brings about a love/hate sentiment from most fans. On one hand we’re as excited as ever to have some football on TV to keep us company. But on the other, it’s in the form of a meaningless NFL preseason contest. It’s still football, but how much enjoyment can one derive from a game that doesn’t matter? I can only speak from my experience (as a Bears fan), but I’ll admit to you that I didn’t miss a snap of the Thursday nighter between the Denver Broncos and the Bears. I’ll also catch another game or two over the weekend. Then again, I don’t watch preseason games the way I watch regular season games.

You have to realize going in that the coaches could care less about the final score. So if the coaches don’t care about that then I shouldn’t either. I’d love my team to win, but it’s not necessary. Rarely does preseason winning percentage translate into the regular season.

Teams don’t game plan at all until the 3rd preseason game which has become known as the ‘dress rehearsal’ game. Starters usually play into the 3rd quarter in this game, but even in those games the planning is very basic.

Coaches are trying to put their players in certain situations to see specific match-ups. For example, they may want to see how a left tackle performs if left on an island with a speed rusher or they may want to see if their young middle linebacker is smart enough to audible out of a run defense if the offense comes out in a spread formation. Sometimes the coaches might even ask their quarterback to hand off 8 consecutive plays just to see if he’ll do so without a gripe.

When I watch a preseason game i’m taking a hard look at the new guys. If I’m a Patriots fans, I may focus in on their rookie defenders, Dont’a Hightower and Chandler Jones, to see if they are playing with confidence or of they look lost. As a Miami fan, I may concentrate on rookie tackle Jonathan Martin to see if he’s over matched on the line. If I’m a Bills fan I’ll probably check out their veteran additions to their pass rush to see how offenses block them.

The preseason is a great time to peek at the games inside the games, and allow your inner scout to come out. Coaches are looking for a sustained effort from both the roster locks as well as bubble players. I watch to see if those bottom of the depth chart type of guys are hustling. How much fight does that undrafted free agent show in the 4th quarter of a lopsided game?

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The chess match between coaches is nonexistent during preseason. There’s no call this play, to set up this play, to make them think this play is coming only to run this play. (Did you follow that?) Coaches may as well be pulling their calls out of a hat. A defensive coordinator may want to see how his safeties react to various offensive personal groupings all while in a basic Cover 3 defense. Are they reading their keys, are they over pursuing, are they hitting their landmarks. A coach may call the same coverage 4 or 5 times in a row just to get them on film against different looks.

I guess the bottom line is preseason games aren’t for the casual fan. If you can’t distance yourself from the final score and come to grips that the game is nothing more than practice, you should probably change the channel. You do have some options, the baseball pennant race is heating up and lucky for some the Olympics are still going strong.

This time of year is all about optimism, at least wait until the games count before writing your team off.

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