The NFL preseason football has a lot of critics. Many fans and players seem to despise the spectacle and the specter of injury leads many to question whether there is a need for the preseason or whether the risks outweigh the positives. Either way, it looks as though the preseason is here to stay. The NFL may modify it in future years in order to create a better product for fans, but for now the four game schedule is a positive prequel to the NFL’s regular season. This article will attempt to explain why the NFL preseason is a good thing and why you should be positive about sitting down and enjoying all that it has to offer.
The fundamental reason that the NFL preseason is a good lead in to the regular season is player and schematic evaluation. The teams around the league use the games to assess all of their potential starters and back-ups. Practice can only offer so much, and when it comes to scheme, having a different set of minds to go up against really helps the coordinators test their product. With roster cuts coming as fast as they do, teams need as much evaluation of potential as possible and the preseason gives a great opportunity for it. While many coaches and players have voiced their opinion on the need for a fourth preseason game, few have called for the whole schedule to be scrubbed.
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Let’s face it, the length of time between the Superbowl and the start of the regular season is way too long. There are many articles on how to ‘survive’ the offseason and there are many references to the despair that fans go through as they wait for their fix. If you love football you soak it up and breathe it as though it were oxygen and nothing compares to the kick off on the first Sunday. We claim to come to terms with emotional loss on that cold February day but inside we know that we’re living a lie. Every subsequent day we long for the return of our drug, and the preseason is a shot in the arm that prepares us for battle. We’d have yet another agonizing month ahead of us without it. Every little helps and the preseason helps just a little.
If you’re serious about fantasy football then you need to be serious about preseason football too. Any armchair fan can pick the top performing running backs and wide receivers; even if they can’t pronounce half of their names, but the true fantasy gurus out there can pick for depth too. On deep teams there may be an opportunity to grab a couple of stellar wide receivers, but what about those third string guys that will suddenly come out of nowhere when your big guns are on a bye? Preseason followers can spot a star in the making from a mile off. Some teams will only allow a preseason star to get an opportunity if the worst happens to a key player during the regular season, but some stars are born in the preseason. Who knew that Russell Wilson would burst onto the scene like he did in his first year? Preseason followers, that’s who.
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If you’ve been a fan as long as I have, you’ll have noticed how the NFL has gone from a big league that dominates the United States, to a gigantic league that stands tall amongst the other global sporting markets. A league that can farm out its games to foreign countries, and still be in growth, is a league to be reckoned with. The enormous revenue that is generated by such a powerhouse filters down to the average fan too. Twenty years ago who would have imagined that there would be the possibility to watch any single touchdown, from any given game, in any given season, at any given time? The NFL network has become the premier destination for fans that want to follow their teams. Further expansion has seen funding provided to grass roots schemes. That focus has given us improved player safety for kids around the country and along similar lines, funding has been increased for those players that have served the fans in the past. Retired players now have better financial packages; a scheme that gives current and future players the confidence that the NFL will look after them when their careers are over. Everywhere you look, the NFL serves communities, players, and fans. The preseason is a facet of the whole.
While the superstar players that grace our screens may only get a series or two to shake off some of the rust from the off-season, many more players are just trying to make a living. Second or third string players on one team may be starters on another, but without exposure, only good scouting and Lady Luck can throw up opportunities. The preseason allows everyone a great chance to view those under the radar players that may drop into the free agent market or those players that might possibly become available on the trade block. On teams where the starter is less than decided upon the preseason gives a valuable real-time opportunity to players. It lets them showcase their ability against real opponents. Whether a player is going to stay or go can be decided in those four weeks before the serious action begins. Careers can be made in the preseason.
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There are valid reasons as to why the preseason is an important part of the NFL year but there still remains a slight contempt for it. The league plans to improve the product so that we buy more into it but they shouldn’t have to. It is only our high standards, falsely imposed by comparison of the preseason to the regular season, that make us look down upon it. The preseason is a valuable testing ground for new talent and a useful tool for those fans that truly love the game. The only major drawbacks are the ever present potential for catastrophic injury and the non competitive nature of the play. If we could solve those issues then we all might gain a little more love for it.