This Twitter exchange got me thinking:
Mort brings up a great point that I’ve heard several times over the past few years but never really fully internalized until now: the first few weeks of the regular season now are like the extended preseason.
Because nobody plays in the preseason anymore outside of bubble guys and cut candidates, teams come into the result season less prepared than ever.
They cut down the number of preseason games from 4 to 3, and most teams don’t even bother playing their starters in any of the games for more than a series or two. And most of the time hold their starters out entirely.
The preseason has always been a balancing act between preparing for the season and avoiding injuries. At some point in the past 5-6 years, the priorities shifted heavily in favor of simply avoiding injuries, and teams stopped trying to use the preseason to prepare for the regular season.
So perhaps we should withhold judgment on these teams for at least a few more weeks.
I know I’ve already written articles about how the Lions defense is pathetic and how the Rams have no chance at repeating. I still stand by those takes because: My Lions article was about the current state of the Lions, and I never said they couldn’t improve on defense. And as for the Rams, I don’t think their main problem—their offensive line—is fixable because it’s a personnel issue that can’t be solved on the fly.
But as for a lot of these other teams that have been underwhelming, or not what we’d hoped they’d be, we should probably relax and give them a few more weeks to iron out the wrinkles. Tampa comes to mind especially here given all the time Brady missed in the off-season and during training camp. Tampa is still very much a work in progress right now. Green Bay is a work in progress–Rodgers is still gelling with his young receivers and adjusting to life after Davante. The Colts are another team I expect to improve. They have a tendency to start slow under Frank Reich, they have a new QB in Matt Ryan, and for Ryan himself, it’s his first season not on the Atlanta Falcons. It’s going to take time.
Even the Denver Broncos, who I everyone is piling on, are still a work in progress. Rookie head coach, brand new quarterback–it takes time to figure it out, and when you don’t have much of a preseason, you have to figure it out during the regular season. And that can be ugly at times.