Most pre-season football games are a waste of time, and so far I haven’t wasted any of mine by watching them. However, now that every team has two games under their belt, it’s time to start getting serious about player evaluation.
Weeks 1 and 2. Exercises in futility.
Everyone knows the drill. Through the first two games, the coaches allow all of their scrubs to beat on each other- during the games, that is. The veterans put the beating on them during the rest of training camp. During this time, we show up to watch the beatings (practice), and some of you even pay money to watch them all play games (scrimmages).
But let me state what should be obvious to all football fans. Most of these hapless gladiators you’ve seen during the first two weeks were fun to watch in college, but somehow lost their luster when they slipped on the jerseys of the professionals. The coaches know this, football “experts” know this (though Mel Kiper could use some convincing), and perhaps even you know this. However, only the coaches truly understand what the scrubs are here for and thus have few expectations of them. Why? Because they weren’t brought in to audition, they were brought in to prepare the real players for the upcoming season. Sort of like the temp worker at your office brought in to cover for the guy on work comp (the same guy who’s the anchor for your bowling team), or maybe a fellow like you, obediently performing as the boss’s right hand man until his son graduates college… or more likely, the Betty Ford Clinic.
Basically, what we’ve seen to this point is minor league football. If you can’t wait for college football (the real minors of professional football), the first two weeks helped to quench that thirst. But your a fantasy football “coach”, and you have more important things to do. Those things begin during week three.
What’s the fuss over week 3?
Week three is the only time during the pre-season when things get pretty interesting. The third pre-season game is the one every fantasy coach should pay attention to, and not just because the Olympics are over (and the Paralympics have yet to start- you’ve marked your calendar, right?).
First of all, game three is the true dress rehearsal for the NFL. The players you will see during the season will be featured prominently during this game, more so than the whole pre-season combined. You have a chance to see who’s ready, who’s rusty, and most important, who gets hurt. Great time to see prospective fantasy picks in their natural habitat, and with enough time remaining afterward for you to formulate a draft strategy prior to your draft day. Hell, you should even have time to create that nifty draft board everyone is supposed to have (if you’re really ambitious, a full-blown war room, too).
Consider this also- shortly after these games, the first major cuts will be made (Chad Johnson doesn’t count as a major cut- it was more like canceling a reality TV show). If your into picking “sleepers” (I’m not), or if you have a lot of teams in your league, the player movement that occurs after cut-down day will be of interest. However, if you’re in a small league like mine (8 teams), you don’t need to pay attention to any of that- just check and see if your favorite players survived without injury.
Week 4- Back to square 1.
Speaking of paying attention, you probably don’t want to miss week 4, just for the entertainment value. I know, the stars won’t see much action (probably as much as they saw in game 1), but you will have highly motivated players who truly have a shot at making a squad (at least THEY think so), and the effort they make will result in some pretty decent football. Minor league football, sure, but ENTERTAINING minor league football.
Or perhaps catch up on all those Paralympic events you missed from week 3.