It has been six months since the Super Bowl, and fans are salivating for some action on the gridiron. They’ve been getting by on off-season reports and gossip for half a year, and they’re ready for some football. Fortunately, their wait is about to come to a close as the 2016 NFL preseason kicks off. If watched the right way, the preseason can be a lot of fun for fans. They get to see their favorite players from last season, as well as some new guys, for the first time since February, if they were lucky. However, just because two teams are playing a game, and one team will win, that doesn’t mean fans should take the results seriously.
Be Wary of NFL Preseason Results
It’s easy to say that the preseason doesn’t matter. While it’s never fun to lose, nothing is at stake. The preseason was designed so that the coaches could see their new prospects in action before deciding which players make the final 53. The preseason also allows veterans to get back on the field and shake off some of the off-season rust. So while the preseason is vital to shaping a NFL team each season, the results are mostly meaningless.
The biggest reason that good teams have bad preseasons is that their coaches are smart. Players like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers don’t need to be on the field for very long in a meaningless game. A few snaps just to make sure that their arms are still attached each game is more than enough. As we’ve seen, freak injuries happen and they happen often in the NFL.
Last preseason, the Green Bay Packers lost wide receiver Jordy Nelson for the whole season when he tore his ACL in a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Without Nelson, Rodgers threw for 560 fewer yards, seven fewer touchdowns, and three more interceptions. Injuries happen in the NFL all the time, but losing a Pro Bowl caliber player like Nelson in the preseason is just tragic.
The 2008 Detroit Lions
Not only are the wins insignificant, but they’re not even an indicator of the team’s success. A perfect example of this would be the 2008 Detroit Lions. During the 2008 preseason, the Lions went undefeated. Averaged up, they only allowed eight points per game, while scoring 20. They looked to be in mid-season form, and fans were excited. However, eight years later, we don’t remember the Lions for being playoff contenders. Instead, we remember them for being the very first team in NFL history to go 0-16. During the regular season, they only scored 16 points per game, and they gave up over 30.
The Tony Dungy-Era Indianapolis Colts
Between 2000 and 2009, Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts set a NFL record for wins in a decade with 115. Over that time, Manning won the league MVP award four times and the Colts appeared in two Super Bowls. They also set the record for the longest regular season winning streak of all time with 22 straight wins between a 31-21 loss to the Tennessee Titans in October of 2008 and a 29-15 loss to the New York Jets in December of 2009. The Colts were one of the elite teams during the 2000s, so it only makes sense to assume they would have enjoyed preseason success.
As logical as it sounds on paper, that’s not how it played out on the field. The Colts only won 16 preseason games over that span, with the loss total almost doubling that. Over a decade where the Colts won 115 games, six division titles, two conference championships, and a Super Bowl, they were dreadful in the preseason.
So while it’s never fun to watch your favorite team lose, a defeat in the preseason is far from a death sentence. It’s fine to get excited by wins, but don’t invest too much in them. A team could have a great preseason and fall apart like the Lions, or be perfectly mediocre and win the Super Bowl like the Colts. One thing is for sure, preseason or not, it’s good to finally have football back.