NFL Preseason: How To Watch (Mostly) Meaningless Games Properly

I was in Jake’s, a fine bar in the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose, during the NFL preseason game between Las Vegas and Minnesota. It was a good time to get something to eat, do some writing and check out the Raiders. 

What I didn’t expect was the energy. Raiders fans were seriously geeked up to see the Silver-and-Black play a meaningless game. Then again, when your team hasn’t won a playoff game since the 2002 season, you tend to search for meaning every chance you get. 

I’ve probably been subjected to 100 exhibition games over the past 30 years. At three hours each, that’s 300 hours. The only thing I can say about those 300 hours is that I’m that much closer to death from watching them. 

Still, I try to take in as much as I can stomach and constantly think to myself: “OK, what can I get out of this moment. What’s really going on?” My other thought is, “What’s the point of settling for field goals in the preseason when you can actually practice some fourth-down plays?” But that’s another argument for another time. 

Aside from the obvious question about who is playing early in the game (coaches don’t waste time on players they don’t think have a chance to make the team), here are some thoughts on how to watch exhibition games. Because if you’re going to watch NFL preseason football, this is the week since the starters will play more than usual.

Viewer’s Guide To NFL Preseason  

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Jason Cole has covered or written about pro football since 1992. He is one of 49 selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and has served as a selector since 2013. Cole has worked for publications such as Bleacher Report, Yahoo! Sports, The Miami Herald, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, and started his career with the Peninsula Times-Tribune in Palo Alto. Cole’s five-year investigation of Reggie Bush and the University of Southern California resulted in Bush becoming the only player to ever relinquish his Heisman Trophy and USC losing its 2004 national championship.