Let’s just come right out and say it. This is the worst week of the entire NFL season that happens between the preseason-starting Pro Football Hall Of Fame Game and Super Bowl Sunday. Even during your favorite team’s bye week, there are other games to serve as a distraction. Recently, the football-sized hole at the end of January in the weekend before the Super Bowl was filled with the Pro Bowl—which sort of counts as football too. Strangely, even the two previous preseason contests ushered in the exciting reality that, yes, the NFL has returned in some shape and form, so it didn’t even matter that the games were utterly meaningless.
The third week of exhibition games totes all the insignificance of the preseason in general, but with any sense of newness or novelty removed. Worse yet, there’s still one more glorified practice looming the following week (that, unlike this week, finds a pared down roster fighting for the very last remaining roster spots), then another wait between the preseason finale. Thankfully, the Packers open on a Thursday this year, saving a few days. Preseason week three is the worst version of a great thing. It’s going on a road trip and finally seeing your destination on a road sign…that indicates you’re still 250 miles away. It’s minutes 12-15 of IMAX in-theater movie previews, and the 30-second ad YouTube makes you watch before Nicki Manaj’s “Anaconda” music video. But mostly, it’s just watching Scott Tolzien overthrow guys you don’t know, and probably shouldn’t even bother trying to.
Factor in that the Brewers will be hosting a contending Pirates squad the same time, and watching this Packers game has become completely optional. If you think that’s sacrilege, here are some other reasons to reconsider how you’ll spend four hours tonight.
There aren’t any fantasy implications yet
In the preseason, the score of the game is secondary to the performance of individual players. That’s exactly what’s at the crux of fantasy football as well. That’s where the similarities end. Though vetting the second-string center to see can remember the playbook in the heat of the moment on game day has its real life importance, it yields little for a stat-based pastime. Moreover, most fantasy leagues haven’t even drafted yet. Even if yours has, unless you’re terrible at fantasy football or you’re unnaturally high on LaDarius Perkins or Alex Gillett, none of your fictitious franchise’s players (save for kicker and D/ST) will even be on the field in the second half. And if they are, you should be more nervous than happy because…
There’s a risk of injury to starters for no reason
After a minimum of six months sans pigskin, it’s always great to see your favorite players in full pads and briefly participating in something somewhat resembling an actual football game. But to most of us sane, rational fans out there, “Holy shit! Aaron Rodgers is on the field again!” quickly turns into “Oh shit! Aaron Rodgers is on the field still!” if he’s still under center in the third possession. Every additional snap in which the likes of Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Eddie Lacy, Clay Matthews, Randall Cobb, Julius Peppers, Sam Shields, and touted rookie Ha-Ha Clinton Dix are present brings the possibility of damaging (even destroying) a regular season before it even starts. Though it’s a tease to not see your favorite Packers weapons in action, it beats the nerve-racking alternative of leaving in a veteran for one play too long.
Rosters are too large to get behind every player
While the expensive organizational pieces are being handled with care, 22 other dudes still need to take the field to finish out the game. After all, season ticket holders pay good money, and they’d be mad if the work client or non-blood relative they gave their exhibition game ticket to didn’t get to see an entire game, regardless of quality. Sure, many of the players are hoping to solidify their standing as backup for their prospective positions. However, very few cuts have been made at this point, meaning a great deal of the guys wearing green and gold who on the field in the fourth quarter tonight are auditioning for a practice squad gig or a backup spot for another team. It’s one thing to own a James Jones jersey, but excuse us if we aren’t sending away for any Chase Rettig attire quite yet.
There’s still one more preseason game to left after this
And that game is usually where the last five or so roster spots are decided upon. Suddenly, fans have developed a rooting interest for unheralded players they didn’t know existed three weeks prior. Last August, Chris Banjo fever swept the Midwest. A couple years before that, we watched a meaningless fourth quarter against the Chiefs with bated breath to see if Vic So’oto could cement his fate as special teamer and emergency linebacker. Not to mention that game four brings a conclusion to a long, arduous, and arguably meaningless period of football fandom that we all initially welcome with open arms, but quickly move beyond. This week is just the end of the middle part of the rote ritual that happens before the season. So bring it on, if only so that we can move on.