The NFL preseason will look radicially different this summer, assuming it starts on time.
The NFL reportedly will remove two games from this year’s preseason schedule. After years of the idea being floated around, there will only be two preseason games instead of four.
Although the idea makes sense in theory, especially during a pandemic, the NFL will regret cutting the preseason in half.
There have been calls to shorten the NFL preseason for years
Many media members have suggested the preseason be cut to two or three games for years.
The only meaningful preseason game most years is the third one, which is usually when starters receive the most reps. But even that tradition has died down in recent years.
Many of the “preseason stars” wind up not making the 53-man roster. The games now seemingly only exist for TV and financial purposes rather than for what happens on the field.
Those who called for a shortened preseason got what they wanted. Pro Football Talk first reported the NFL will cut its preseason this summer as the league still determines its 2020 plan amid the coronavirus pandemic.
It is not yet known if the two-game preseason slate will be a mainstay going forward, or if the NFL will return to four games in 2021.
There will still be some intriguing preseason games
Barring any schedule changes involving the teams involved in Weeks Two and Three of the preseason, there are still some intriguing games on the docket.
Week Two involves Cam Newton, who recently signed with the New England Patriots, in his first game against the Carolina Panthers. The Raiders, now playing in Las Vegas, return to the Bay Area for a matchup with the San Francisco 49ers.
Dallas is the site of a possible Super Bowl matchup between the Ravens and Cowboys.
Week Three has another potential Super Bowl matchup in Texas, this time involving the Chiefs and Cowboys. Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady hosts his former teammate Mike Vrabel, now the Titans’ head coach, in Tampa Bay.
Of course, most of those games would have involved backups and players trying to make the 53-man roster or practice squad. Newton may not even play against his former team.
Now isn’t the time for the NFL to cut two preseason games
The 2020 NFL season is going to be a unique and possibly ugly year. Teams will already receive less time working out with one another because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now, the NFL wants those same teams to have two fewer games against opposing teams. The preseason may not mean much in the end, but it allows for a team’s starting offense to run against someone besides the normal second or third-string defense.
Fewer preseason games in this climate could mean more injuries. The players fighting for those last spots on the roster have even less opportunities to prove themselves in actual game action.
If the NFL wanted a shorter preseason in current events, the league should have gone with Major League Baseball’s ‘summer camp’ plan. MLB teams are practicing in their home ballparks and some, like the Yankees and Mets, may play one another in exhibitions if it is safe and feasible.
Some teams, like the Jets and Giants or the Raiders and 49ers, retain those semi-local games with this format. The Jets and Giants still share a stadium.
Although the NFL prefers not scheduling intra-division preseason games, a 49ers-Rams game makes more sense than the 49ers flying to Chicago in Week Three.
The NFL may have meant well by cutting the preseason this year. But the logistical and background reasons make the league’s choice a recipe for disaster.