6 Best and 6 Worst NFL Teams of the 2019 Preseason
With Week 3 of the NFL’s preseason behind us now, there is just over one week to go before the games that actually count (and therefore matter) get underway and football fans and players alike cannot wait.
As nice as it is to have some NFL games to watch in August after having to wait half a year with no live football matchups at all, there are arguments for and against playing four preseason games and we examine some of those, as well as break down the proposed new seasonal format that some owners and players are excited about.
Then finally, we take a look at a half dozen of the teams that appeared to get better during this year’s football dry run and a half dozen teams that did not and briefly analyze some of the effects this year’s preseason run had on these particular franchises.
Football newbies primer – what is the NFL preseason?
Currently, the NFL preseason consists of the four exhibition games each team plays before the regular season begins, usually starting around the beginning of August, though up until 1978 there were actually six preseason games played by all teams.
These games do not count against the regular season team record but are often used to determine which of the 90 players who are taking part in each training camp are worth keeping and which will most likely be released.
Season ticket holders are often required to purchase tickets to at least two preseason games in order to qualify for those season tickets, so the questionable quality of those games due to the absence of many starters playing has caused many fans to question having to pay full price to attend.
Arguments FOR the NFL preseason:
- If you are a player who is on the cusp of making the roster, preseason games are a great way to prove your worth on the field and get tape of your production;
- For the football fan, after half a year of having zero NFL, having any NFL at all is a welcome relief;
- For fantasy football players, the preseason is a great place to spot talented rookies that have flown under the radar;
- If you are a starting player in the NFL, having the chance to blow the offseason rust is helpful;
- For the newly acquired players who are learning a new playbook for a new team, the preseason games are the perfect place to make new guy mistakes;
- Franchise owners, television and radio networks and everyone employed by the NFL makes money during the preseason;
- The NFL referees use the preseason to practice calling the games, and given the number of missed and questionable calls they’ve been accused of lately, it is practice well needed.
Arguments AGAINST the NFL preseason:
- The biggest argument against the preseason games is the risk of injury to the players, which is the main reason the starters rarely play in those games;
- The quality of the football played during the preseason games is lower than usual because there are few starters playing, and also because most teams refuse to show their actual game plans until the regular season;
- Why take four games to get accomplished what most head coaches could get done in two?
- Players are only paid a training-camp per diem for these games, so there is zero financial incentive for them to even participate;
- Season ticket holders can (and have) become resentful when team owners make them purchase tickets to what they consider to be a substandard product.
Is it true owners and players want to change the preseason format?
Yes, over the years, several alternative formats to the NFL season have been thrown into the ring.
In 2008, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell proposed a two-game preseason and an eighteen-game regular season, but the idea was rejected due to concerns about fatigue during negotiations for the last Collective Bargaining Agreement.
In the last several years, the idea that’s been floating around has been to eliminate the last preseason game and give every team in the league a bye week to ‘get right’ before the regular season begins.
The biggest surprise of the 2019 NFL preseason:
Without a doubt, that honor goes to Andrew Luck, who announced last Saturday that he was retiring from the NFL as of that moment due to no longer being able to mentally handle the physical injury/pain/recovery loop he has been stuck in for the previous four seasons.
His announcement not only caused some fans to boo him as he left the sidelines of the Indianapolis Colts’ third preseason game, but it also caused the oddsmakers to dismiss the team’s postseason chances entirely.
For more on that, check out our in-depth article on the Andrew Luck retirement.
The biggest surprise second runner up: definitely goes to Oakland Raiders’ wide receiver Antonio Brown, who not only showed up to training camp in a hot air balloon but with an even bigger surprise.
Brown revealed that both of his feet were in the middle of recovering from frostbite due to overexposure to a cryogenic healing device and to prove it he showed the whole world his gnarly dead-skinned bare feet, which have since healed (but continue to haunt the dreams of whoever saw them).
Add to that drama Brown’s initial refusal to play football with a new helmet and it’s pretty easy to see why this team from Oakland (at least until next year) was chosen to be featured on HBO’s hit series Hard Knocks.
For more info on Brown’s offseason situation prior to all of that preseason drama, check out our prior coverage on the Antonio Brown total receiving yards with the Oakland Raiders.
What are the biggest questions still unanswered this preseason?
Atlanta Falcons star wide receiver Julio Jones still has not received his much-anticipated contract extension, although owner Arthur Blank has assured the media that the deal will get done before the start of the regular season.
Dallas Cowboys dual-threat running back Ezekiel Elliott still has not been signed, but owner Jerry Jones, despite his “Elliott Who?” jokes, appears to be seriously negotiating, with rumors circulating that Elliott could be getting ‘Todd Gurley’ type money before Week 1.
Miami Dolphins quarterback – Josh Rosen or Ryan Fitzpatrick, that is the question that remains unanswered in southern Florida at this point, a rare example of why the Week 4 game of the preseason can actually determine who the starting quarterback will be.
6 NFL teams that got better this preseason:
1. Cleveland Browns
For too many reasons to list here (including but not limited to the addition of deep threat wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and quarterback hunter Olivier Vernon), the 2019 Cleveland Browns are actually in the postseason conversation (finally) and have carried themselves with a different kind of confidence in their first three preseason games, much of that due to the confident (some say cocky) swagger of their second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield.
2. New England Patriots
Just when you want to put a fork in Tom Brady and his Gronk-less Pats, Bill Belichick figures out a way to be good again, this time giving his quarterback plenty of targets, including brilliant slot man Julian Edelman and most likely deep threat Josh Gordon, who seems ready to play.
3. New York Jets
The team that posted a 4-12 record with a rookie under center last season suddenly looks like a decent team with a star soft-handed (and well-rested) running back in Le’Veon Bell, a new head coach, Adam Gase, who’s ready to prove he can do better there than he did in Miami and a second-year quarterback, Sam Darnold, whose shown every sign that he is ready to take over this rebuilding franchise.
4. New York Giants
The thing that saves this team from being in the ‘worse’ category is their rookie quarterback, Daniel Jones, who proved in the preseason that he is ready and very able to take over from Eli Manning when it’s finally deemed necessary, and add to that a healthy Saquon Barkley and this team is exciting to watch again.
Take a look at the New York Giants postseason odds and predictions.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
You wouldn’t think losing your two best players would be a good thing, but from the looks of the 2019 Steelers it’s true, still led by the newly paid Big Ben Roethlisberger, now targeting the speedy and ball-greedy Juju Smith-Schuster while running back James Conner fills the giant hole left by Bell in the backfield and rookie linebacker Devin Bush expertly quarterbacks the defense that’s been leaderless since the career-ending injury to linebacker Ryan Shazier.
6. Philadelphia Eagles
You put a healthy Carson Wentz on the field and give him the speedy new veteran wide receiver DeSean Jackson to throw to, and you can bet this Eagles team will be even better than last season, especially given the upgrades made on the defensive side of the ball, including defensive tackle Malik Jackson and linebacker Zach Brown.
6 NFL teams that got worse this preseason:
1. Indianapolis Colts
You lose your franchise quarterback to injury, it’s unfortunate, but you lose him to retirement just before the season begins like how the Colts lost Andrew Luck and it’s shocking because now the season looks doomed, though backup Jacoby Brissett has done the job before.
2. Los Angeles Chargers
This team just got worse after losing one of the stars of their secondary, All-Pro safety Derwin James, who suffered a stress fracture in the fifth metatarsal of his right foot and is currently wearing a boot with no timetable on his return.
Check out our article on the Los Angeles Chargers offseason.
3. Green Bay Packers
The Packers lost three defensive players (for now) to injury during their Week 3 game against the Oakland Raiders, including rookie linebacker Curtis Bolton, later seen on crutches with a brace on his knee, inside linebacker Oren Burks with a damaged pectoral and linebacker Rashan Gary, whose neck was crunched in a head-on collision and who was already battling a sore shoulder.
Check out Aaron Rodgers output with the Packers.
4. Detroit Lions
In their preseason game against the Buffalo Bills, linebacker Jarrad Davis went down with a leg injury and was carted off the field while center Frank Ragnow also left the game and the two will undergo medical testing for their non-weight-bearing leg injuries.
5. Houston Texans
The Texans were made considerably worse this preseason after running back Lamar Miller suffered torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee in the preseason, and Miller will now miss the entire 2019 season, with the newly acquired Duke Johnson taking over in his place.
Check out also: Quarterback Deshaun Watson‘s output with the Houston Texans.
6. San Francisco 49ers
Starting slot receiver Trent Taylor broke his foot and will likely miss multiple games to start the season following surgery, and once again injuries have made these 49ers worse, with four key players questionable for Week 1 and other starters who are just returning from injury (particularly quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo).
AFC South – To Win Division
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