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Wake up kid!  The preseason is actually important, sort of

Wake up kid! The preseason is actually important, sort of


Let’s just get this out of the way right at the beginning: The NFL preseason SUCKS! The starters don’t play the whole game. The coaches call a very vanilla game. And some important players are bound to get injured in games that literally mean nothing. But, the preseason is a necessary evil for any fantasy football owner. The preseason allows for some live action evaluation of some of the players you’ve drafted, or are thinking about drafting.


           But be careful, everything in the preseason isn’t as it seems. That’s what I’m here for though. If you follow my suggestions, you’ll be able to turn bland preseason games into a fantasy football championship. First we’ll cover what you should pay attention to in the preseason, then we’ll move to what you should ignore.




-Third Game’s a Charm: Teams are incredibly cautious in the first two preseason games, and probably even more so in the final preseason game. However, their third game is the closest thing you’ll see to a regular season game in the month of August. Starters will play at least a half, and possibly one or two series in the second half. This is the only time in the preseason where you’ll get to see a number 1 offense facing off against a number 1 defense for a significant period of time. Of course the defenses aren’t going to throw any surprising looks at an offense, and there won’t be any trick plays, but at least it’s close to the real thing. Watch how the players perform in a live situation and adjust your rankings accordingly.


-Back the Truck Up: You need to keep an eye on backup running backs. I’m not talking about a backup’s stats either (you’ll see why soon enough), watch how they look on the field. Running back is an absolutely brutal position as far as injuries go, and if you have a top guy, you’ll probably want his handcuff. So when that handcuff is on the field, watch how he cuts; watch to see if he has that second gear that can result in big plays; watch his ability to catch passes out of the backfield; and watch his toughness, you don’t want a handcuff that won’t stay on the field either. 


-M*A*S*H: If you ignore even small injuries in the preseason you could be asking for trouble. A minor hamstring or ankle injury can be a big deal for your fantasy team. The injury may not be severe enough to keep a player out, especially if we’re talking about a tough player like Hines Ward, but it may hurt that guy’s production. If one of your guys tweaks an ankle, proceed with caution, it may hamper him for weeks.


-The Big Uglies: You all know Hondo is loving this one. But watch a team’s offensive line. You won’t see the starting unit together for too much time in the preseason, but when they are together pay close attention. You’re going to need to get a feel of how good that unit is at both run blocking and pass protection. Think of it this way, if there are no holes even the best running back isn’t going to rack up many yards. And if the pass protection is bad, a quarterback is going to be forced into a ton of hurried throws. That will result in plenty of incompletions and interceptions, and that’s assuming a quarterback under that kind of pressure survives the whole season.




-Stats are for Nerds: Preseason stats are going to be skewed, period. Let’s look at an example. In 2009 the leading receivers for the preseason were Leonard Pope, Jayson Foster, Ashley Lelie, Charly Martin, and Ronald Curry. You know what would have happened if you bought into those stats and picked up any one of those guys. You would have lost...a lot. Stats in the preseason are incredibly deceiving. That’s because the majority of the preseason showcases second, third, and fourth string offenses going up against second, third, and fourth string defenses. This is especially important to remember when looking at 2nd string players like Jamaal Charles. He has first string talent, and will be playing against second string defenses in the preseason now that Thomas Jones has been anointed the starter. I have a feeling that he’s going to explode in the preseason, but that doesn’t mean he’s worthy of being a first round pick. He’s still too talented not to be considered as a second back for your fantasy team, but don’t let ridiculous preseason stats convince you to draft him amongst the top 12 players.


-Doing the Splits: Teams aren’t going to run their usual offense. Partly because they don’t want to give away any secrets in a game that doesn’t matter, but also if a team employs a particularly run or pass heavy attack they don’t want to get any of their important pieces hurt. Take the Indianapolis Colts as an example. In the 2009 regular season Peyton Manning and company passed the ball almost twice as many times as they ran the ball. However, in the preseason the Colts ran the ball 47% of the time to 53% passing. If you had looked at these stats and taken them to heart you may have dropped Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne down on your draft board, and that’s always a bad idea.


-These Defenses Won’t Win Championships: You aren’t going to see a defensive unit play together for much time during any single preseason game. Mostly because coaches will want to rest guys and make sure they’re healthy going into the regular season. Add on to that most coaches won’t show their most elaborate blitz packages in the preseason and you have a recipe for misleading performances from defenses. Football is the ultimate team game, if one guy is out of position it can kill the entire unit (anybody else remember MSU vs. the wheel route in 2009?). With second and third stringers playing with the starting unit there are bound to be more mistakes than you’ll see in the regular season. Because of that, what may be a very good defense could end up looking like a Pop Warner team during the preseason. Don’t let it fool you, and go with your gut.


-Where are all the Turnovers?: Want to know how many interceptions Jake Delhomme threw in the preseason last year? Zero. Yeah, zero. From the guy who managed to throw 18 picks in only 12 games last year. Neither side of the ball is interested in taking chances during the preseason, so therefore you aren’t going to see as many risks go poorly for the offense. Just because your guy went the preseason without giving the ball up to the other team doesn’t mean that he’ll be careful with the ball once week 1 rolls around.


           Enjoy your appetizer that is the preseason everybody. The main course of the regular season can’t come soon enough!