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Week 3 preseason games not a reliable gauge for regular season


Week 3 of the preseason, generally acknowledged to be the most important of all of the tuneups, is finally here. The last week in which a lot of the regular starters take the field. But are the third preseason games really as important as some people portend? Let's examine:

Why Week 3 preseason games matter:

Most NFL teams want to get their players into the rhythm of what a regular season game week will be like so that the vets can get reacquainted to the routine while the rookies can get a feel for what the process is like. The third preseason game is typically the only time to do this because teams are still in camp mode through the first two weeks of the preseason and everybody, for the most part, has a short week for the last preseason game. That means that this week is the de facto dress rehearsal for a lot of teams and the closest indication of what can be expected of them once the regular season starts.

Because they are treating it like a regular week, teams will game plan on some level for these games. It is also the game in which teams give their starters their most extended preseason action. Almost every team will play their starters for the entire first half, while some, like the Patriots on Thursday night, will even play them into the third quarter. A lot of teams like to use this game as a measuring stick to see where their team is at this juncture of the preseason.

Why Week 3 preseason games don't matter:

It's still the preseason. That means almost any player with any type of ailment is going to sit out. A lot of these players would play if it were a regular season game, but it is simply not worth the risk of putting them in an exhibition game, no matter how badly the coaches may want to see their first-teamer in action together.

And even though there is a level of game-planning involved, that doesn't mean the team is going to show its best new stuff schematically. Why unveil a new blitz in the preseason and let your opponents prepare for it?

Lastly, there is no telling what agenda the coaches had when they put together the game plan. They might want to see if their front seven on defense can hold up to the run without bringing a safety into the box, even though in a real game they would do exactly that. Or maybe they just want to focus on the passing game because they already feel extremely confident in their ability to run the football. There's simply no way to know what teams are trying to accomplish, thus everything that happens this weekend should still be taken with a rather sizable grain of salt.

Mail time ...

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Hey Ross - love your column, keep up the great work! My question is regarding the "fringe" players in the NFL. You routinely hear that a team has "signed this player, and released that player," only to hear a week or two -- or even a DAY or two -- later that "this one was released and that one resigned." How is it possible to evaluate if a player is going to work out in your system or not in such a short amount of time? It doesn't seem to make any sense, and it must wreak complete havoc on a player's confidence, psyche and life overall to be 'jerked around' like this. Can you expand on this a bit please? From the sounds of it, you experienced this aspect of the NFL firsthand more than once. Thanks in advance!-- Marty Lewis, Raymond, N.H.

Every situation is unique but during training camp in particular, a player is signed because the team needs an extra body at a certain position just to practice effectively. Once one of the other players gets healthy and returns to action, the newly signed player is no longer needed. Or teams may just want to take a look at a certain guy and may see all they need the first couple of days or weeks.

No question... just a comment about your hatred for Tim Tebow. I dare say if Mr. Tebow were a minority or espoused Islam or was an atheist or had two or three kids out of wedlock, was loaded with tattoos and cursed like a sailor, you and your ilk in the liberal sports press would be singing his praises to the rafters. Your bias is showing.-- Howard Heavner, Jensen Beach, Fla.

I don't hate Tim Tebow. Not at all. I have spoken with him on occasion and he seems like a really good person. I truly wish him well for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is it would be good for the league and the game if he has success. My column was based strictly on my football opinion regarding what I believe he can realistically accomplish and what I think Kyle Orton already has. Based on your e-mail, it seems to me that if anyone is showing any bias in this regard it is you.

Ross, great overview of Orton vs. Tebow. I'm a Bronco fan who is bemoaning the fact that Denver seems intent on competing in the AFC West, not with San Diego but with Oakland and K.C. As a former player, do their personnel moves (beyond Tebow) seem as strange as they do to the fans?-- John , San Francisco

Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels has a belief system and a philosophy that he is sticking to. I respect him immensely for it, no matter the end results. What I find most curious about the Broncos moves is that they continue to get younger on offense and older on defense. I haven't really figured that one out, though I think they would say they are simply trying to get better at all positions.

1. DannyGraham79 @SI_RossTucker how does a team that is so used to losing, like the Bills, turn around expectations and start winning again

I think you just do it. You find a way to win a game, get some confidence, and then find a way to win another one. I'm a firm believer in the momentum created by winning a couple of games in a row.

1. luisrha @SI_RossTucker do you think Camarillo to Minnesota could be one of those under-the-radar moves that become huge (like Welker to New England, not that big)?

I don't think the Vikings trade for wide receiver Greg Camarillo will be anything close to what Welker has brought to the Patriots, but I do like this trade for Minnesota. Camarillo is an intelligent player who runs great routes and has deceptive speed. I think Brett Favre will really like him because he will be able to trust him.