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How to Watch Preseason Football

How to watch all of the Preseason Football that you need to see.

August is here, which means football is back. Well, sort of.  Training camps have all opened and preseason games are upon us, which means that there will be a glut of games on the television for the next month or so, which at first sounds like heaven – until you remember what these games are like.  IT usually starts off great with all the starters suited up (or at least most of them) and a game or two on national broadcast, but after a quarter or so everyone has removed their helmets and shoulder pads and are doing sideline interviews.  That’s hardly what we were looking for, but we still want to watch and see what players are out there that are making an early impression, especially new guys.  So how do we get through all of this?

Allow me to help with my own version of a viewer’s guide to preseason games.  With so many games on television and fantasy drafts happening on a daily basis, we all want information as quickly as possible, especially if we get it with our own eyes.  There can be over 20 games a week at this time of year, so not many of us have time to watch every snap.  I know that I usually don’t, sot that is why I came up with a plan to watch what I need to view and look for what I want to see every preseason.  So here we go, along with a few simple rules:

Rule #1:  Your DVR is your friend.

This is pretty straightforward.  All of the preseason games are televised in some way, shape or form – especially on either the NFL Network or DirecTV.  You can record every game and watch the plays you want, when you want – and with some information along with it to guide you towards when to stop fast forwarding.

Rule #2:  NFL Gamebooks are crucial.

The NFL writes up a summary gamebook of every contest, including the preseason.  It used to be called a “Gamebook”, but now it seems NFL.com likes to call it a “Game Center”, but it does not matter – you just want a complete summary of the contest, and the Game Center gives you all that and more.  The Game Center includes a play-by-play of every matchup, which is really what you want to look at before you sit down and watch any preseason contest.  Consider it “Cliffs Notes” for every game.  Have them ready.

Now, with those two critical rules, here is how I plan to watch as much as I can, every preseason:

Note – I consider the preseason as four weeks long.  I know that some teams play five games, but for all intents and purposes, there are four games for most teams, so it is four weeks.  To keep it simple, throw in early games like the Hall of Fame Game in with Week 1.

Week 1 of Preseason

Step 1:  Record all of Week 1 games, if possible. 

Step 2:  Sit down to watch the games – no more than the first quarter.  Fast-forward between snaps. 

Step 3:  Read over the play-by-play for the second, third and fourth quarter.  Find the time of each scoring play (touchdowns only) and any play of 15 yards or more.  These are the big plays you want to see anyway, so fast forward to each of these.

During these three steps, you can watch an entire Week 1 game in about 15-20 minutes.  I try and make sure that I capture every single team at least once during this process, although in some years that has been tougher than usual either because of broadcast times or even availability of the game at all.   Assuming that this is not a problem, you should be able to watch several games in a few hours, and in about 4-5 hours have a solid look at every player in the league that really matters.  

I also like to take it one step further.  If a player on the second (or third, or fourth) string stands out while I am watching, I will note his name and see what he does (at least in the NFL Game Center) the next week.  I like to think of that as a shopping list for Week 2.

Speaking of Week 2, here is the plan:

Week 2 of Preseason

Step 1:  Record all of the Week 2 games, if possible.

Step 2:  Similar to Week 1, sit down to watch the games, but no more than the first half.  Fast-forward between snaps.

Step 3:  Read over the play-by-play for the second, third and fourth quarter.  Find the time of each scoring play (touchdowns only) and any play of 15 yards or more.  These are the big plays you want to see anyway, so fast forward to each of these.

By this time, you should know what you are looking for, and that is anyone who has moved up the depth chart.  That’s very important, as any good player can rack up stats in the second half of Week 1 preseason games.  The trick is, do the coaches promote him on the depth chart for Week 2, and how does he respond?   This is where my Week 1 shopping list comes in handy.

I may not watch every team at this point, as I likely have seen what I have needed to see so far, but I will still look for those same big plays (touchdowns and 15+ yard plays).  That should cover me for seeing what I need to see.

So what about Week 3?  I am glad you asked.

Week 3 of Preseason

I won’t go into the details again here, but the plan is exactly the same as Week 1 and Week 2.  Record and fast-forward all you can, but Week 3 matters a little more.  Starters play most of the first half and may even take a series or two after halftime to get tuned up for the regular season.  This is where you can verify the players on your shopping list are legitimate or not.  At this point of the preseason, I am mostly only watching the big plays and the first series or two of teams I still want to get a look at, but not all of them for sure.  I am just hoping not to hear of any big injuries.

Lastly, Week 4:

Week 4 of Preseason

Don’t watch Week 4.  Seriously – the starters are usually not playing and these are the guys competing just to hang on to a roster spot.  Most of these guys are considered not that valuable, so they are playing out the string of the final preseason contest.  The fact is, the teams and players do not care, so neither should you.  Work on one last pass of your fantasy projections and get ready for your final fantasy drafts.

There you have it – I hope that helps you muddle through the preseason schedule.  Remember the two rules and keep the batteries fresh in the remote control.  Welcome back, football.

Weekly August Updates

By the way, if you are more of a reader or just want great second opinions, there is nothing better than Bob Henry's Weekly August Updates that more than cover each preseason game.  Bob, along with several others on the Footballguys' staff, break down every team's camp and games every week.  

BONUS

Here is a great way to keep up with all the info you need, for free.  It's the Footballguys Mobile App, available for both Apple and Android.  Get free fantasy football news, at least one free article a day and our Daily Updates, all on your mobile device.

Footballguys Insider PRO members already know about the August Updates and how detailed the staff can get on all the preseason news you need.  Get free fantasy football news, at least one free article a day and our Daily Updates, all on your mobile device.

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Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to pasquino@footballguys.com.