I spent more time watching exhibition football this weekend then should be legally allowed. As I said last week, I just love this time of year. I can’t get enough of having the sights and sounds of NFL football back on my TV, even if the games themselves are totally and utterly meaningless.
And I mean that, you can’t take any of the results that you see in these glorified scrimmages seriously. If you ever find yourself getting excited about how your team did, or bummed out by how they did, just remind yourself that the team with the worst record in NFL history, the 0-16 2008 Detroit Lions, where a perfect 4-0 in the preseason that year. Football is a unique sport because it’s all schematically based, there is virtually no free-flow aspect to it.
In a sport like, say, basketball, you can play pickup games at varying levels of intensity and still formulate intelligent opinions based on the results. Not so in football. In football the coaches aren’t game planning and play calling these exhibition games with the intention of winning, they’re managing the game to get their players reps and put them in situations to evaluate how they react.
So enjoy the football, it’s great to have it back, but as we get back to our division previews we should remind ourselves that we can’t let the football we see in the next few weeks cloud or judgments of the teams themselves. The games are great fun, especially to see how the young players look on the field, but the statistics and results should be thrown directly out the window.
With that in mind we tackle the NFC South today, a division where every team has made significant moves in the offseason. The Carolina Panthers took Cam Newton with the number one overall pick in the draft, the Atlanta Falcons paid a king’s ransom to move up and get themselves wide receiver Julio Jones, the Saints sent Reggie Bush packing and replaced him with Darren Sproles and Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the youngest team in the league with a lot of potential.
The division will once again be competitive, compelling, and feature some of the biggest “if factors” around. With all the teams counting on unproven young talent, this will be a great division to watch in 2011.
In case you missed them, check out the NFC East Preview
and the NFC North Preview
, and make sure to come back on Thursday when we finish up the NFC by going over the Western Division.
Without any further stalling, let’s dig into the NFC South.