The Free Press, Mankato, MN

August 22, 2013

Preseason games offer, reveal almost nothing


The Mankato Free Press

---- — The NFL preseason is a time for old athletes to hang onto jobs and younger ones trying to start careers.

It's also a time of great speculation as media and fans try to determine what's going to happen over the next four months based on what they see during a two-hour practice. Which means that there will be wild overreaction to a lot of things that won't matter in the next two weeks.

The Minnesota Vikings play their third preseason game Sunday at San Francisco. There are many that tell you this game is very important because it's the one that the starters will play the most, usually at least a half. It's supposedly the one preseason game in which you can get the first real glimpse into the preparedness of your favorite NFL team.

As Col. Potter used to say on MASH, the greatest TV show of this generation: "Horse hockey!"

True, you get a better picture of the Vikings' offense when running back Adrian Peterson plays, as he will Sunday. But if you think Peterson is going to get more than a handful of carries, you haven't been paying attention. He rushed for 2,000 yards without playing in the preseason last year, and the team isn't going to jeopardize his season with much meaningless work.

True, Christian Ponder and the first-team offense hasn't done much in limited opportunities, but the game plan isn't going to be too interesting in this game, with the results likely to be the same. Most everyone has an opinion on Ponder's ability, and that's not going to change this week. Or next week.

True, the defense has played pretty well, but like the Vikings, opposing offenses aren't throwing the whole playbook out there in the first two weeks of preseason.

NFL fans suffer from offseason hysteria more than any other sports group, in large part because of fantasy football. There are so many TV and radio shows devoted to the NFL that everyone feels like an expert, just by watching others offer not-always-educated opinions.

No one, from ESPN or FOX or local media, knows what's going on inside the Vikings' locker room during the preseason.

So just watch the final two preseason games if you choose. Don't get too high if Ponder hits a deep ball to Cordarrelle Patterson and don't get too low when the opponent converts a third-and-15.

Better yet, ignore the games and their statistics. In two weeks, the games matter, and teams will take them more seriously. Just because fans are required to pay full price for preseason games doesn't mean they're important.

Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, e-mail at ccourrier@mankatofreepress.com or follow his Twitter feed @ChadCourrier.