Right now we have the draft to distract us from the horrifying reality that meaningful football is still five months away. But in May the bitter coldness of a few more months without the NFL always settles in, leading to a dark, lonely existence. I’m scared too, but we’ll make it through this. If Rob Gronkowski can get by with little more than a pair of Zubaz pants, a ballin’ scooter, and slick dance moves that make college girls instantly go all duck face, we’ll be fine.
Since any NFL news is massive NFL news during the offseason, the release of the preseason schedule earlier this afternoon was a development met with the kind of glee that makes a family of Gronks look tame and boring. Quickly we forget that preseason football is barely football, and unless there’s a compelling position battle or a highly-touted rookie, it’s unwatchable. I’m paid to make the NFL my existence, and I find it difficult to last through the second half of most games in August.
But if you’re going to watch preseason football (and you will), and if you’re going to use it as an excuse to neglect loved ones and domestic responsibilities (and you will), here are six games that should be penciled in now. We strongly advise using a pencil, because we’re still three weeks away from the draft, so aside from the obvious picks, it’s hard to determine which games will feature the most prominent rookies and battles.
(Note: The specific dates, times, and network were only announced for the nationally televised games)
1. Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers (Aug. 19, NBC at 8 p.m. ET): This will feature a first overall pick playing in his first nationally-televised game. I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t wait to see Ryan Tannehill in his Colts uniform in primetime (*ducks, waits for shoes and jagged rocks to pass, rises, ducks again*).
2. Washington Redskins at Buffalo Bills (Aug. 9-13): There might be a highly-drafted quarterback who’s a pretty big deal starting his first game here. Can’t wait to see Brandon Weeden.
3. Indianapolis Colts at Washington Redskins (Aug. 23-26): Weeden and Tannehill go head-to-head in Week 3 of the preseason.
4. San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos (Aug. 26, FOX at 4 p.m. ET): Peyton Manning’s debut as a Bronco during Week 1 of the preseason against Chicago is obviously also required viewing, but Manning in primetime can be circled with a Sharpie on your calender. Screw the pencil.
5. Carolina Panthers at New York Jets (Aug. 26, NBC at 8 p.m. ET): Similar to Manning, Tim Tebow’s Jets debut in Week 1 against Cincinnati is required viewing, but this is the only confirmed national Jets game. The power of Tebow compels you to watch, and to continue a polarizing debate that will last longer than eternal damnation.
6. Arizona Cardinals vs. New Orleans Saints (Aug. 5, NFL Network at 8 p.m.): I suppose you’re obligated to watch the Hall of Fame game, even though the starters play maybe two series in the August opener. But between the Bountygate punishments and the likely presence of Bill Parcells on the Saints’ sideline, there will be an added dramatic element to this game, one that will make the game itself an afterthought. Watch if you can tolerate the soap opera environment, or seek shelter on a dock with a bottle of some kind. Your call.