Photo via Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports
Summer green is slowly but surely turning into fall brown.
We all know what this means. As the month of September continues to move forward, sports fans know what they are in store for.
Cue the FOX Sunday music and get the pre-game snacks ready. The NFL season is quickly approaching.
Oddly enough, however, NFL fans will get their first taste of the NFL this month. While this does not sound like anything new, it actually is; after all, the NFL, due to COVID-19 precautions, canceled the entire NFL preseason.
Many fans will puff out a sigh of relief, as they do not have to sweat about potential injuries during practice games. NFL teams, meanwhile, will show some hints of frustration, as they will trek into the regular season with little to no in-game experience to test out new schemes or try out new players.
For some teams, it is no harm no foul. For others, it might cause concern. While there are multiple winners and losers of having no preseason, here is a specific winner and loser that stands out.
Winner: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Due to a near-chronic offseason spree, the Buccaneers swiftly evolved from a backwater NFC South team with interception problems into a legitimate postseason threat. To quickly recap the reasoning, well, look no further than the addition of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. While Tampa Bay’s passing attack made its presence known (the unit’s 4,845 passing yards ranked first among all NFL teams in 2019), it was also inherently reckless, as their quarterback in Jameis Winston mucked 30 picks to opposing teams (his 30 interceptions led all NFL quarterbacks) in 2019. The addition of Brady, despite being on the opposite side of 40, will provide the offense with a more poised and patient signal-caller. The addition of Gronkowski, meanwhile, adds to Tampa Bay’s tight end depth chart that already includes O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, who combined to catch for 770 yards and five touchdowns last season. Did I forget to mention that Tampa Bay added Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy to its rushing arsenal?
Wait a minute. With such a revamped offense, will it not be hampered by the lack of preseason snaps? While it could be the case, the offense should be able to perform efficiently as long as the quarterback does. Luckily for Tampa Bay, they have Brady, who, despite being 43, should bring a more patient approach to the Air Raid game that should, in effect lead to less interceptions (the most interceptions Brady has thrown in a single season has been 14). Additionally, less preseason matchups mean less chance of injury. While Tampa Bay’s offense might use the initial quarters to find rhythm, their offensive depth is too much to stay quiet for a long time. Over the duration of the season, the offense and collective depth will be able to not miss too much of a beat.
Loser: Chicago Bears
The Bears tapered off from their 2018-19 12-4 record in Matt Nagy’s first season as head coach, as their lackadaisical 2019-20 offense (which only scored 17.5 points per game last season) led the team to a mediocre 8-8 record. To bring competition to the inconsistent Mitchell Trubisky, the Bears traded for quarterback Nick Foles (yes, that Nick Foles). After a sub-par season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the addition of Foles will not only bring a change of scenery for the 31-year-old, but a chance to potentially compete for a playoff spot, as the Jaguars’ will trek full-speed ahead into an extensive rebuild of the roster from the ground up.
While the addition of Foles brings more depth and competition to the signal-calling position, the Bears will not have a defined starting quarterback until the regular season is well underway. While Trubisky is slated to start Week 1, there is little to no in-game analysis Nagy and his staff can go with in order to name a full-fledged starter over the duration of the entire season. Without the preseason, the team will potentially have to go with a quarterback-by-committee approach that sees Trubisky and Foles alternate starts and snaps. This, in addition to Nagy’s complex schemes on offense, could create confusion as the team attempts to rejuvenate its overall point production. Without a definite starting quarterback, Chicago’s offense will be at an influx to start the season. This influx could eventually lead to the Bears’ falling behind the rest of the NFC playoff hopeful crowd.