How to Watch Preseason Football Without Going Crazy

The NFL is back, but the starters are on the bench and the scores don’t matter. Still, you can enjoy it if you’ve got the right approach.

After nearly seven months without football, the NFL returned over the weekend not with a bang or even a whimper, but with a thud. Despite all the excitement for a new season, preseason football is always a crushing disappointment. No one is sharp, starters barely play, and there are no fantasy stats to track. Still, many fans watch anyway – not much out of loyalty as out of desperation. In that spirit, we thought we’d offer a few tips on how to make it through the next few weeks of football.

Pay attention to position battles: Two players, one position: The only actual drama during pre-season football is between players fighting for their careers against their teammates. The Jets quarterback battle, between Michael Vick and Geno Smith, is the most high profile, but it’s certainly not the only battle between signal callers. Rookies Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater are both trying to jump ahead of two quarterbacks, Brian Hoyer and Matt Cassel, whose only advantage is experience. Since the scores of these games don’t matter, comparing stats of the quarterbacks vying for starting jobs at least gives you some numbers to watch.

Note the rule changes: Most of the changes to the NFL rule book for this season are not worth mentioning, but two are, and the first is just an experiment. For the first two weeks of the preseason, PAT kicks will be taken from the 15 yard line, rather than the three yard line. The NFL is toying with moving the PAT spot back in hopes that the kicks will no longer be gimmies. This could make things slightly more interesting. The other change – and this is a real one – is the elevation of “foul language” to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. We’re especially looking forward to the first time a ref tosses the flag for this one. Will he tell us what the offending words? Please?

Watch the subplots: With the action on the field largely irrelevant, the subplots surrounding preseason games can provide a little morsel of drama. Niners coach Jim Harbaugh has a new deal with Dockers since the last time we saw him prowling the sidelines in dad pants. So, a better dressed coach is something to watch for and…dear god, we’re getting desperate.

Play a preseason eating game: Drinking games are so 2000-and-late. It’s all about eating games these days. Every time you hear a longshot player’s inspiring story or see a starter on the sideline picking his nose, scarf down a P’zone. With any luck, you’ll fall into a food coma by the second half and won’t have to watch the whole game.

Watch baseball instead: We know, it’s been a long time since you saw two 300-pounders smack bellies on grass. You miss football and that’s understandable. But real football that really counts is only a month away and in the meantime, baseball pennant races are heating up. It’s that time of the baseball season when you watch your team’s score along with every other team’s within five games of them. If that’s not more exciting to you than a third string tight end dropping passes, then go ahead, watch football. You’ll get what you deserve.

Photos by Jason Miller / Getty Images