The quality of play in Week 1 in the NFL was rough. Here is how we fix it

The referees got in as much work as the coaches in Week 1. Joe Robbins/Getty Images

As excited as we all were to see the start of the NFL season this week, there has been one overriding theme in my mind. Starting with Thursday night’s Falcons-Eagles opener and continuing throughout Sunday's games, the quality of play has been less than stellar and in some cases, downright awful. Add to that the surplus of penalties and you have a product that the league cannot be proud of and the fans find hard to take.  A lot of that can be blamed on the current state of training camp and the preseason. The time has come to reduce the amount of preseason games, increase the amount of full contact practices, and get the players up to speed so that they are ready to perform at a high level in week one of the regular season.

I realize the owners have a cash cow by charging season ticket holders regular season prices and making the games mandatory purchases for anyone who wants to attend all eight regular season home games.  Season ticket holders hate having to pay for these games as they are a waste of time and very bad football overall. Viewers at home cannot stand watching this below average product and can only stomach one or two quarters of a game before having to change the channel to something more compelling and interesting. The Real Housewives of any city you chose to indulge in has more action than any game in the month of August. Even advertisers would much rather pay full price to have their ads run during games that mean something and are being played by the best players, as opposed to half price for half-assed attempts to emulate NFL football. Everyone knows that there will be more eyeballs with more focus on the games between September and the first week in February than any nonsense prior to that.

I hearby suggest that the league eliminate two of the four preseason games and add to the amount of full contact practices every team in the league can have. Training camp is all about the battle for roster spots and depth at every position and not about forcing the fans to watch sub-par football in game conditions. If teams only had two games against other league foes and more full contact workouts, you would get more time with starters on the field in games to get reps and establish timing and chemistry. You would also get more practice time to evaluate talent, create competition and make decisions. Coaches and team personnel can use practice time to set up extended situational periods to further break down position battles and roster depth, as well as getting more film on more players on the bubble. Maybe this subtle change would allow teams to use games to knock the rust off and fine tune the A-team, while letting practice decide the B's, C's and practice squad?

For the record, I am not suggesting adding any games to the regular season. Sorry Jerry Jones, you owners already make enough money. I'm trying to up the level of play, not bring it down with more and more injuries, wear and tear. This isn't about revenue streams, marketing or anything business related. This is all about making games more competitive and the brand of football and quality of play better in the first few weeks of the regular season than we have seen over the past few years. Most teams don't play their starters more than one half of football total in the pre-season, if that. That's not nearly enough time to get timing down and everyone in a rhythm on either side of the ball for the games that mean the most. Practice time is never at full game speed and playing against your own jersey colors doesnt exactly get the juices flowing or the starters ready for a 16-game war. This is all about the quality of the sport and integrity of the game for the long haul. If the games are good and the best players in the world are at peak performance levels, the business of football will be booming and everyone involved will be ecstatic.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome