Reading too much into the preseason is a foolhardy exercise. After all, the worst team in NFL history, the 2008 Detroit Lions who finished 0-16, went undefeated in their exhibition schedule. That said, the games aren’t entirely meaningless. There are tidbits to be gleaned from moments throughout the games — tidbits that could well provide insight into the regular season. Here are six of those tidbits:
Getty ImagesStephen Dunn
The Cowboys are feeling too good too early
The Cowboys felt robbed last year, and who could blame them? Tony Romo goes down and they won only one of their 12 remaining games. Against one of the worst divisions in football, that has to feel like a lost opportunity. But the glee the team is showing so far this preseason is out of hand. Romo is important, and his backups were bad last year, but the Cowboys were not Super Bowl favorites undone by an injury. Getting Romo back should instill confidence, sure, but it’s been his backup, Dak Prescott, who has Cowboys fans over the moon. Prescott has been spectacular in his first two games against NFL-caliber competition, and it has the Cowboys and their fans talking a big game. Karma is a strange thing — never think you have it beat.
Getty ImagesRonald Martinez
Money hasn't solved Houston’s problems yet
The Texans are much better than they were last year — Lamar Miller is a steal at running back, and the defense looks a year older and a year better, even without J.J. Watt. Now they just need a quarterback. Perhaps Brock Osweiler is the answer to the problem the Texans have faced for years now — Houston is betting $72 million that he is — but so far in the preseason he’s been average at best. It’s a new playbook and the benefit of the doubt should be given, but considering that Osweiler was hardly throwing the skin off the ball last season, there’s plenty of reason to think the Texans are looking at more of the same from the most important position on the field in 2016.
Getty ImagesThearon W. Henderson
Don’t sleep on the Jags
The AFC South is wide open, especially if point two is proven correct. So far this preseason, the Jags have looked rock-solid — especially quarterback Blake Bortles. The Colts haven’t shown that 2015 was an anomaly and the Titans’ defense is still comical, and that leaves two teams on the top of the divisional heap. The preseason isn’t supposed to matter, but comparing the two teams through two games, it’s hard to not pick the Jags.
Getty ImagesRich Schultz
Paxton Lynch is Denver’s best option
The defending Super Bowl champs so desperately want to keep Lynch on the bench that they trotted out Trevor Siemien as their starting quarterback for their preseason game against the 49ers. To be kind, he did not look like the man who was going to lead the Broncos to back-to-back titles. Mark Sanchez — who gifted the 49ers two fumbles in that game — is the fall-back plan but has looked particularly Sanchezian so far. Lynch, the team's first-round pick, has proven to be the only option worth further examination, and though he might not be playbook ready, the Broncos don’t appear in a position where they wouldn’t be wasting the time until he is ready. The Broncs might as well waste that time with him under center — it might shorten the development arc.
Getty ImagesDustin Bradford
You can hold off on buying the RG3 redemption tour tickets
This preseason has been dominated by RG3, for plenty of reasons, as the erstwhile Washington quarterback has found a new home in Cleveland. His preseason performance against Atlanta was praised across the Internet as the beginning of his revitalizing second act. It was a tremendous game — it earned him a 154.2 QB rating — but the hype is misplaced. Griffin hasn’t had a positively rated game since 2013, and while new Browns coach Hue Jackson is an excellent offensive coordinator, it’d be ridiculous to think that Griffin’s woes are behind him now that he’s in Cleveland (seriously, think about that) with a good coach. He’s yet to see an authentic exotic pass rush or coverage this preseason — the kind that he’ll be sure to see almost every down come the regular season — so let’s wait until he puts up a big game against those to declare 2016 the year of RG3.
Getty ImagesDylan Buell
Jimmy G isn’t going to steal Tom Brady’s job, but he won’t go 0-4, either
He’s a fine backup, but not much more. Jimmy Garoppolo won’t win the Patriots any games — that much has been made clear by his adequate performances so far — but he also probably won’t be the reason the Patriots lose any of the opening four contests while Tom Brady sits. Given the offensive weapons around him and the Patriots’ solid defense, New England should feel comfortable heading into Week 5 with two wins.