When I started my career in the National Football League in 1973 with the Oakland Raiders, the preseason consisted of six summer games and training camps were eight weeks long. Rosters for those first couple exhibition contests would routinely be 80 or 90 players and the veterans were worked into shape with increasing play time as the roster shrunk and the regular season grew closer.
Today, the league stages four preseason games and training camps can be as short as four weeks. Instead of camps held out of town in hot climates with players away from family and home, today some camps utilize their own practice facilities and athletes often have visits from their families.
Does this make a difference?
The argument is first pinned for fewer preseason games to avoid injuries in meaningless games. But, I haven’t seen any statistics that show the number of summer injuries have been reduced and I have seen that two less preseason games does show some teams less in sync when the regular season begins.
When the league went to four preseason games in 1978, the sloppy play in the initial weeks of a season inspired some teams to add scrimages with opponents for extra live practice time. Today, opponents squaring off with opposition teams between preseason tilts is common, and that is one reason why you will occasionally hear of a star player injured midweek.
This season, we are also getting daily reports of fights on the field between opponents that are playing against each other on a day not listed on the preseason schedule.
There is another norm that teams that meet each other in the regular season won’t play each other in the preseason. The teams are in charge of arranging their own preseason games, and they will never schedule a contest against a division opponent. This is because they don’t want to reveal anything against their natural rivals that they are looking to exploit when the real campaign is played.
It is even uncommon for an opponent that is going to play a non-division game to schedule a preseason contest against a scheduled regular season opponent. So, that is why the matchup today between the Oakland Raiders and Los Angeles Rams is interesting.
The Rams and Raiders have played preseason games against each other since the American and National Football League merged in 1970. Even though both teams knew this was a year they would meet in the regular season they went ahead and scheduled their traditional preseason game. What they didn’t know when they agreed to meet each other in August, is that the regular season schedule would have them opening against each other just a few weeks later.
The Raiders and Rams are part of the Monday Night Football season opening double-header on September 10.
What does that mean for today’s preseason game?
Neither squad is going to show what they have instore for their opponent for the opener, and both teams will play as vanilla as one can imagine. Which offers a distinct advantage to the visiting Raiders today.
Because the Rams are coming off their best season in years and have nothing to prove in the preseason while the Raiders are bouncing off their disappointing 2017 campaign and working for new head coach Jon Gruden.
This is the kind of unique situation that generates a solid preseason football wager.
Qoxhi Picks: Oakland Raiders (-3) over Los Angeles Rams