As the NFL's final week of preseason matchups bears down upon us, I'm here to tell you that you can't miss it. Seriously, you can't.
Don't give me that look.
I know you're restless, and I know you're itching for the regular season to kick off, but hopefully I can convince you that there is football worth watching between now and September 5.
Here are five reasons why you've got to stay tuned for Week 4 of the preseason:
Because You Should Take No Sunday for Granted
Spare me your preseason yawn, ye who bemoans the end of football.
You need to care about Preseason Week 4. Know why?
February will be here in a heartbeat, that "tomorrow, we all are undefeated" NFL commercial will flash across the screen, and the next thing you know, you'll be watching the closing credits of Super Bowl XLVII and weeping over an empty plate of nachos.
We know what comes next.
That first free Sunday is like some kind of post-apocalyptic hangover. You have to relearn how to speak with the outside world on topics not involving football.
It's the most deflating time of the year, and yet here we all are in August, rolling our eyes at the fact that "it's still the preseason?!?!"
We're on a horse so high we're practically sitting on Peyton Manning's shoulders, while he trots a Bronco through Mile-High Stadium. We're oozing with condescension.
Do not make this mistake. If you are a true fan, you will not take a single weekend of football for granted.
Because You're Going to Miss the Replacement Refs
Let's be honest. You have never felt more qualified to be an NFL coach, GM, owner or whatever else watching these guys.
You huff and puff when the kicking team downs a punt on the four-yard line, and it's declared a touchback. You scoff at the lack of flag when a defensive back lays out a receiver five seconds before the ball arrives.
Ridiculous! You say. That was blatant pass interference! You say.
If you were Bill Belichick, you'd be pulling that red flag from your sock and thrusting it on the field with authority, because you are damned qualified to do this job.
Then the commentators come at the refs with some snarky comment that totally corroborates how smart you are. Ha! You say. I have an impeccable eye for all things football.
But the lockout will end sometime and so will your inflated sense of confidence—so you might as well ride the replacement ref hate bandwagon while you still can.
Because You Still Need to Scout Your Talent
News flash: one of your top players will get hurt this season. It's one of the truest and most devastating facts of the game.
Do the due diligence on your backups. One of these unlikely guys will inevitably be starting for you sometime this season.
Pay attention so that when you hear the infamous knee pop, you can rally the troops around you, oh hero of information. "I've seen this guy take snaps in the preseason. He's quick off the line and shifty."
Or prepare them for defeat. "I've seen this guy take snaps in the preseason. We're screwed."
The preseason isn't the time to rest on your laurels. Just because Aaron Rodgers plays for you doesn't mean you're set. Take the opportunity to evaluate your team's depth.
Sure these players aren't the flashiest, but they're still wearing your colors for the time being. They're still playing their hearts out trying to make your team.
So scout them, and show some love.
Because Storylines Are Still Playing Out
Believe it or not, stuff that matters is still happening on the field.
By Friday, August 31 at 9pm ET, all NFL teams need to reduce their rosters to 53 players, down from 75.
These physical and mental battles could bleed into the season, and you never want to start the series on episode four, trusting your friend to fill you in on what you missed.
Because the Clock is Ticking on Football
Do you remember George Carlin's old standup routine? He depicts baseball as a fluffy boys' game and football as war.
It's hard to find that bit funny anymore, knowing how on-the-money his assessment truly was.
As we are learning, football is war. It has war-like consequences for its players and their families.
Former players are traumatized, their brains succumbing to disease and dementia.
The game we love endangers the players we love, and it's devastating. The noose is tightening around the NFL as we know it.
But as confusing as these times are for fans, it's impossible to turn our back on the sport that raised us.
Football has defined us. Football has inspired us. Football is practically the heart and soul of America (sorry, baseball).
We can't part ways before the funeral.
So while football still remains in recognizable form, you should watch preseason Week 4.
You should watch this week of NFL matchups because in a decade, you'll be witness to a truly diluted version of the sport. And then, you will be filled with a potent nostalgia for anything resembling 2012 football—even a "watered down" preseason game.
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