NFL Week 2 - The Denver Broncos looked like a team whose starters could really have used some preseason snaps in their Monday night loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
The Broncos, whose starters did not take the field at all during the 2022 preseason, committed three false starts and two delay of game penalties. Russell Wilson needed to rush to get the snap off before the play clock expired a few times. The Seahawks appeared to know the snap count better than the Broncos a few other times. The Broncos offensive line didn't look synched up for much of the game. There were lots of little fit 'n' finish errors in the 17-16 loss which had little to do with that loopy late-game field goal attempt.
Yes, crowd noise was a major, obvious factor in all of the miscues. And the Seahawks were especially amped up. But perhaps getting Wilson and the starters onto the field for a few preseason series could have helped the Broncos get ready for the crowd noise and intensity of the opener? They could iron out any issues with the play-calling process. Players could get a better sense of how Wilson's audibles and cadence sound in a (somewhat) full stadium. And everyone could hit or get hit by a real opponent in a real game environment a few times. If a brief shakedown erased, say, one of Monday's goal-to-go penalties or some stray missed assignment, it could have meant the difference between upset and victory.
The Broncos weren't alone in looking a little unprepared in Week 1. Teams that benched their starters for the entire preseason went 3-8 in their openers. Two of the wins came in rested-versus-rested games: the Minnesota Vikings over the Green Bay Packers and the Los Angeles Chargers over the Las Vegas Raiders. The Baltimore Ravens mustered the other win against the Jets.
As for the losses:
- The Dallas Cowboys failed catastrophically in a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Among a litany of mistakes, they committed four false starts, at home, only one of them by the new rookie left tackle.
- The Cincinnati Bengals lost to the Steelers in overtime, allowing seven sacks and committing five turnovers. Granted, Joe Burrow had a preseason appendectomy, and several of the offensive linemen were coming back from injury, so the Bengals might not really have had a chance to play their starters. Whatever the cause, the Bengals line played like they had just met and hadn't been hit by a non-teammate in a long while.
- The defending Super Bowl champion Rams were out-muscled, out-hustled, and out-everything by the Buffalo Bills, in Los Angeles.
- The Cardinals got the same treatment from the Kansas City Chiefs, in Arizona, in a game that was 37-7 before they displayed much of a pulse.
- The Tennessee Titans lost at home to the New York Giants, making some sloppy mistakes (five offensive line penalties plus a delay of game) and, like the Broncos, often looking a beat slower than their inferior opponent.
The sample size is tiny, the evidence anecdotal. But the three biggest upsets (Broncos, Bengals, Titans) and three of the four biggest point differentials (Chiefs-Cardinals, Bills-Rams, and Buccaneers-Cowboys, with Vikings-Packers in between) of the week all involved a team that rested its starters in the preseason. And the three lopsided wins came at the hands of teams that gave a few exhibition series to quarterbacks (Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Tom Brady, who raced back from The Masked Singer plastic surgery marriage counseling ... let's go with fishing to get some work in) who aren't exactly fighting for jobs.