Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford doesn’t really see a connection between how a team plays in the preseason vs. how they ultimately perform to start the regular season.
“Not really,” Bradford said Wednesday. “I’ve been on some teams that went undefeated and looked really great in the preseason, and then the regular season came and it looked like a completely different team. With that being said, I think that every time you step on the field, you want to go out there and you want to be sharp.”
The NFC North knows well, having perhaps the best example for Bradford’s point in recent memory. The 2008 Lions, the only NFL team to ever go 0-16, were undefeated in that year’s preseason with a scoring differential of +48 (80-32). Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said earlier this month he doesn’t see any correlation between how much starters play in the preseason and how well a team starts the regular season.
There’s obviously immense value for NFL teams to assess the tiers of their 90-man rosters in game action before cutting 37 players. How many games are necessary is obviously up for debate. And perhaps there’s a trend or two you can pick up.
Such as last year, when the league-worst Vikings run game showed its inability to produce without Adrian Peterson during the 2016 preseason. The Vikings averaged fewer than three yards per carry in three of the four games. On the other side of the ball, a starting defense that ultimately ranked in the top five didn’t allow a point in three preseason first quarters.
“I think when you do play well it just gives everyone in the room confidence,” Bradford said. “It gives us something to build on. If there’s any momentum before the season starts, going out there and playing well and executing, I think it just makes everyone feel a little bit better about what we’re doing as an offense.”
The Vikings offense has practiced well at times, said head coach Mike Zimmer, but he’s looking for more after the starters have produced three points in six drives so far this preseason. Starters traditionally play about a half in the third preseason game, which for the Vikings is Sunday night against the 49ers.
“We have to prove it obviously, but I like where they’re headed,” Zimmer said. “I like where they’re headed. The other day at practice the offensive line came off the ball low, physical. I thought they did a good job. It’s seeing the things in practice. We had a red zone period the other day and they scored a bunch of times in the red zone on different plays. So, until we do it on the field, it’s just from what I see in practice.”