I'm writing a column for Saturday's paper about why the NFL should extend its regular season from 16 games to 18. Here's an unedited excerpt:
This extension of the regular season should have happened a long time ago, and it sounds like it still won’t happen until August 2011 at the earliest. But the NFL needs to play 18 regular-season games, and the preseason needs to be halved from four games to two.
Only one preseason game is actually worth watching anymore, and that’s the one that comes Saturday night for the Carolina Panthers at home against the Baltimore Ravens. Like most NFL teams, the Panthers traditionally play their starters for more than a half in Fake Game No.3. And they actually game-plan a little for the other team. So it’s interesting.
As for Fake Game No.4 against Pittsburgh next week, forget it. If you see the Panther starters play past the first quarter in that one, it will be a miracle.
Carolina plays a real game Sept.13 (the home opener against Philly). Like every other NFL team, the Panthers just try to get through that final practice game without sustaining any more significant injuries.
As for Fake Games No.1 and No.2 (which the Panthers have already lost -- and have had several players hurt in the process while doing so)?
Like Fake Game No.4, they are nice showcases for the players who are trying to win spots No.40-53 on a 53-man roster. Coaches like the extra practice games because they get more time to evaluate their young, marginal players. But all that doesn’t mean NFL fans should be paying full prices to watch these glorified scrimmages, like they almost always do.
(More to come on this subject in Saturday's Charlotte Observer. Also, make sure you check us out online Saturday night for real-time game coverage via CharlotteObserver.com and our various blogs and Twitter feeds -- mine is twitter.com/Scott_Fowler)