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The NFL Preseason Watchability Index is easy to compute. Starting quarterback competitions are worth 3 points, high-round rookie quarterbacks 2 points (bonuses stack) and “storyline” quarterbacks (new starter, returning from injury, etc.) 1.5 points.
A new coach is worth 2 points. Crowded battles at running back or receiver are worth 1 or 2 points, depending on how juicy the competition looks. Exciting new faces on defense or the offensive line are worth 1 point, and “trainwreck” potential is worth 1 or 2 points based on the size of the potential disaster.
Finally, “baseball cap” quarterbacks and finishing among the league’s final four teams last year each deduct 1 point, because no one wants to watch Brady sip Gatorade for three hours while announcers talk about his legacy.
Without further ado, here is this year’s NFL Preseason Watchability Index:
Cleveland Browns (9): They’ll either get much better or rupture the fabric of space-time by getting worse. Both scenarios are appointment viewing.
New York Jets (7.5): Sam Darnold and Teddy Bridgewater? That’s like preseason surf ‘n’ turf!
Arizona Cardinals (7): Surprisingly watchable in the preseason thanks to Josh Rosen and the new head coach no one is talking about (Steve Wilks).
Indianapolis Colts (6.5): Lots of position battles and a new coaching regime. Plus, if Andrew Luck throws only three passes, it’s still three more than you ever expected to see again.
Buffalo Bills (6): Whether Josh Allen throws three touchdowns or breaks windshields in the players’ parking lot, it will still be worth a look.
Denver Broncos (5.5): Case Keenum, Bradley Chubb, lots of newcomers and youngsters at the skill positions, plus the potential for hilarity when Mordecai and Rigby take over at quarterback in the second half.
Oakland Raiders (5): Fourth quarters will feature guys who were starters four years ago.
Chicago Bears (4.5): The rating system likes Matt Nagy and all the new faces. The rating index also didn’t have to watch Chase Daniel on Thursday night.
Baltimore Ravens (4.5): Lamar Jackson + Robert Griffin III – typical Ravens blahs = intriguing storylines, even when the football itself isn’t very interesting.
Tennessee Titans (4). Just seeing them throw a few forward passes is worth a gander.
Washington Redskins (3.5): We’re now below the waterline in terms of watchability for the typical national fan. Washington is all about Derrius Guice and seeing what Alex Smith looks like in burgundy.
Los Angeles Rams (3): The open-locker room rebellion isn’t scheduled until at least Columbus Day.
Seattle Seahawks (3). Somewhat watchable, though they may leave you a sickly feeling, like you were rubbernecking at a wreck on the other side of the freeway.
Green Bay Packers (2.5): Normally a preseason snooze, but Aaron Rodgers needs reps, and DeShone Kizer should attract some lookie-loos.
Houston Texans (2.5): Everyone’s healthy this year? Cool. (Changes channel.)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2.5). Rank them higher if, umm, you enjoy, err, vague and awkward discussions of, you know, “player misconduct” by television announcers.
New York Giants (2): There’s a slim chance you will get to see the players you want to see.
Cincinnati Bengals (2): Just enough new faces and redemption stories to make watching Matt Barkley play quarterback almost worth your while.
Kansas City Chiefs (1.5): Change channels the moment Patrick Mahomes grabs a cap.
San Francisco 49ers (1.5): Change channels the moment Jimmy Garoppolo grabs a cap.
Minnesota Vikings (1.5): Change channels the moment Kirk…you get the idea.
Dallas Cowboys (1): Fourth-quarter-caliber receivers and tight ends will be playing in the first quarter, and not because the starters are getting rested.
Jacksonville Jaguars (1): Watching Jalen Ramsey on the sideline for three hours would be far more interesting than anything that happens on the field.
Miami Dolphins (1): Ryan Tannehill doesn’t count as a “storyline quarterback” because he’s Ryan Tannehill.
Detroit Lions (1): I guess it’s must-see TV for Kerryon Johnson diehards.
Philadelphia Eagles (0.5): The only thing worse for August viewing than an established quarterback who doesn’t need preseason work is a pair of established quarterbacks who don’t need preseason work.
Pittsburgh Steelers (0.5): Rank them higher if you didn’t hear enough uninformed Le’Veon Bell contract speculation in the offseason and crave three more hours of it.
New Orleans Saints (0): This is the part of the list where it becomes all fun/great regular-season teams that are devastatingly boring in the preseason.
Atlanta Falcons (-1): Maybe fun/great was too strong a word/words.
Los Angeles Chargers (-1): No team has greater reason to fear a Final Destination-like catastrophe if a starter strays onto the field before the third preseason game.
New England Patriots (-1): Two words: Brian Hoyer.