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Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Baltimore's Joe Callahan. Photo: Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

The third week of NFL preseason used to be the week when starters played deeper into games and gave us clues about the regular season. As last night proved, that is no longer the case.

What happened: Andy Dalton, Eli Manning and Nick Foles barely played; Lamar Jackson and Carson Wentz never saw the field; and neither did Aaron Rodgers or Derek Carr — though that was due to the field being 80 yards long (no, really).

  • The Panthers, Jaguars and Redskins (and others) played their starters for longer, but they might regret that now: Panthers QB Cam Newton sprained his foot, while Jaguars WR D.J. Chark and Redskins TE Jordan Reed and suffered concussions.

The backdrop: Last year, Rams head coach Sean McVay determined that preseason football wasn't worth the injury risk — or really all that necessary when evaluating players — and sat his entire starting offense for all four games.

  • The move was met with skepticism (how would players knock the rust off?!), but the Rams silenced the haters by winning their first eight games, making the Super Bowl and, perhaps most importantly, being one of the league's healthiest teams.

On top of that, a growing number of coaches have come out and said they prefer joint practices to preseason games.

"The only real change from a game to a practice is in a game you don't get to do it over. At least in a practice setting, if we make a mistake, we can line up and do it again, and so we can correct that mistake right away. ... We get a little bit better evaluation in practice."
— Eagles coach Doug Pederson, per NJ.com

The bottom line: The NFL has considered shortening the preseason for years, and it feels like we've reached a breaking point. It's time. Nobody wants this anymore.

A simple solution: Eliminate two of the four preseason games, move the season start date back one week and then play 16 regular-season games over 18 weeks, with every team getting two bye weeks.

  • This would add another week of regular-season football to make up for lost preseason TV revenue, while also potentially providing enough scheduling flexibility to give teams a bye before playing on "Thursday Night Football."

Go deeper, via ESPN: Preseason Week 3 takeaways

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - World

In photos: Pope Francis spreads message of peace on first trip to Iraq

Pope Francis waving as he arrives near the ruins of the Syriac Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception (al-Tahira-l-Kubra), in the old city of Iraq's northern Mosul on March 7. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis was on Sunday visiting areas of northern Iraq once held by Islamic State militants.

Why it matters: This is the first-ever papal trip to Iraq. The purpose of Francis' four-day visit is largely intended to reassure the country's Christian minority, who were violently persecuted by ISIS, which controlled the region from 2014-2017.

Cuomo faces fresh misconduct allegations from former aides

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a February press conference in New York City. Photo: Seth Wenig/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was on Saturday facing fresh accusations of misconduct against his staff, including further allegations of inappropriate behavior against two more women. His office denies the claims.

Driving the news: The Washington Post reported Cuomo allegedly embraced an aide when he led the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and that two male staffers who worked for him in the governor's office accused him of routinely berating them "with explicit language."

In photos: Protesters rally for George Floyd ahead of Derek Chauvin's trial

Chaz Neal, a Redwing community activist, outside the Minnesota Governor's residence during a protest in support of George Floyd in St.Paul, Minnesota, on March 6. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Dozens of protesters were rallying outside the Minnesota governor's mansion in St Paul Saturday, urging justice for George Floyd ahead of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's trial over the 46-year-old's death.

The big picture: Chauvin faces charges for second-degree murder and manslaughter over Floyd's death last May, which ignited massive nationwide and global protests against racism and for police reform. His trial is due to start this Monday, with jury selection procedures.