Last night’s Broncos – Colts game was the worst contest of this early NFL season.

With any hope, it’ll be the worst game of the entire NFL season, too.

When it went to overtime a 9-9 tie, it was the first game to go to the extra period without a touchdown in regulation since 2017. Besides that, the teams went a combined 6-of-31 on third downs (19.4%), punted a combined 12 times and each team’s quarterback tossed two interceptions each.

For the Denver Broncos, Russell Wilson hasn’t lived up to the billing of superstar. It hasn’t been all his fault, but missing a wide open K.J. Hamler on the game-deciding play was falling flat on your face in front of everyone. Embarrassing.

Just like Wilson hasn’t lived up to the hype, neither has Nathaniel Hackett nor the Denver Broncos as a whole. After their loss to the Raiders last Sunday, it was clear the Broncos are worse under Hackett than they were under Vic Fangio.

Now at 2-3 on the season, it’s clear the expectations of the Broncos were way too high before the season kicked off. We knew there would be some missteps, but this team will be lucky to win 6 games at this point.

The Broncos are one mess. And the Colts didn’t look much better. In fact, for most of the game, they were worse than Denver.

But this isn’t isolated.

Remember, the Broncos beat the San Francisco 49ers 11-10 a few weeks ago. Now the 49ers look like one of the better teams in the league. That game was incredibly ugly, as was the Broncos – Seahawks game.

So was the Seahawks – Lions game in Week 3 that ended 48-45. It was high-scoring, sure, but awful defensive play.

In fact, there have been bad games all across the NFL this year. And if you’ve been thinking it, you’re not alone.

Tom Brady on Thursday to the media in Tampa Bay said, “I think there’s a lot of bad football from what I watch. I watch a lot of bad football. Poor quality of football. That’s what I see.”

Who would know better than the 21-year veteran who’s still somehow on top of his game?

After they played the quote from Brady on the Amazon Prime broadcast, Kirk Herbstreit opined, “It’s almost as if September has been preseason football.”

Mr. Herbstreit may be wrong when he called Broncos fans “so spoiled” as they left before overtime, but he was right about this.

Because no coach knows for sure how to use the new three-game preseason, NFL fans are now getting “preseason” football in the regular season. We hoped the sloppy play would end after four weeks, but no, it’s pushed into Week 5.

Last year, the league went from 16 regular season games to 17 in a cash grab, making about an extra half-billion dollars. When they did that, they changed the preseason from four games to three, and we’re currently seeing the disastrous results.

When there were four preseason games, there was a known “formula” if you will. Starters wouldn’t play in Week 1. They’d play 1-2 series in Week 2. Then in Week 3 they’d play one quarter or even a full half. And then Week 4 of the preseason was left to evaluate the roster bubble guys.

Now, with only three games in the preseason, it’s a free-for-all in terms of who plays their starters in the preseason and who doesn’t.

Hackett didn’t play almost any of his starters a single snap. That was a serious miscue considering Wilson is new to the Broncos, to Hackett’s playbook and had no chemistry with receivers. The Broncos should have used the preseason to gel and work through issues, but they’re doing that in the regular season now.

Like Wilson’s forcing a pass in for an interception against the Colts instead of throwing it away and taking the field goal which would have meant a 6-point lead. Or his missing a wide open K.J. Hamler on the game-deciding play in overtime which would’ve given the Broncos the win.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Buffalo Bills sit at 3-1 and are one of the best teams in the NFL this year. They played Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs and the rest of their starters in Week 2 of the preseason against the Broncos for a drive, and the defense played an entire first half. They dominated Denver.

In Week 2 of the preseason, the Miami Dolphins played Tua Tagliavoa and some of their others starters, while the Kansas City Chiefs played Patrick Mahomes for an entire half in Week 2 of preseason.

However, there is no hard and fast rule. The Packers and Buccaneers didn’t play their old quarterbacks, but did play some starters.

But what seems to be the trend is, for the best teams, their starters did play some in preseason. And overall, teams aren’t playing their starters enough in the preseason to get them ready for early-season football.

Now, in the copycat league of the NFL, coaches and teams will catch on. This won’t — or shouldn’t — be an issue forever. It could last for a few more seasons before coaches get on the same page in terms of playing starters in the preseason and preparing them for the regular season.

Still, it’s a rough transition we’re currently seeing and going through.

It’s not fair to fans who are paying regular season ticket prices but seeing preseason football. On top of that, extending the grueling regular season to an extra, 18th week can make the end of the season worse too, with many players being lost to injury.

For now, all we as football fans can hope is the “preseason” is finally over and we start seeing better football as the year goes forward.