I prefer to see TNG and DS9 as one long continuous story. It is true that there is much of TNG season 1 that is very idiosyncratic (to say the least). However, TNG season 1 did manage to establish what was happening in the 24th century - in terms of treaties, new threats, and so on. It established the new technology, how humanity had developed, and what had happened since the time of Kirk and Spock. An awful lot of what went on in DS9 was built on the foundation that TNG laid down in season one.
TNG improved, and by season 3 it really found its rhythm. For some reason, certain very bizarre falsehoods developed about the show. I think Praxius wrote a really great post earlier, and as well as exploding those falsehoods, he articulated the spirit of TNG.
TNG carries on, and then we are introduced to DS9 and Benjamin Sisko. In Emissary we see what happened to Sisko and his family at Wolf 359 - and the very personal connection he has with Picard. TNG ends and DS9 continues the story on its own.
From Encounter At Farpoint to What You Leave Behind is one long narrative. There is a definite shift in tone about midway through as the war starts, and the values that were espoused in TNG are tested in DS9. In my opinion, for the most part, they held up.