As the third full week of preseason games unfolds the major news – as is the case each season – is the injury reports that continue to play havoc with coaches’ plans to get set for Week 1 beginning Sept. 5.
Historically, most teams use the second to final week of the preseason as their regular season dress rehearsal, often playing starters into the third quarter with the intention of having those starters see virtually no action in the preseason finale.
This is not, however, a universal truth and it becomes extremely important to monitor the reports coming out of training camps to learn the intentions of the various coaches.
A team that uses this game as a dress rehearsal that faces a team that does not take the same approach does have an edge. That edge, of course, will be reflected in the point spread. Sometimes that edge cannot be sufficiently compensated for and the team going through the dress rehearsal has an ever greater advantage.
When the second stringers are in they will often match up against third and fourth stringers of the team not using this game as their dress rehearsal. With starters playing into the third quarter it may be worth your while to consider a first half play in these games.
At press time for GamingToday’s current issue, only a handful of lines are starting to pop up on the odds screens and likely will show movement before settling in.
Often we see sudden moves in preseason games within an hour or two of kickoff as coaches’ plans are verified as to which starters will not be dressing – something also to bear in mind in the final week of the preseason when some starters may see just a series or two at most while others will not even dress.
But that’s next week.
Here’s a look at what may unfold this week (early odds c/o Station Casinos).
Patriots +1½ at Lions (45½): In a matchup of starters New England has the clear edge but Detroit may have a bit more incentive by going up against one of the league’s elite teams. Sort of a challenge to test its players against the best, in line with head coach Jim Schwartz’s personality. The Pats will be content to go through the motions and stay healthy. LIONS.
Panthers +3½ at Ravens (42): Both have generally been pleased with their progress thus far. The Panthers do seem to have more issues to address, especially on offense. The Ravens have more decisions to make in terms of depth as their starters are mostly set for the season. PANTHERS.
Seahawks -2½ at Packers (43): Seattle has flexed its muscle thus far, outscoring foes 71-20 in two games. The Packers have been involved in a pair of low scoring, conservatively played games. Green Bay continues to work on both its running game and defense. They may well dictate the pace of this contest. UNDER.
Bears -3½ at Raiders (38½): Chicago looked sharp in last week’s win over San Diego. Oakland also showed some positives in its loss at New Orleans. Both teams expect to have much improved offenses this season and we could see more points than expected here, especially if both teams play their starters into the third quarter. OVER.
Bills +3½ at Redskins (42½): Expected Buffalo starting quarterback EJ Manuel likely will miss the rest of preseason to be sure he is fully healthy for the opener. Still, the Bills should be better prepared for this game with three extra days to make adjustments after the Redskins played Monday night. BILLS.
Jets +2½ at Giants (39½): The annual battle for New Jersey finds the Jets seeking to answer questions and the Giants looking to stay healthy. The Giants are more set in most positions but developing backups is a concern. Given all the negatives surrounding the Jets they may be more motivated to put forth the more spirited effort. JETS.
Browns +3 at Colts (43): Cleveland has won its first two exhibition games but both were at home. The Colts responded to a tongue lashing from owner Jim Irsay following their week one rout by Buffalo. The Browns are playing very spirited football for rookie coach Rob Chudzinski and with more personnel decisions to make we could see a similar effort here. BROWNS.
Bucs +3 at Dolphins (40½): Tampa Bay is winless thus far and that does not sit well with intense coach Greg Schiano. Miami has injury concerns as they seek to replace TE Dustin Keller who is out for the season. The Bucs can be seen as having the slightest of edges at QB and running back. BUCS.
Chiefs +3 at Steelers (40): The Chiefs have taken a patient approach to the preseason with a pair of close, low scoring games. Pittsburgh played on Monday night and still needs to develop its running game. Both coaches are veterans who understand the purpose of these games. UNDER.
Eagles -3½ at Jaguars (43): Jacksonville has named Blaine Gabbert as starting QB which comes as good news for bettors seeking to play against the Jags come the regular season. But following a pair of woeful efforts in their first two games the Jags should be primed for a better one against a Philly team still adjusting to the new style of play under rookie coach Chip Kelly. JAGUARS.
Falcons +3 at Titans (42½): Atlanta showed improvement in most areas from Game 2 to 2 and is pretty set for the season with most starters in place. The Titans still have decisions to make more players to evaluate. They also should place emphasis on defensive efforts and will face one of the more mature offenses in the league. TITANS.
Rams +6½ at Broncos (43): The Rams are winless, but have shown signs of improvement. Denver was waxed in Seattle last week and continue to be beset by injuries at key positions. Denver has the edge when the starters match up but this may be more of a defensively controlled game with both offenses content to work on the running game and short passing games. UNDER.
Bengals +3 at Cowboys: Dallas is playing its fourth preseason game and the offense has been rather ordinary thus far. We might see the ‘Boys open it up a bit here. Cincinnati has scored 34 and 27 points in its first two games and appears poised to have a much stronger offense this season. OVER.
Chargers +4 at Cards (40½): San Diego’s offensive starters have been, well, rather offensive thus far. Arizona has also not been offensively efficient either. Both defenses have been sharp and could well be the strengths of each team once the regular season gets underway on Sept. 5. UNDER.
Saints +3 at Texans (43½): These teams might meet again in February as many sharp observers are bullish on both. If this game counted, Houston would have a huge edge due to its solid defense. That is less of an edge during these practice games. The offensive edge goes to the Saints in a matchup of starters. SAINTS.
Vikings +5 at 49ers (40½): Minnesota has far more concerns and decisions to make in getting ready for the regular season. The 49ers are pretty much set and basically will be interested in fine tuning both sides of the football. At more than a FG the winless Vikes are worth a look. VIKINGS.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]