Goal of preseason Week 4: Don’t get hurt

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The fourth and final week of the NFL’s version of soccer’s “friendlies” takes place this week with all 16 games being played on Thursday, putting an end to the exhibition season.

Injuries continue to take their toll as teams prepare to finalize their 53 man rosters before next Thursday’s regular season opener between New England and Pittsburgh.

Often coaches rest their regulars during for the final preseason game or have them play perhaps just a series or two. Again, coaches will often make such announcements during the week, which means keep an eye on the Internet and social media on Tuesday and Wednesday when announcements are likely to be made.

Of course, by observing the betting action that takes place in the 24 hours prior to kick off you might get an idea of which teams are putting forth more than a casual effort in their preseason finale.

Winning still remains a secondary priority, if a priority at all, for most teams as this will be teams’ final chance to evaluate personnel under game conditions before making the last roster cuts. Ask any coach and he will invariably state his main hope is for his team is to come out of this final game healthy.

The lone exception to this line of thinking might involve the three teams yet to win a preseason game – Dallas, St. Louis and New Orleans. However, the Cowboys and Saints are veteran laden teams with recent Playoff experience, elite quarterbacks and experienced coaches who could not care less about winning a game that doesn’t count.

To a lesser extent this would also apply to St. Louis, which is coached by veteran coach Jeff Fisher who well understands the purpose of the preseason. The Rams might be the one group of this trio that does get a win, playing at home against in-state rival Kansas City whose coach, Andy Reid, is under no pressure to win even though his Chiefs are a perfect 3-0 this summer.

With all 16 games being played on Thursday most teams will have 10 or 11 days of rest and preparation for their season openers with New England and Pittsburgh kicking off the season next Thursday. Whether the Pats will have Tom Brady or not as starting QB will be known within the next few days as the judicial opinion is expected by this Friday. That is, of course, pending appeal or further legal action by the losing side.

For the good of the NFL and so attention can be focused on what takes place on the field, let’s hope the final chapter of deflategate is written by the weekend.

In next week’s column predictions for the eight Division winners, the four Wild Cards and how the Playoffs may unfold will be offered along with selections for the opening week of regular season play.

Here’s a look at the final week of preseason games.

NFL Football – Thursday

Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts: Both teams are favored to again make the Playoffs this season and could view this game as little more than a tune up and a scrimmage, preferring to work on offensive and defensive line play and the related blocking and tackling assignments. This would make for a great regular season game but as the preseason finale we might little scoring and a lot of AJ McCarron.

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Jets: The Jets have more concerns as the season is approaching, especially with injuries/suspensions affecting their defensive line. The Eagles have been explosive throughout the preseason as coach Chip Kelly has been working in assimilating many new key players into his system. It’s hard to not expect the Eagles to continue to run their fast paced offense as Kelly wants his backups to be capable of running that system so we could see more points than expected.

Tampa Bay Bucaneers at Miami Dolphins: Both teams are just 1-2 this summer and neither offense has been scintillating so pay attention to midweek reports that may indicate more than just limited time for starters, especially for Tampa Bay. Their might be a bit more motivation from the Buccs to create a positive tone for the start of the season considering they’ve been just 6-26 the past two seasons.

New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers: Considering the close call the Packers had with WR Randall Cobb last week following the season ending injury to WR Jordy Nelson a week earlier we should expect very conservative play calling from the Pack this week. Although winless, the Saints are pretty much set for the start of the season and may be looking to make tweaks to what has been a porous defense in recent seasons. This could be another game that will be much lower scoring than if it to be played in the regular season.

Baltimore Ravens at Atlanta Falcons: Neither team has much incentive to little more than treat this game as a scrimmage with both teams looking to make decisions on backup depth at key positions. The Ravens have the need to develop their receiving corps while the Falcons may be more concerned gaining depth at RB. As such the conditions might favor the Ravens who may choose to focus more on their passing game.

Buffalo Bills at Detroit Lions: The Bills have decided on Tyrod Taylor as starting QB and thus we could see both EJ Manuel and Matt Cassel see plenty of action to claim the backup role. Detroit seems pretty much set for the season and their defense played well in the first half of their pre season games thus far. The conditions could favor the Bills, especially in the second half.

New York Giants at New England Patriots: This should be a game played very close to the vest with a pair of veteran coaches and the knowledge that these teams will play for real in mid-November. Both coaches will be interested in making personnel decisions at the bottom of the roster and in not showing anything unconventional that they might be saving for their meeting that counts. A low scoring game would not be a surprise.

Carolina Panthers at Pittsburgh Steelers: Both teams have historically relied on physical play and an emphasis on defense for their success. Ground and pound has been their theme on offense and both teams may be inclined to place emphasis on solidifying their running games and backup depth along both lines. To the extent that previous summer results are built into the line there may be some value in looking UNDER as the Panthers and Steelers have gone 5-2 to the OVER this preseason.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Washington Redskins: The dysfunctional Redskins are 3-0 this preseason despite their QB mess although Kirk Cousins has been named the week one starter. Both offenses still need plenty of work and both coaches might be looking to build momentum for the start of the season. The Jags have led at the half in each of their three summer games so perhaps a look towards Jacksonville in the first half can be considered.

Minnesota Vikings at Tennessee Titans: The Vikings are 4-0 this summer, starting with their win in the Hall of Fame game. A fashionable choice by many to be a surprise team this season Minnesota may be content to give very limited time to their starters and treat this more like a scrimmage. The Titans may give rookie QB Marcus Mariota some additional playing time and there could be more motivation to build enthusiasm in front of the home crowd for the Titans who have endured 3 straight losing seasons including 2-14 in 2014.

Kansas City Chiefs at St. Louis Rams: Kansas City is unbeaten this preseason whereas St. Louis is winless so to the extent intangibles are in play here they would favor the home-standing Rams. As noted earlier, however, both coaches are long term veterans who understand the meaning of exhibition games. Still, the Rams might be worth considering if positive comments come out of their camp in the next couple of days.

Houston Texans at Dallas Cowboys: Houston has looked sharp this preseason, especially on defense. Dallas has just gone through the motions in their first three games showing little interest in the scoreboard. Perhaps they will use this final game as a true tuneup to build continuity into Week 1 but veteran teams usually take a conservative approach in week four. As with many games this week, this contest projects as little more than a scrimmage and thus a low scoring contest.

Cleveland Browns at Chicago Bears: Both teams have issues on offense as they get set for the regular season and might be more inclined than most teams to give their starting units more playing time than usual in the preseason finale. With a new coaching staff the Bears may be more inclined to place emphasis on a strong performance.

Arizona Cardinals at Denver Broncos: Both are veteran teams with recent Playoff appearances. As such, health and depth should be the primary concerns of both coaches and that often translates into yet another game featuring conservative play calling. Arizona does have more concerns with their defense which could give the visitors enough of an edge to back them.

San Diego Chargers at San Francisco 49ers: The Niners have many more issues as the preseason winds down and might be more inclined to work on an offense that has not looked sharp. The Chargers are pretty much set at most positions although depth at RB is still an issue of concern with rookie Melvin Gordon expected to be the starter. These conditions might favor the 49ers as being the more aggressive play caller.

Oakland Raiders at Seattle Seahawks: The Raiders have actually looked sharp and organized this summer under new coach Jack del Rio. Seattle has mostly gone through the motions in getting set for the real season. In looking to establish a new culture in Oakland del Rio may be more intent on gaining a win in front of a hostile crowd against an elite opponent.

Andy Iskoe and his Logical Approach provide popular and unique handicapping statistics to GamingToday readers and online visitors.  He has been a long-time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Email: [email protected]​

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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