The NFL exhibition season comes to an end this week with all 32 teams playing on Thursday night. Most teams used this past week as their “dress rehearsal” with starters in many cases playing well into the second half.
Rosters are to be trimmed to 75 by Tuesday, which means many decisions will have to be made based on play in Thursday’s preseason finales, with another 20 or so cuts due by the weekend.
New York Jets coach Rex Ryan may have made the bonehead decision of the entire preseason when he inserted likely starting QB Mark Sanchez back into the game in the fourth quarter of their game against the Giants. Thinking he was done for the night, Sanchez entered the game unprepared for the moment and suffered a shoulder injury, the extent of which remains somewhat uncertain as to his availability for Opening Day.
Ryan’s days as coach may be numbered with a new GM in place who did not hire Ryan. And there’s been much friction between Ryan and GM John Idzik dating back to the controversial decision to draft former West Virginia QB Geno Smith. Smith was Idzik’s choice. Ryan, stubbornly according to some, remains a Sanchez supporter.
The truth may be that Sanchez, who directed the Jets to a pair of AFC Title games in his first two seasons, has regressed since then as a result of being surrounded by mediocre to below average talent. His supporting cast seems no better this season and it may not matter whose hands are under center for the Jets, and it could be another disappointing season.
Many teams will either rest the majority of their starters for this final game or give them limited playing time, perhaps no more than a series or two. Injuries remain a major concern this preseason and most coaches will take as few risks as possible after balancing the pros and cons of risking injury vs. making final personnel decisions.
If you do play these final preseason games be sure to gather as much information from coaches’ comments on Tuesday and Wednesday as to their plans for Thursday.
Next week’s column will feature predictions for the Division winners and Wild Card teams, those that could well meet in the Super Bowl as well as a viable long shot or two, which could spoil the preseason predictions of many.
Here’s a brief look at the final week of preseason games.
Eagles -3 at Jets (39.5): Team Controversy, aka the Jets, has concerns at QB. Philly may slow down its preferred quick pace offense. UNDER.
Colts +3½ at Bengals (37.5): Decisions on depth should be the main priority for both coaches. COLTS.
Lions -4½ at Bills (39.5): Buffalo will be auditioning several recently signed QBs behind rookie Jeff Tuel who will start. Detroit is pretty much set. BILLS.
Jaguars -3 at Falcons (40): Jags one of five winless teams this preseason. Falcons are the more talented and may similarly be motivated to end the preseason on a positive note. FALCONS.
Steelers +3½ at Panthers (36.5): Steelers may be more interested in working on the run game, which would tend to keep the clock running and limit number of possessions. UNDER.
Redskins -2 at Bucs (37): Washington is unbeaten with a +35 scoring margin. Bucs have more to work on for regular season. BUCS.
Saints +6 at Dolphins (36): Saints are 3-0 and seem set to get the season started. Miami laying nearly a TD may be a bit too much. SAINTS.
Giants +1 at Pats (39): Few chances may be taken by either offense in risking receivers to injury. UNDER.
Titans -4½ at Vikings (38.5): Minnesota is winless and looking to end the preseason on a positive note. VIKINGS.
Ravens +7 at Rams (38): Baltimore has scored 98 points in its three games. Rams might well be aggressive on offense in this final tune up. OVER.
Browns -1 at Bears (39): Chicago has been involved in high scoring games with two of their three games topping 60 points and all three games decided by 8 points or less. OVER.
Packers +3½ at Chiefs (36.5): New KC coach Andy Reid has more personnel decisions to make regarding talent, suggesting the Chiefs might be the more aggressive team. CHIEFS.
Texans -2½ at Cowboys (37.5): Both teams likely to use this game to evaluate backups and implement conservative play calling. UNDER.
Cards PK at Broncos (38): The average total points scored in the Cards’ three practice games has been 22.3 with ‘Zona scoring 17, 12 and 7 points. UNDER.
49ers PK at Chargers (38.5): Harbaugh likely to emphasize personnel and position battles even though most roster spots have been decided. 49ERS.
Raiders +7 at Seahawks (36.5): Seattle is 3-0 and has outscored its preseason foes by an average of 19.3 points per game. This matchup could feature a quickened pace that would favor points. OVER.
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]