NFL Preseason Notes

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Week 2 of the preseason saw the largest line move yet with the Giants opening as a pick’em at home against the Steelers. Once all the news started filtering in about Ben Roethlisberger starting, Eli Manning and back-up Jim Sorgi not playing, the Steelers quickly rose to a 6-point favorite. Giants third-stringer Rhett Bomar took all the snaps, but couldn’t overcome the solid second half play of Steelers back-ups Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon. The Steelers won 24-17 negating any possible middle opportunities with such a large line movement.

The total in the Steelers game also dropped -points from the opener down to 33½. The highest total of the week was the Texans and Saints opener of 40½, which was then bet to 41½ by game time. Preseason totals over 40 are rarely seen, but in this case, both the odds makers and players were right as the Saints won 38-20.

This weekend’s games will be as close to regular season games that we’ll see during preseason. Week 3 is where actual first-string game plans are put into action with all the starters playing through at least half-time. Some of the back-ups and hopefuls to make the team even perform better in the second half as they are now more acclimated within their team system. The effort and hustle of these players during the second half can rarely be questioned during week 3 because most are fighting for their livelihood and dreams of making it in the NFL. For many, this is their last chance to impress, if not for their team, then for all the others who may see something in their style of play.

I never take preseason too seriously from a betting approach, but I always look for certain things that stand out and are transferable to the regular season. I like to find the nuggets of gold with the second and third string players while watching the second half of games. I also like to look at the early rotations and cohesions of the first-string players, not necessarily scoring points, but the play calling and the effective nature of those attempting to execute from the linemen, prominent new players and who the quarterback targets.

Through three preseason games thus far, the Bengals have looked to get three new receivers involved and acclimated into their offense and they all look better than Chad Ochocinco, who has only three receptions and isn’t being looked at by quarterback Carson Palmer. Terrell Owens (9 receptions), Jordan Shipley (8) – a Wes Welker clone – and tight-end Jermaine Gresham (6) have all looked better than the reality TV star.

The Lions might be a good play to over five wins at local sports books just because of their defensive line with the additions of Kyle Vanden Bosch and second overall pick Ndamukong Suh. In their first two pre-season games the Lions D-line have absolutely beat up on the Steelers and Broncos O-lines. With an improved and more confident Matt Stafford not having to play behind so much due to pressure on the opposing quarterback, the Lions could be a thorn in the side of the NFC North playoff hopefuls.

The Raiders are another team that could be worth a shot at betting over on season total wins at six. It’s been kind of nice seeing the Raiders being able to move the ball after three years of JaMarcus Russell’s game. With Jason Campbell throwing affectively – and smart – all over the field and Michael Bush’s hard running, the Raiders offense should be vastly improved to go along with an already stout defense.

I had initially thought that the Bears would be much better under Mike Martz offensive system and almost had visions of Jay Cutler doing some of the things Kurt Warner did, but the combination of inexperienced receivers and a bad offensive line should see the team mimic last year’s floundering squad. I would look for the under eight wins on the season that the books have posted not only because of how bad the Bears offense and defense look, but how vastly improved the Lions within their division appear as well.

I’m still undecided about how the Broncos will fare this year. I’m looking at seven wins while most of the sports books have them at 7½ for the season. However, Kyle Orton has looked to be one of the more impressive quarterbacks of preseason. He looks more confident than he has at any stage of his career, including Purdue. Through two preseason games at just over three quarters of play, Orton has a 116.5 QB rating with 4 TD passes. His favorite target thus far – taking over for Brandon Marshall – has been Jabar Gaffney, a big possession receiver who had 6 catches for 98 yards against Detroit Saturday. For fantasy players, Gaffney could be a nice steal at the late rounds of your draft.

 

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