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We head into the final week of preseason where bettors should play with extreme caution as most of the starters are expected to play only a few series, if at all, in what will be of a final audition for the final 75 players on each roster.

Remember, 22 of those players will be cut and this is their last chance to make an impression on their coaching staff.

The Las Vegas sports books have been loving the preseason because of all the uncertainties involved in every game. The low spreads on every game have enticed much of the small money on parlays to include the prominent teams as if this were the regular season and the line offered value as was the case with the Patriots home game against St. Louis last week, where the Rams won as a short dog.

Although the big pay-day with the large handle for the sports books comes with the regular season, the consistent win with little risk during preseason has been a nice relief for the books in August after dredging through a month and a half of only baseball where the daily win-loss is a crap shoot.

If looking for any type of trend for the final week of preseason, you’ll be hard pressed to find a good one. Last year the favorites went 8-8 in the final week with the only trend standing out being the home underdogs going 2-0.

Knowing that the second and third stringers are going to get much of the work, the quarterbacks that have looked the best throughout training camp and preseason appear to be the way to go. Cleveland with Seneca Wallace running the show shouldn’t disappoint; same with Marc Bulger in Baltimore.

Conversely, look to pick on teams where the back-up has looked bad, like Brady Quinn in Denver who can’t seem to find any confidence or rhythm, making Eric Mangini look like man-genius again for dumping Quinn in Cleveland.

Speaking of Cleveland and Mangini, I’m pleasantly surprised about the play of Jake Delhomme during the preseason. We were all so down on him the last two seasons in Carolina with his bundles of interceptions that took a good Panthers team out of many games, but Delhomme has been the perfect example of just how important experience is.

He doesn’t have the strongest arm or the swiftest feet, but what he lacks there he makes up for in smarts. His ability to read what opposing defenses are throwing at him and audible appropriately along the way should make Cleveland much better than last year; that, along with a much improved offensive line, all of which make the Browns solid contenders to go OVER the 5½ season win total posted in the sports books.

Through three preseason games, Delhomme has completed 79% of his passes, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a QB rating of 110.5. Maybe more importantly through the games is that he has been sacked only once in 48 pass attempts.

He’s got a nice back in Jerome Harrison to hand the ball off to, a nice bailout over the middle in former Patriots tight-end Ben Watson and the team has also featured the explosive Josh Cribbs more prominently in their first string offensive schemes.

It also looks like the player the Browns got for Quinn from the Broncos, running-back Peyton Hillis, is going to be a nice third-down and goal line back that Delhomme has confidence in during passing situations.

The Browns have two winnable games right out of the gate to kick the season off as 2½-point underdogs at Tampa Bay and then a home game against the Chiefs where they’ll be favored. They could conceivably be 2-0 by the time they start their tough division battles with Baltimore, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh – teams they combined to go 1-5 against last year.

It may not yet be playoff time for the Browns, but there should be some good times in the Dawg Pound as their beloved team actually competes offensively with their opponents this season.

Washington Hurt-Skins

Donovan McNabb will not be playing this Thursday against the Cardinals in the Redskins final pre-season game and could possibly miss the opener against Dallas. Because of coach Mike Shanahan’s uncertainty over whether McNabb will be ready for the opener, he’s sitting back-up Rex Grossman out for the preseason finale as well to ensure that he will have one healthy quarterback for the Cowboys. John Beck and Richard Bartel will get all the snaps against the Cardinals.

Bradford Passes First Test as Starter

It’s only preseason, and it was only against the lowly Patriots defense, but Sam Bradford put all his tools on display that made him the first overall draft pick during the Rams 36-35 win at Foxboro. He was sharp and precise giving everyone a look at what may be possible in the near future for the Rams.

No O-Line in Big D

Maybe we shouldn’t get too excited, but the folks in Cowboy-land have got to feel a little worried about their offensive line woes during preseason. Tony Romo has only been sacked five times in their four pre-season games, but he seems to be pressured every time he goes back to pass, resulting in hard knock downs. Someone has to light a fire under this team if they intend to play at home in the Super Bowl like many experts believe, but the Cowboys have the unfortunate disposition of having a quarterback and coach that don’t know how to light that fire.


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