The first week of the NFL preseason was complete with the exception of Monday night’s game between the Jets and Texans as GT went to press.
Based on what occurred in the initial games the prospects for the coming regular season may suggest a huge gap between the haves and the have-nots.
The 2010 season had a clear distinction between good and bad teams. Not only did a high total of 13 teams win at least 10 games but a similar number (13) lost 10 or more. Only 6 of the 32 teams hovered around .500 with 7, 8 or 9 wins.
The preseason continues this week with the second of four practice games and the quality of play should improve with the additional time of practice. Teams had very little time to prepare for their initial tests last week but have now had several days to evaluate their opening game performances.
Many coaches still will view these preseason games as nothing more than extended scrimmages played in front of thousands of fans. This may be the case especially in view of the lost offseason.
It is worth repeating that if you are to play these “exhibition” games you are best advised to take advantage of the many reports available on the internet that emanate from teams’ training camps. Coaches are more apt to speak honestly about the state of their team’s readiness and progress.
Largely due to the uncertainties surrounding preseason play and the intentions of the coaches, Sports Books have been waiting longer than usual to post lines for this week’s games that will be played between Thursday and Monday.
Thus the following writeups are not guided by any lines that have yet to be posted as of late Monday afternoon.
Pro Football THURSDAY
Patriots at Bucs: The Sports Books will have a dilemma for this game following New England’s 47-12 blowout win over Jacksonville in Week 1. Wherever they set this number the public will pound the Pats even though Tampa was almost as impressive in winning at Kansas City. Both teams are likely to place continued emphasis on defense throughout the preseason. UNDER.
Eagles at Steelers: Both teams are loaded with veterans and primed for yet another season of making the playoffs. As such development of depth is a primary preseason goal as is the emphasis on line play on both sides of the football. UNDER.
Pro Football FRIDAY
Redskins at Colts: This could well be another dilemma for the lines maker given Indianapolis’ long record of preseason apathy. Wherever the line is set the money figures to come in on Washington. It would not be a surprise if the Redskins are a FG favorite. They have more issues to resolve and likely will play their starters longer. And with more roster spots up for grabs the visitors should give the more spirited effort. REDSKINS.
Lions at Browns: Both teams are on the upswing with Detroit a bit further along in their development. Each team played well in their debut last week and look to build upon the many positives both coaching staffs took for the respective efforts. With each team having shown success moving the football this could be one of this week’s most entertaining games. OVER.
Panthers at Dolphins: Carolina looked well prepared with new coach Ron Rivera last week and rookie QB Cam Newton showed poise in his first live action. Miami has many questions to address, especially on offense, and should continue to work on the running game. Carolina seems intent on solidifying the fundamentals and emphasizing one of their few strengths, the running game. UNDER.
Chiefs at Ravens: Neither team showed much on offense last week although Baltimore’s effort was more by design than was KC’s. With Baltimore having a strong and deep defense the Chiefs may look to “test themselves” on offense by being more aggressive with their play calling against well coached and fundamentally solid defensive players. KC is 0-9 in the preseason career of HC Todd Haley. RAVENS.
Cardinals at Packers: Green Bay’s starters fared well in their limited time on the field in Cleveland last week. The Pack seems content to work on giving time to their backups and improve the depth that served them well last season when they battled injury after injury. Arizona still needs to assimilate new QB Kevin Kolb into the offense which should mean more playing time for the starting unit. They also need continued work on the running game. CARDINALS.
Falcons at Jaguars: Even though it was just a preseason game Jags’ coach Jack del Rio was none too pleased with his team’s effort in New England last week. Already concerned about fan apathy the Jags would do well to put forth a much better effort in front of the home fans. Atlanta will be looking to give its rookies more of a look although their roster already is deep. JAGUARS
Pro Football SATURDAY
Titans at Rams: St. Louis played well on both sides of the football last week against disinterested Indianapolis. Tennessee was rather dull in its win over Minnesota although the defense showed signs of improvement. New QB Matt Hasselbeck should get additional work as he gets familiar with his new teammates and playbook. The Titans have more depth on offense than St. Louis and that could be decisive in the fourth quarter. TITANS.
Saints at Texans: New Orleans was sharp in the opening win over San Francisco last week. As a veteran team with most starting spots all set the goal for the remainder of the preseason will be to give the starters minimal work and focus on depth. Houston played Monday night and has as much offensive talent as any team in the league. On the surface this could be a high scoring game if starters play into the second quarter. OVER.
Raiders at Niners: New 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was not too pleased with his team’s performance in New Orleans last week, especially with the play of his supposed starting QB Alex Smith. Oakland could have a most interesting QB competition developing with Trent Edwards, Kyle Boller and current starter Jason Campbell each looking sharp. OVER.
Bills at Broncos: Buffalo showed little in its 10-3 loss at Chicago last week and the defense did struggle against the run. Denver played well in its late loss at Dallas as all three QBs had their moments, including the highly hyped Tim Tebow. With Ryan Fitzpatrick entrenched as Buffalo’s starting QB the competition in Denver where there is a new coaching staff should make for more aggressive offensive play calling. BRONCOS.
Vikings at Seahawks: A most interesting preseason matchup as a pair of ex-Vikings, QB Tavaris Jackson and WR Sidney Rice, now toil for Seattle. Donovan McNabb is the new QB for Minnesota. Based on the performances and approach taken by both teams last week, Seattle may be taking preseason results more seriously than the Vikes. SEAHAWKS.
Pro Football SUNDAY
Bengals at Jets: The debut of rookie Cincy QB Andy Dalton was none too impressive. Neither was the overall effort of the Bengals, a team many astute observers believe will be one of the worst in the league. The Jets are off Monday night’s game in Houston and more likely to play their starters more sparingly than the Bengals. With many more questions to address, Cincy might be more aggressive and motivated in this spot. BENGALS.
Chargers at Cowboys: In terms of overall talent this could be a Super Bowl preview when the starters are on the field. Both rosters are loaded with veterans and the coaches will be more concerned with evaluating players at the back end of the roster. Depth at running back is a concern for both offenses and we can expect a concentration on the ground game, especially once the starters are done. UNDER.
Pro Football MONDAY
Bears at Giants: Neither team can be pleased with their first efforts of the preseason, combining to score just 13 points. Look for more passing in this game from both offenses as each team has concerns at wide receiver. Both teams’ defenses appear to be much further along than their offenses which should lead to better execution on that side of the ball. UNDER.