The third full week of the NFL preseason is considered dress rehearsal week for most teams. Starters will often play into the third quarter before giving way to the backups.
This week becomes a critical one for teams that have been unable to resolve concerns that appeared in their opening games but were unsuccessfully addressed in their second games. Time is running out with the regular season barely two weeks away.
Most teams will rest their regulars in the fourth and final week of the preseason, using that game as a final opportunity to make personnel decisions that usually affect depth but in some cases involve starters.
It bears repeating that if you are to get involved in betting these exhibition games your chances of success are improved by monitoring news coming out of the camps during the week as coaches discuss their approaches to the game.
Thursday, Aug. 23
Packers -3 at Bengals (44½): Green Bay needs to get more production from its backups, especially QB Graham Harrell. With both sides’ starters likely to play into the third quarter, the dynamics tend to favor the more talented team especially there are issues to resolve. Packers.
Jaguars +7 at Ravens (41): Jacksonville has many more issues to resolve before the start of the season whereas the Ravens are pretty much set at all positions and likely to be more concerned with depth. Still, the Ravens would like to overcome what have been sluggish offensive starts in their first two games. Ravens.
Cards +4½ at Titans (40½): Both teams need to make decisions on their starting QB. Arizona’s John Skelton and Kevin Kolb along with the Titans’ Jake Locker and Matt Hasselbeck should be featured in more than the average number of passing plays. OVER.
Friday, Aug. 24
Eagles (NL) at Browns: These teams will open the season against each other and are likely to show very little as a result. We could see both teams treat this game more as a basic scrimmage with an emphasis on shortening the game with an overabundance of running plays. UNDER.
Falcons -2½ at Dolphins (39½): Miami has more reasons to be aggressive and place greater emphasis on winning this game. Fish have many more personnel decisions to be made than Atlanta does. The Falcons are pretty much set and should be more inclined to place emphasis on developing depth. Dolphins.
Patriots (NL) at Buccaneers: New England may treat this game more as a scrimmage after having just played this past Monday night. Tampa Bay has more personnel decisions to be made and likely catch the Patriots either flat or disinterested. Bucs.
Chargers +1½ at Vikings (40½): With several key starters already lost to injury, San Diego figures to take few chances in this contest, concerned more with staying healthy. The Vikings’ offense remains a work in progress and their starters are more likely to see extended playing time. Vikings.
Bears +4 at Giants (40): Both teams are prepared to start the regular season and thus likely to be more interested in evaluating backups. Although the starters may play into the third quarter, expect both offenses to be more conservative than aggressive. UNDER.
Seahawks +1 at Chiefs (40½): Both teams are excited about their prospects for the regular season. The Seahawks have a very competitive QB battle with this game going a long way towards cementing a decision. Seahawks.
Saturday, Aug. 25
Colts +3 at Redskins (42): The battle of the rookie quarterbacks will be hyped with the Colts’ Andrew Luck opposing Washington’s Robert Griffin III. Both have looked good thus far. With both likely to play into the third quarter we could see both continue their development and continue to gain confidence. OVER.
Steelers +1 at Bills: Pittsburgh is in much better position to start the season and there may be some pressure on the Bills to win this game after dropping their first two games. With their final exhibition game on the road we should see a more intense effort from the Bills if only to keep intact the high expectations held by their fans. Bills.
Lions -1½ at Raiders (43½): Detroit has a polished passing game but needs to work on their rushing. Oakland showed some improvement from their first to second games but still has more issues to resolve and should place greater emphasis on a winning effort. Raiders.
Texans +3 at Saints (43½): If both teams do use this game as a dress rehearsal and play the starters into the second half we could see plenty of offense while they are on the field. OVER.
Rams +6½ at Cowboys (40½): New HC Jeff Fisher seems pleased at the progress his Rams are making, but still has personnel decisions to make. Dallas has offensive line issues to resolve which has impeded the progress of the offensive unit first two games. Cowboys.
Sunday, Aug. 26
49ers +1½ at Broncos: Given HC Jim Harbaugh’s competitive nature, he was none too pleased at his 49er offense’s inability to score a TD in last week’s loss at Houston. Peyton Manning continues to get comfortable with his new receivers in Denver where a primary concern remains working on offensive line play to keep him upright. 49ers.
Panthers +3 at Jets (38½): The Jets have all sorts of issues with an offense that has yet to score a TD in preseason. The offensive line is a mess and the skill position talent marginal at best. Carolina appears set to start the season and we should see the Jets take more chances in this game. Jets.