Week 3 of preseason NFL foootball might play like 2

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The NFL’s “exhibition” season is nearly halfway complete with only Monday night’s game between the Chicago Bears and New York Giants remaining to be played as we go to press.

Historically most coaches have used the next to last preseason game as a dress rehearsal for the regular season with starters playing well into the third quarter before mostly sitting out the finale.

But things could be very different this season as a result of the lockout which prevented the usual offseason activities to take place, most of which are designed to have players report to summer training camps in pretty good shape and with a comprehensive knowledge of the playbook.

Some, if not many, coaches could decide to change things up and give their starters less playing time in Week 3 and more in Week 4. Such a strategy would be undertaken to establish more continuity entering the regular season.

Some coaches may decide to have starters play into the third quarter in both of these final two games to compensate for the lack of off season activities and changes to the training camp practice schedules.

Bearing mind that (a) these write ups are taking place several days before the coaches announce their intentions regarding playing time and quarterback rotations (b) before any betting lines have been posted, here’s a preview of the games to be played this week, from Thursday through Sunday.

THURSDAY

Panthers at Bengals: Both teams figure to start rookie QBs this season. Carolina’s Cam Newton and Cincy’s Andy Dalton figure to see above average action as both continue to get acclimated to the pace of the NFL. The Panthers have some edges including two extra days to work in camp while Cincinnati played Sunday night. CAROLINA.

Browns at Eagles: Philly may give QB Michael Vick extra playing time to get back in rhythm following an awful effort last week at Pittsburgh. The Browns have been sharp this preseason, especially on offense, as QB Colt McCoy appears to have taken a major leap in terms of command and poise. But both teams have defensive concerns that need to be addressed and we may see those starters on the field longer. UNDER.

Redskins at Ravens: Washington coach Mike Shanahan has taken a serious approach to this preseason and has many more personnel decisions to make than his Baltimore counterpart John Harbaugh. Ravens are pretty much set at most positions. With the Redskins having more decisions to be made about starters and Shanahan’s no nonsense approach, the edges would seem to support the visitors. WASHINGTON.

FRIDAY

Packers at Colts: Indy continues to show a total lack of interest in winning preseason games and now has to contend with the possibility of starting QB Peyton Manning possibly not being ready for the season opener. Green Bay appears to be set and focusing on developing depth. But given the Colts’ poor preseason mark it’s hard to recommend a play on them even though they now have a sense of urgency. OVER.

Rams at Chiefs: Kansas City has yet to cover a point spread under coach Todd Haley, now in his third season. St. Louis has shown that the strides made last season are on course to continue. Sam Bradford continues giving indications he is the next elite quarterback. ST LOUIS.

SATURDAY

Jets at Giants: Both teams have short practice weeks to prepare. Despite what will be the typically over hyped buildup for this game among Big Apple fans this could be a rather dull contest with neither team wanting to show much. These teams will meet in the regular season, on Christmas Eve, in what could be a key contest for both. UNDER.

Jaguars at Bills: Both teams have struggled to find fluidity on offense thus far and might well decide to focus on that side of the football. In four combined preseason games the Bills and Jags have scored a total of just 40 points. With time running out before the season starts, we could see both teams give their offensive starters more playing time. OVER.

Falcons at Steelers: Both teams seem pretty well set to start the season and could give reserves more playing time than the starters in what, in name only, could be a potential Super Bowl preview. Neither coach really feels any pressure to win and each may approach this contest along the lines of a scrimmage. UNDER.

Dolphins at Bucs: Miami has more personnel decisions to make than Tampa Bay. We could see the Dolphins use their starters longer as they continue to evaluate the starting QB position. Tampa may emphasize focus on adding depth at running back. MIAMI.

Patriots at Lions: Both teams have been very sharp thus far, especially on offense. New England coach Bill Belichick may be more interested in using this game to fine tune certain aspects of his offense and defense. Detroit may look at this as a chance to continue boosting confidence by performing well against one of the league’s elite. DETROIT.

Bears at Titans: Chicago is at a significant disadvantage. It’s the second straight road game and the Bears come off playing last Monday. Tennessee has concerns at RB. With a new coach and QB the Titans have more reasons to put forth a stronger effort. TENNESSEE.

Cowboys at Vikings: This game features a pair of coaches who moved up from assistants during the 2010 season and are very familiar with personnel. Dallas has the better talent and depth. Minnesota’s focus has been on assimilating new QB Donovan McNabb into the offense and may want him to get in more work with his new set of receivers and playbook. MINNESOTA.

Texans at 49ers: Both teams were highly touted in 2010 but those expectations failed to materialize. San Francisco made a coaching change with Jim Harbaugh now confronted with QB issues. Houston’s starting units have looked sharp on both sides of the football and have less pressing concerns in getting ready for the regular season. The 49ers have more key decisions to make with time running short. SAN FRANCISCO.

Seahawks at Broncos: Both teams have split their first two games. Seattle is still concerned with getting more reps for new starting QB Tarvaris Jackson. Denver is blessed with QB depth and Kyle Orton will be the likely starter over both Tim Tebow and Brady Quinn. Neither team is strong on defense and we might see both offenses have greater success than normal. OVER.

Chargers at Cardinals: San Diego seems pretty set at most positions on both sides of the football and more likely to approach this game as nothing more than a scrimmage. Arizona is still trying to get added work in for new starting QB Kevin Kolb which might lead to additional playing time for many of the starters. ARIZONA.

SUNDAY

Saints at Raiders: New Orleans is another veteran team that is less interested in winning than in getting set for the real season. Oakland may have a greater sense of urgency, especially in front of the raucous home crowd and with more decisions needing to made about roster spots. The Saints are clearly the more talented team but the Raiders should have the greater incentive, especially on national television. OAKLAND.

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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