Japan, Canton tests about execution

Aug 2, 2005 4:22 AM

The NFL season gets underway with two games this weekend over its annual month long exhibition season.

The league likes to call these games "preseason," but they really are little more than scrimmages played under game conditions in front of several thousand paying spectators.

Fact is, especially in the early games, starters rarely see much action, often being limited to a series or two, maybe a quarter. Over the final couple of preseason games, starters might play a half or early into the third quarter.

The smart coaches realize that the purpose of these games is to decide on the best personnel with which to start the season, work out the kinks or fine tune offensive and defensive schemes. The plan is making sure the players are able to execute what they have practiced in training camp under actual game conditions. Winning is secondary to getting best prepared as possible for the start of the regular schedule.

Thus wagering on preseason games can be tricky. Things are tough enough in the regular season when teams are "trying" to win. In the preseason, things can get very treacherous when fourth and fifth stringers (guys likely not making the taxi squad) are deciding games. That means your wagers often boil down to the final few minutes of these games.

Edges are to be found in betting the preseason, mostly from information that is revealed in the middle of the week by the coaches. They will publicly state what their quarterback rotations will be, what they are looking to accomplish, areas of concern, etc. This information is never publicly available during the regular season when game plans are guarded more closely than the keys to Fort Knox.

The alternative argument holds that if winning were indeed a priority, coaches would play their starters more during the game and in the fourth quarter when the outcome is on the line. The fact this does not happen is pretty clear evidence that winning is secondary to personnel and play calling considerations.

Saturday, Aug. 6
American Bowl, Tokyo

Colts —2½ vs. Falcons (42): This has the potential to be a Super Bowl XL preview. Both are off losses in their respective Conference title games last season. Depth is a primary focus of training camp for contending teams. Expect lots of players to see action and for the marquis names (Peyton Manning, Michael Vick) to limited play — perhaps a series or two. Both coaches are more likely to be conservative in their play calling. The risk of injury is lessened when fewer plays are run and that means more running than passing plays may be expected. The game is shortened and with defenses often better suited to react than offenses, scoring may well be down. Either team is capable of winning and Atlanta does have better QB backups. ATLANTA, UNDER.

Monday, Aug. 8
Hall of Fame, Canton, Ohio

Dolphins (-1½) vs. Bears (33): Both teams seek to improve from disappointing seasons in 2004. Miami’s was doomed from the start with the sudden ”˜retirement’ of RB Ricky Williams, now back in camp and supposedly ready to contribute. Chicago’s season took a major turn south when QB Rex Grossman was lost for the season early in the campaign. Both teams are noted for emphasizing defense. Chicago has always been a run oriented franchise, while Miami has been more reliant on the run since Dan Marino retired at QB. Chicago may be further along under second year coach Lovie Smith than is Miami under rookie Nick Saban. That may be enough of an edge to prefer the underdog. CHICAGO, UNDER.

Next week: We’ll check all 32 teams that are in action.