Football kicks off!

Aug 9, 2005 4:41 AM


Atlanta and Indianapolis return stateside after opening the 2005 NFL preseason early last Saturday morning in Tokyo. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Atlanta’s 27-21 win was that both starting quarterbacks — the Colts’ Peyton Manning and the Falcons’ Michael Vick — put in more than just token appearances. Perhaps that was by design, showcasing two of the NFL’s best in front of the Japanese fans. If so, it would not be much of a surprise if both see far less playing time this week, when all 32 teams are in action.

Miami and Chicago opened their preseason schedules with the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio on Monday night. Both have very short work weeks with the Bears playing just three days later, on Thursday, in St Louis. Miami returns to action the next night, Friday, in Jacksonville.

Here are some quick thoughts on the 16 games to be played this week, beginning on Thursday and concluding next Monday night. Keep in mind, of course, that the best source of preseason information will come from the coaches themselves in the days leading up to the games. Scouring the Internet for such information is critical if you plan to get involved in preseason football.


San Diego (-1) at Green Bay (Over/Under 36½): Both teams made the playoffs in 2004 so depth development figures to be a primary concern this preseason. Green Bay has more holes to fill, especially on defense, and thus might be more apt to give a longer look to second and third team players. GREEN BAY is the preference.


Detroit (+3) at New York Jets (36): Detroit is the fashionable pick to go from a non-Playoff team to NFC contender this season if they can remain relatively healthy. The Jets have a new offensive coordinator and that might lead to more aggressive play calling in this game to gauge the progress being made by QB Chad Pennington and mates. NEW YORK JETS.

New England (+1) at Cincinnati (37): Defending Super Bowl champs have lost both their offensive and defensive coordinators during the offseason plus several key components from the defense. Cincinnati is another fashionable dark horse to make a major move into playoff contention in the tough AFC. The situation favors a strong home effort from the Bengals who easily beat the Pats here last preseason. CINCINNATI.

Chicago at St Louis (NL): Chicago has a very short week to prepare after playing in the Hall of Fame game on Monday night and having to travel both home and to St Louis. The Rams have not been an especially strong play in preseason under coach Mike Martz but the situation clearly favors them given Chicago’s scheduling dynamics. ST. LOUIS.

Kansas City (+3½) at Minnesota (43): Both teams are similar in that defensive deficiencies in recent seasons have sabotaged the success of their high-powered offenses. While each has significantly upgraded their stop units during the offseason it takes time for the new personnel to fully mesh under game conditions. Here those new units figure to be challenged by aggressive offensive play calling. OVER the Total is preferred.

Tampa Bay (+2½) at Tennessee (37): Both teams seek to bounce back from disappointing 2004 seasons. Both teams have veteran head coaches who know the purpose of games in August. It is hard to overlook Tennessee’s amazing 10-1-1 pointspread mark over the last three preseason. TENNESSEE is the preferred play.

Seattle (+2) at New Orleans (38½): Perhaps New Orleans coach Jim Haslett can point to the regular season opener in 2004 on this field against this team, when Seattle handled the Saints 21-7. Though New Orleans won a pair of close games the next two weeks they stood 4-8 before closing with four straight wins. That opening game loss was a sticking point all season. NEW ORLEANS.


Baltimore (+3) at Atlanta (36): Baltimore is favored at some sports books to win the AFC North and return to the playoffs based on an outstanding defense and offseason upgrades to the offense. Points should be scarce as has been the case when these teams met in each of the past two preseasons. UNDER.

Miami at Jacksonville (NL): New Miami coach Nick Saban declared he would be looking at that game as more of a scrimmage which gives an edge to the host. JACKSONVILLE.

Buffalo at Indianapolis (NL Expect the lines to drop with the impending emergence of Buffalo as a major player in the AFC and the fact that J.P. Losman is likely to see extended playing time at QB. Colts are likely to take a very cautious approach throughout the preseason. BUFFALO.

Denver (-1) at Houston (37): Denver’s priorities this preseason should be continued revamping of their running game and the integration of several key additions to the defense. Houston has not been a preseason success story since reentering the league in 2002 with a 3-10 pointspread mark for experienced head coach Dom Capers. UNDER the total is preferred.

Washington (+3½) at Carolina (35): Carolina has been the preseason bomb going back to late August of 2002. Nine straight wins and covers show a team that is both well prepared to play and seemingly motivated to do well in these practice games. Joe Gibbs begins his second season in Washington looking to learn from last season. CAROLINA.

New York Giants (-3) at Cleveland (35): The Giants will be an improved team in coach Tom Coughlin’s second season at the helm. New Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel has a host of problems and has already lost his best player, TE Kellen Winslow Jr, for the season. All the negativity surrounding can be used to drum up some enthusiasm in Cleveland. CLEVELAND is preferred.

Oakland (-2½) at San Francisco (38 ½): Oakland will play long ball this season with the acquisition of WR Randy Moss. San Francisco has the nucleus of a team that can put points on the board as well. OVER

Dallas (pick ”˜em) at Arizona (35): Dallas head coach Bill Parcells has been simmering all offseason following last season’s decline from 10-6 in 2003 to 6-10 last season. Arizona coach Dennis Green historically takes a much more relaxed approach to preseason. DALLAS.


Philadelphia (+3) at Pittsburgh (36): These teams have met each of the past two preseason with the road team winning and covering both games. Eagles have already lost WR Todd Pinkston for the year. Terrell Owens is banged up and Philly just welcomed holdout RB Brian Westbrook into camp. UNDER.