Preseason Week 3 still not about winning

Aug 23, 2005 7:12 AM

Many coaches will use the next to last game of the preseason as a dress rehearsal for the regular season NFL opener.

Often rough game plans will be used and the starters usually play into the second half before seeing limited action in the final game. Still, the emphasis is on play execution and personnel evaluation rather than securing a win.

Coaches will still toe the company line and say that they want to develop or maintain a winning attitude. Just a couple of opportunities remaining before the real season starts, so most coaches use these final two games to fine tune their offenses and defenses. More attention is often paid to special teams execution.

The best source of information flows from training camps in the 24 to 48 hours leading up to game time.

Thursday, Aug. 25

Falcons +2½ at Jags (38): Both teams appear poised to contend for the playoffs and figure to be more concerned with depth. Each side is more run than pass oriented. Both defenses on the rise. UNDER.

Friday, Aug. 26

Bengals +4½ at Eagles (39½): Philadelphia plays its first home game. With or without Terrell Owens, the Eagles need to develop depth at wide receiver. Expect more pass plays to better assess how deep on the waiver wire they may be forced to scour. OVER.

Chargers +4 at Vikings (43): San Diego was sharp in its win over the Rams and seems prepared to show last season’s rise to the playoffs was no fluke. Minnesota is a fashionable choice by many to win the NFC. The Vikings have more concerns on defense. Chargers have a solid QB rotation. CHARGERS.

Bills -2½ at Bears (36½): Buffalo has looked very good in both preseason games. Chicago has major QB concerns and the starting job is clearly up for grabs. It’s more likely the Bears put forth the greater effort. BEARS.

Steelers -3 at Redskins (36½): Both teams have veteran coaches who understand that preseason wins are meaningless. Washington seems further away from being ready for the start of the season and likely to play with a greater sense of urgency. REDSKINS.

Patriots -3 at Packers (41): The Packers have tallied just 17 points in two games. The offensive line has been a concern with the integration of many new faces responsible for protecting QB Brett Favre. New England is more concerned about depth. Green Bay is inclined to view this game as a test for its readiness. PACKERS.

Ravens -2½ at Saints (37½): Baltimore still needs to work on developing a better offense with QB Kyle Boller in control. New Orleans needs to generate interest for its fans. The Saints offense offers the best chance to create thrills. OVER.

Jets -5½ at Giants (37): The Giants have major concerns about the health of QB Eli Manning, who hurt his shoulder in the win over Carolina. Expect Manning to sit out in favor of backups Jesse Palmer and Tim Hasselbeck. Giants in more desperate situation. GIANTS.

Panthers -4 at Browns (37): Carolina’s 10-game winning/covering preseason streak came to an end against the Giants last week. The Panthers are still well prepared for the regular season. Cleveland has gotten impressive efforts from rookies QB Charlie Frye and WR Braylon Edwards -- the future of the franchise. Enthusiasm often counts for much in the preseason. BROWNS.

Cardinals +3½ at Raiders (41): Arizona coach Dennis Green often used this game as a dress rehearsal during his time in Minnesota. He is likely to do the same here. Despite not scoring many points, Oakland’s starting offense has moved the ball nicely in the first two games. Both teams still have holes to fill defensively. OVER.

Titans -3 at 49ers (40): The tragic passing of 49ers’ offensive lineman Thomas Herrion following last week’s game at Denver clearly will have an unsettling effect on the team. Tennessee is still getting acclimated to the offensive sets of brilliant coordinator Norm Chow. UNDER.

Saturday, Aug. 27

Bucs +1½ at Dolphins (36): Both teams are struggling to find an offensive identity. Miami’s sloppy effort in last week’s loss at Pittsburgh suggests new coach Nick Saban has major concerns. Both teams appear much more set on defense. We may see some more offensive mistakes. UNDER.

Texans (NL) at Cowboys: Not knowing the result of the Monday night game, my focus is to the total. With both coaches apt to rely more on defense for success, those units should be further along than the offenses. UNDER.

Colts +2½ at Broncos (42½): Indy coach Tony Dungy is more concerned with staying healthy. Denver boss Mike Shanahan is much less tolerant of going through the motions. BRONCOS.

Seahawks (NL) at Chiefs: Seattle played Monday night. Kansas City has scored just 16 and 17 points in its first two games. No need for concern since the starters have not been going full throttle. Expect a more concerted effort here. Both teams’ defenses are the weakest units on the field. OVER.

Monday, Aug. 29:

Rams +4) at Lions (42½): St. Louis is pretty much set on offense and the starters have basically treated the first two preseason games as scrimmages. Detroit’s offense has struggled in completing drives, a criticism leveled at QB Joey Harrington last year. Expect the Detroit offense to be more interested in putting points on the board. LIONS.

Last week: 5-9-1

Preseason: 15-13-2