Look for Broncos-Lions
to carry early interest

Aug 8, 2006 3:19 AM

This weekend features Denver at Detroit, two teams with some interesting changes.

The Broncos have pretty much the same team as a year ago, but in preseason football the starters don’t usually see much time in the opener. In this case, the Broncos have added rookie QB Jay Cutler, a first round pick. Mike Shanahan grabbing Cutler can be viewed two ways: He has his QB of the future down the road, or he has had it with jittery Jake Plummer. Keep a close eye on Cutler in August.

The Lions have new looks all over, with Rod Marinelli in as head coach. He spent the past 10 seasons in Tampa Bay as defensive line coach. There are equally important changes to his assistants. The Lions hired Donnie Henderson as defensive coordinator, formerly with the Jets. He is a fiery, aggressive coordinator who believes in blitzing and attacking the opposition.

The new offense coordinator is Mad Mike Martz, the former offensive wizard with the Rams. As a result, the style of play by Detroit on both sides of the ball could be very different.

Of course, starters won’t see a lot of time just yet. No coach wants to jeopardize his job and no owner wants to risk his investment by losing a star player to a devastating injury in preseason.

One thing to keep an eye on is subtle strategic adjustments. The Chicago Bears have second-year offensive coordinator Ron Turner, who brought in a modified version of the West Coast offense last season. It is geared toward receivers as opposed to running backs and tight ends in the passing game. With Rex Grossman healthy (for a change), it will be interesting to see if the Bears’ offense improves or shows new wrinkles. A year ago in their first preseason game, the Bears exploded for 27 points in a victory over Miami.

The Baltimore Ravens finally saw marked improvement late last season from quarterback Kyle Boller. This year, Baltimore has brought in veteran QB Steve McNair, who is the starter. However, in preseason, the fragile McNair shouldn’t see a lot of time . It will be fascinating to see if Boller, now No. 2, continues to develop. We get to see the Ravens this weekend against the Giants.

Also, keep an eye on home field play. In August of 2004, the home teams went 21-10-1 ATS the first two weeks of preseason. A year ago, the home team went 10-5 SU/ATS in the first week.

It’s not uncommon for new coaches to want to prove something early on, even in preseason, while veteran coaches might take a different approach. I recall Marv Levy, former Head Coach of the Bills rarely cared about preseason.

Martz and Indy’s Tony Dungy are also like that, admitting they only want their guys to come awayhealthy. Dungy’s Colts were 0-5 SU/ATS last season, starting exhibition play in Tokyo, Japan!