Preseason Week 2: NFL stays conservative

Aug 15, 2006 10:12 PM

Coaches have two primary concerns during the exhibition season — prepare best as possible for the upcoming regular season in terms of personnel and playbook, along with avoid injuries.

The first concern is controllable, the second is not. Every summer we see players suffer season ending injuries. That is why starters often see such limited action. They’ll get most of their action in training camp drills and scrimmages where the opposing unit (offense or defense) is not coming at full speed.

Injuries are always a concern and can happen in practice (even non contact) just as easily as in games, exhibition or otherwise. In recent seasons several high profile players have been lost for the season as a result of summertime injuries. Of greatest concern are injuries to the QB and RB position.

It’s critical to monitor all injury situations in exhibition season to see how it affect a team’s regular season chances. Also, it’s important to note how a coaching staff will deal with that position in remaining preseason games. Often, we may see lower scoring output when key positions need to be filled. Coaches will be more interested in blocking or tackling schemes and assignments rather than play execution.

Here’s a preview of this week’s games.

Thursday, Aug. 17

Chiefs +3½ Giants (39): Both coaches appear more concerned with defense rather than offense. Each is looking to solidify backups at QB and RB. Starters may see limited action again. UNDER.

Eagles +3 at Ravens (34½): It’s early, but Philly appears more to resemble the confident teams of 2001-2004 than the unit that failed in 2005. There are some concerns about RB depth. Baltimore continues to get new starting QB Steve McNair assimilated into the offense and need a capable backup to RB Jamal Lewis. UNDER.

Friday, Aug. 18

Bengals +3 at Bills (36): Buffalo is seeking to find a starting QB. Cincy’s focus is on developing a backup to starter Carson Palmer. Buffalo is better situated to execute more plays with personnel expected to be key contributors. BILLS.

Lions +2½ at Browns (33½): Detroit showed more positives in Week 1 than Cleveland. The Browns are struggling to contend with the loss of two centers from an already questionable offensive line. The Lions are blessed with depth at receiver. Cleveland has more urgent needs. BROWNS.

Chargers +3 at Bears (36): Although both teams have solid defenses, the offenses might try to challenge them. Chicago has two capable QBs with Rex Grossman and Brian Griese. The Chargers should continue to allow starter Philip Rivers to gain experience. OVER.

Saturday, Aug. 19

Dolphins +2½ at Bucs (34): Miami QB Daunte Culpepper should see more action this week, but will face a well organized defense that allowed less than 200 yards in the opener. Often a good defensive effort indicates a sharp training camp. Based on sloppy fourth quarter play, Miami has some depth concerns on defense. DOLPHINS.

Panthers +3 at Jaguars (35½): Both should be playoff contenders. Most starting positions have been determined and depth is the main focus. Each is searching for backups to step in at QB and RB. The defenses are solid, so expect much of the attention to focus on offense. OVER.

Cards +3½ at Pats (38): Arizona’s concern this summer is offensive line and running game. The Cards averaged a measly 1.8 yards per rush last week against Pittsburgh. Much improvement is needed. New England has concerns at WR with starter Deion Branch still holding out. PATRIOTS.

Falcons +1 at Packers (37): Atlanta has one of the best preseason backup QBs in recent memory in Matt Schaub. He is clearly more accomplished than Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers. Both figure to see much action here as starters Michael Vick and Brett Favre make token appearances. FALCONS.

Vikings +5 at Steelers (37): Pittsburgh takes the field at home for the first time since winning the Super Bowl. Minnesota is off a short week of practice after having hosted Oakland on Monday night. Minnesota might be more aggressive on offense, seeking to implement the Brad Childress offense. VIKINGS.

Texans +4 at Rams (39½): Both teams have new coaches and are undergoing some transitions on both sides of the ball. Each coach is more offense oriented and neither team has an intrinsically strong defensive roster. OVER.

Jets +6 at Redskins (35): Both teams have major issues at RB with the Jets’ Curtis Martin doubtful for the season and the Redskins’ Clinton Portis getting banged in Sunday’s loss at Cincinnati. Expect both coaches to go conservative and emphasize run blocking for the myriad of running backs likely to see action. UNDER.

Titans +6 at Broncos (38): Denver backup QB Jay Cutler was impressive in his outing against Detroit, which put some pressure on the oft maligned Jake Plummer. The Broncos also have interesting battles at RB. Tennessee is basically starting over after releasing Steve McNair and figures to be at a significant disadvantage. BRONCOS.

Sunday, Aug. 20

49ers (+2½) at Raiders (38½): The teams have traded preseason wins the past three seasons with all three games played in San Francisco. The Niners won last season. This is Oakland’s third game already and should be further along in making personnel decisions. That will allow more playing time for second and third team players. RAIDERS.

Seahawks +3 at Colts (40): This could be a Super Bowl preview, although many players seeing most of the playing time here won’t be around. Neither team showed much in Week 1 as is often the case for "mature" teams. The Colts have more of a need to develop the RB position. COLTS.

Monday, Aug. 21

Cowboys PK vs Saints (35½): This game will be played in Shreveport, more of a neutral site than one clearly favoring the Saints. New Orleans is coached by Sean Payton, a former assistant to Dallas coach Bill Parcells. Payton may have a greater sense of purpose to succeed. The implementation of several new players (QB Drew Brees, RB Reggie Bush) may get Saints in a better position to succeed on the scoreboard. SAINTS.

Last week: 11-5

Preseason: 12-6