Once more in pre-
season, without care

Aug 29, 2006 8:31 AM

The final set of preseason games takes place this Thursday and Friday representing one final free roll for coaches to evaluate personnel and progress without penalty for coming up short on the scoreboard.

Many coaches will rest their regulars in the final preseason game, or give them limited action. Most starting jobs have been determined, so the final game is often used to shore up the depth chart at all positions. Decisions on rookies that will make the team shall also be made.

Scoring has been very low this preseason. Through 48 games, the ”˜under’ holds a 29-18-1 advantage. Average total points per game entering this past Monday’s game was just 34 — a full touchdown less than is seen in regular season play.

Looked at another way, only 17 of 96 teams have scored more than 24 in a game this preseason. That’s about half the rate usually seen in the regular season. So much for these exhibition games being wide open and sloppy defensively.

Here’s a preview of the final week of games.

Thursday, Aug. 31

Panthers -1 at Steelers (33½): Could this be a Super Bowl preview? Perhaps, but only with backups seeing the bulk of the action. Both coaches figure to go very conservative and work mostly on developing depth in the running game. UNDER.

Patriots +3 at Giants (35): The Patriots were impressive in last week’s dress rehearsal against Washington and figure to be less aggressive here. Though both are veteran coaches, the Giants’ Tom Coughlin should be more focused on seeing his team execute than should the Pats’ Bill Belichick. GIANTS.

Rams +4 at Dolphins (36): St. Louis has shown much less development throughout the preseason than has Miami. Rams coach Scott Linehan has Dolphin ties and might want to see if his offense can execute against a top quality defense. RAMS.

Bills +3½ at Lions (35): Neither team has performed especially well this summer but Buffalo historically takes a more relaxed approach to these exhibitions. Detroit is much more in need of building confidence in its offense so expect coordinator Mike Martz to open things up in this final tune up. LIONS.

Jaguars +3½ at Falcons (36): Jacksonville has some new found concerns at RB behind starter Fred Taylor. Atlanta has to work on its passing game with issues at wide receiver. Also there are problems at RB with the recent trade of backup T.J. Duckett. FALCONS.

Ravens +2 at Redskins (34): There are few preseason blowout losses such as Washington suffered last week in losing 41-0 at New England. Sure, it’s exhibition, but at the very least the confidence had to be shaken. Baltimore appears set for the regular season. Look for the Skins to place more emphasis on a better effort. REDSKINS.

Bucs +7 at Texans (35): The unusually high line for this game suggests that the Texans will be out to win, while the Bucs will treat it as an exercise. That may be the case, but since the game counts for zero in the standings it’s impossible to make a case for laying this many points with a bad, though developing, team. BUCS.

Vikings +7 at Cowboys (34½): The Terrell Owens saga is already becoming a distraction in Dallas. Strong minded head coach Bill Parcells is as capable as anyone of diffusing the situation before it gets too far. Minnesota is dealing with off the field issues that has resulted in the waiving of its top receiver Koren Robinson. The situation is more critical for the Vikings as they have many more overall concerns in starting the season. VIKES.

Bears +2½ at Browns (33½): Chicago has one of the league’s best defenses. Cleveland has one of the league’s least developed offenses. If the Browns starters have trouble moving the ball against average defenses, they should really struggle here — even against Bears backups. At the same time, the Browns’ defense appears improved. UNDER.

Saints PK at Chiefs (37): Both teams are likely to emphasize depth along the offensive line as both teams will rely on a strong running game to allow their passing games to flourish. As such, expect many more running than passing plays, which should tend to shorten the game. UNDER.

Broncos +3½ at Cards (36½): Denver is well primed to start the season with most starting and backup positions settled. The main goal will be to stay healthy. Arizona is more likely to be interested in winning and continuing the momentum that has been building for the team all summer. CARDS.

Raiders +3 at Seahawks (36): Oakland is looking for a 5-0 preseason and the improvement shown has been legitimate on both sides of the ball. Seattle will concentrate on working its backups. This game could produce some scoring in the second half. OVER.

Friday, Sept. 1

Tennessee (NL) at Green Bay: Green Bay played Monday night, delaying the posting of a line. Both teams’ offenses have been disappointing thus far so we might see both coaches air it out in an attempt to give a boost in confidence. OVER.

Eagles +6 at Jets (33): This high line suggests the Jets are more likely to place some emphasis on winning. The Eagles look to go through the motions and stay healthy. The Jets have been terrible on offense all summer and are still working newly acquired RB Kevan Barlow into the offense. PHILLY.

Bengals (NL) at Colts: Cincy QB Carson Palmer was expected to play Monday against Green Bay and he may see some action here as well. If so, he may have some of his regulars with him. The Colts are set to begin the season with their one area of concern being RB depth. BENGALS.

Chargers +3 at 49ers (35½) San Diego has more reason to take an ultra conservative approach to this game. Frisco needs additional work on both sides of the ball. Expect the host to take a more aggressive approach to this contest. 49ERS.

Last week: 00-00

Preseason: 00-00