The final preseason week allows NFL teams one last chance to evaluate plays, personnel and strategies before the season gets underway for real next Thursday.
As has been the practice in recent years, the exhibitions end before the Labor Day weekend with 14 games Thursday and two Friday. Teams then have up to 10 days of preparation for their regular season openers.
Preseason doesn’t count for much. Many teams will rest their regulars for much of this final game, giving their starters only a couple of series at the start. Some teams will still be making decisions on some starters. Others will be focusing more on deciding backups as a result of what coaches see this week.
It would not be surprising if we see low scores this week as backups with fewer reps during practice often suffer through timing problems. Also, look for teams that have struggled offensively to be more aggressive and build some confidence to start the season. Buffalo, Kansas City and St. Louis are each averaging fewer than 14 points. This trio might be more inclined to work on finishing off drives this week.
The most important objective of all coaches will be to get through these games injury free. We can expect conservative play calling for the most part, especially when the starters are on the field.
Thursday, Aug 30
Bills +3Â½ at Lions (36Â½): Buffalo has struggled on offense this preseason and will face a fairly vulnerable Lions defense. This could be a good spot for the Bills to take some chances on offense and open things up. Only Arizona has allowed more preseason points than Detroit. BILLS.
Giants +4Â½ at Pats (36Â½): The Giants have more questions entering the season, many of which have resulted from injuries. New England is pretty set and deep at many positions. Pats more likely to give playing time to backups. UNDER.
Jets +3 at Eagles (37): The Jets seek to improve RB depth with newly acquired starter Thomas Jones a bit banged up. The veteran Eagles are set at most positions and are more likely to focus on making personnel decisions on backups. JETS.
Redskins +4 at Jags (34Â½): Washington has struggled to score and has some injury concerns at key offensive positions. Jacksonville has nice depth, but might give starting QB Byron Leftwich more playing time. Leftwich has not been sharp. JAGS.
Browns +5 Bears (35Â½): The Bears are fairly set at most positions and figure to take a very conservative approach. Cleveland still has some concerns at several positions and might give rookie QB Brady Quinn extra action. UNDER.
Cowboys -2Â½ at Vikes (36Â½): Dallas appears in good shape to start the season and will make decisions on backups. The Vikings have struggled to find an offensive rhythm. They should play their starters longer and be more interested. VIKES.
Pack +3Â½ at Titans (37Â½): Both teams are likely to give their backup quarterbacks extra work. Each is reliant on the starters once the season begins. Both teams have depth concerns at RB with the Pack likely tabbing a rookie starter. TITANS.
Texans +3 at Bucs (36Â½): Houston has scored the most points in preseason with a new QB and some young, developing talent. Tampa Bay has QB depth with the backups likely to see extended action. OVER.
Chiefs +3Â½ at Rams (36Â½): Both teams have really struggled to put points on the board, combining to average just 11 per game. The Chiefs have a shakier situation at QB, but the Rams also need to establish some consistency. OVER.
Steelers +3 at Panthers (35Â½): Pittsburgh has a short week after playing Sunday night. The Steelers also has played an extra game (Hall of Fame) so are more likely to treat this as a scrimmage. The Panthers figure to focus on defense and running the ball UNDER.
Dolphins +4Â½ at Saints (37): Miami is further away from being prepared to start the season than the Saints, who have most positions filled. Miami’s new coach Cam Cameron still has some key decisions to make and may play his starters longer. DOLPHINS.
Cards +4 at Broncos (38Â½): Arizona has yet to win this preseason and could be a bit more serious about putting forth a big effort. Denver is a veteran laden team more concerned with tweaking its long established playbook. CARDS.
49ers +4Â½ at Chargers (40): The Chargers appear ready to pick up where they left off last season and should play starters sparingly. San Francisco has more concerns, especially on defense. UNDER.
Raiders +4Â½ at Seahawks (37): Oakland coach Lane Kiffin has QB decisions to make with Daunte Culpepper given an excellent chance at getting the nod. Seattle is pretty set at most positions and thus should be more likely to go through the motions. RAIDERS.
Friday, Aug. 31
Ravens NL Falcons: Baltimore is more prepared to start the season and should use its regulars lightly. Atlanta just played Monday, but figures to give QB Joey Harrington some work as he continues to get familiar with his receivers and the Bobby Petrino system. FALCONS.
Colts NL at Bengals: QB Peyton Manning and the Colts starting unit was very sharp against Detroit. The Bengals are off a short week after playing Monday night and still have significant concerns on defense. Indy is likely to use its starters in a limited manner. BENGALS.
Last week: 10-4
Regular season: 28-17-2
Regular season: 28-17-2