Pigskin Picks by Andy Iskoe | It may be hard to believe but there was NFL news this past week aside from the Brett Favre mini-series.
Ultimately Green Bay traded the future Hall of Fame QB to the New York Jets. Wonder when that Excessively Self Promoting Network (ESPN) will debut the Brett Favre channel?
The first full weekend of preseason football took place and football fans were able to see the results of the many hours spent in mini-camp.
Also witnessed was the randomness of preseason games. As was stated in a previous column, the intent early on is not to win but to work on execution. Wins and losses are irrelevant.
Coaches have four or five chances to observe their teams in game conditions and situations with free opportunities to work on personnel combinations and evaluate players to fill out rosters, working on offensive blocking schemes or defensive positioning and the like.
The question must be posed. If winning were really important in these pre season games, why aren’t the starters playing in the fourth quarter?
Still, there are some areas in which one team may have a significant edge over their opponent. Most often this will be an edge at the QB position where there is either competition for the starting job or for the primary backup. Also, teams that are expected to rely on a first-year quarterback (due to draft, trade or free agent signing) will often give extending playing time to the first unit.
It might be best to consider first half wagers rather than full game wagers during the preseason since starters will increasingly more of the first half action as the pre season unfolds.
Teams such as Dallas, Indianapolis, New England and San Diego are set in most positions and their main goal of the exhibition season is to avoid injuries. Their opponents might be more interested in gaining confidence from a good effort against an elite team and would make for better plays, especially at home.
Keep in mind that information is more free-flowing in preseason than during the regular season. If you are looking to make plays on preseason games it is suggested you keep abreast of training camp developments with frequent visits to team and newspaper websites.
Here’s a Monday morning look at the games to be played this weekend. Lines were not yet posted as these comments were being written.
Thursday, Aug. 14
Steelers +3 vs Bills (32½): With the game in Toronto, Pittsburgh will be looking to find a replacement for backup QB Charlie Batch, injured last week against Philadelphia. Ex-Jaguar Byron Leftwich was signed and might see extended action. STEELERS.
Panthers +3½ at Eagles (36): Carolina already has sustained injuries at key skill positions. The Eagles figure to focus on improving an offense that has lacked quality wide receivers the past few seasons. OVER.
Friday, Aug. 15
Raiders +4 at Titans (34): The Raiders will be relying on youth on offense and that means likely mistakes in execution. The Titans will look to emphasize continued improvement on defense. UNDER.
Saturday, Aug. 16
Redskins +3 at Jets (35): The much-ballyhooed debut of new Jets quarterback Brett Favre. The Redskins will continue to implement their wide open offense under new coach Jim Zorn. Could be the most entertaining game of the week. OVER.
Vikings +2½ at Ravens (33): Both teams are hoping to improve the QB position this season in order to be legitimate contenders. The Ravens are a bit deeper and have more experience at the position which gives them a key edge. RAVENS.
Dolphins +3½ at Jags (33): Miami will look to get newly signed QB Chad Pennington some work. Jacksonville is set at more positions and may be more interested in evaluating reserves. DOLPHINS.
Colts +1 at Falcons (36): Under HC Tony Dungy, the Colts place little emphasis on preseason results with starters generally seeing very limited action. Atlanta has more reasons to be concerned about performance. FALCONS.
Chargers +1 at Rams (36): San Diego is set at most starting positions and will be interested in evaluating backups. St. Louis is without star RB Stephen Jackson, a holdout, and has a much greater sense of urgency with its starters. RAMS.
Texans +4 at Saints (36½): The Saints will be one of the best offensive teams in the league while Houston has shown significant strides on defense. New Orleans figures to working on offense, which often provides an edge in preseason. SAINTS.
Cards +2½ at Chiefs (34½): Arizona has the more talented roster, while Kansas City has loads of questions. Arizona backup QB Kurt Warner did not see action in last week’s opener but should be involved here. CARDS.
Packers NL at 49ers (NT): Green Bay has a short week of practice after playing Monday night. The 49ers have competition for starting QB and also need the reps as they implement their new offense under coordinator Mike Martz. 49ERS.
Cowboys +2 at Broncos (36½): Neither team places great emphasis on preseason play and both will be more concerned with developing depth. Both teams gained under 300 total yards last week. UNDER.
Bears +3 at Seahawks (36): Seattle was sharp in last week’s game at Minnesota, gaining over 400 total yards on offense. Chicago has competition for the starting QB job that figures to play aggressively on offense. Seattle has the talent to do the same. OVER.
Sunday, Aug. 17
Lions NL at Bengals (NT): Both are under pressure to improve in 2008. Detroit has had four extra days to prepare and that can be an edge when it comes to evaluating its initial performance and making adjustments during practice. LIONS.
Pats +1 at Bucs (34): Both teams have veteran coaches who understand the purpose of preseason games. Patriots’ QB Tom Brady did not see action last week. The Bucs should be the less conservative of the teams. BUCS.
Monday, Aug. 18
Browns +3 at Giants (36): Both teams are well-rested as each played last Thursday. The Giants are more likely to emphasize development of their running game while the Browns are more likely to work on the passing game. BROWNS.