Low scoring continues to showcase NFL ‘under’ plays

August 21, 2001 5:27 AM
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The preseason is more than half over with most teams having just two remaining tuneups before the regular season gets underway the weekend following Labor Day.  Many coaches will use their penultimate preseason game as a dress rehearsal for the regular season, often implementing game plans and focusing much more on play execution rather than on player evaluation.  Of course, players are constantly being evaluated especially with significant roster cuts on the immediate horizon.  But the week before the final preseason game is often a time when starters see action deep into the second quarter and often well into the third quarter.

As we’ve cautioned over the past couple of weeks keep in mind that these are exhibition games and the results are totally meaningless and will be forgotten once the regular season gets underway.  If you are serious about betting these games your best bet is to follow daily reports on what each team is looking to accomplish in their next game.  Such information is readily available on the Internet.  Coaches are more apt to be more honest about their intentions in preseason games than they will be once the games start to count in the standings.

Here’s the lineup of games to be played between Thursday and Monday with Atlanta being the odd team out and having a Bye this week.

Kansas City (+3½) at Jacksonville (Over/Under 34½): New Chiefs’ coach Dick Vermeil is encouraged by what he has seen in his team’s first two preseason efforts, especially from his defense.  This week will be more challenging as his team takes to the road and faces veteran Jacksonville.  The Jaguars are concerned with developing depth, especially at running back behind Fred Taylor.  Both organizations historically are conservative in their approach to the preseason and thus we might not see many points on the board.

Carolina (+6½) at Baltimore (32½): Carolina still has questions at QB in deciding between veteran Jeff Lewis and rookie Chris Weinke.  Panther coach George Seifert understands the purpose of the preseason so their conservative offensive approach should continue against perhaps the league’s best overall defense.  Baltimore’s main concern should continue to be finding a capable replacement for the injured RB Jamal Lewis who is out for the season.  The 2001 preseason has seen Unders dominate the Overs and that trend shapes up as continuing here.

Philadelphia (+4½) at Tennessee (34): Both teams were in the Playoffs last season and have been more concerned with depth development and filling out the rosters with most starting positions pretty set.  Tennessee has won both of their preseason outings and now face the best defense they’ve gone against thus far.  The Eagles lone preseason contest was their 6-3 loss last week in Buffalo.  Philly’s offense might be a bit more aggressive this week against one of the better defensive units in the league and QB Donavan McNabb might see extended action.  Getting more than a field goal would seem to be an attractive option.

Indianapolis (+3½) at Minnesota (44): Ah, if only this were a regular season game it might be the most entertaining game of the season.  Both teams have explosive offenses and questions on defense.  Minnesota QB Daunte Culpepper and Colt QB Peyton Manning are two of the best in the league and they might see action for the entire first half here.  Clearly the first way we’d normally look is to the OVER if this game were one that counts.  But a high scoring first half could foreshadow a dull second half in which both coaches are more interested in player evaluations.  If you can find a first half line on this game the OVER might be the best option available.

Cleveland at Washington (No Line): Few teams have been as beset by training camp injuries that have impeded progress as has Washington.  Starting QB Jeff George and backup Todd Husak have both missed preseason action thus far due to injuries that call into question their status for the regular season opener.  Cleveland still has numerous concerns on both sides of the ball, moreso on the offense.  The only way to look would be at the Under.

Detroit (+3) at Pittsburgh (37): The Lions were crisp in last week’s win at Indy while Pittsburgh just went through a workout in their loss at Minnesota.  This is Pittsburgh’s first home game and the second time this summer they will have had an extended period of time to just practice, having not played since last Thursday.  The Steelers may open it up more on offense this week than they have in their first two games and this contest might be played at a fast pace. The Over may be worth a look if the line stays at 37 or lower.

Buffalo (+2½) at Cincinnati (35): The Bills have been unimpressive in their first two exhibitions..  Cincinnati has the potential to be an improved team on offense this season but they must solidify the QB position with Akili Smith, Scott Mitchell and John Kitna vying for the starting role. The Bengals are in a good position to put forth the better effort. Laying a FG or less makes them worthy of consideration.

New England (+6) at Tampa Bay (32): Expect to see a better effort from Tampa Bay here.  New England showed a successful running game last week in Carolina and continued development of that facet.  Tampa needs to work on its passing game and figure to be the more aggressive team. Laying more than a TD in a meaningless exhibition game cannot be recommended. The Under may be the preferred approach.

N Y Jets (+1½) at NY Giants (33½): The Jets have historically taken this game more seriously than their co-tenant Giants. If midweek reports hint at the Jets being motivated for this game, so much the better.  Preseason history already suggests that the Jets will care, having covered nine straight in this annual preseason series.

Miami at Green Bay (No Line):  Miami’s strength is its defense, an area Green Bay needs to improve to make  the playoffs.  Both teams have concerns about their respective rushing games although each has  reason for optimism.  At a line of 34 or higher the Under is worth consideration.

Arizona (+4½) at Chicago (36): This will be the Bears’ final preseason game. Look for a more concentrated effort on offense from the starting unit.  Arizona has actually played decent defense in its first two games but figures to be challenged here.  Can certainly see some edges to suggest looking at the Over.

New Orleans at Denver (No Line): New Orleans went through the motions in defeating Dallas last week.  The Broncos will be in their new digs this season and the crowd will certainly be in a partying mood. If the Over/Under comes at 37 or higher the Under will be the preferred way to look. Gus Frerotte may see added action at QB.

Seattle (+3) at San Fran (39½): These teams have four times in the last three preseasons and all four games have been relatively high scoring and decided by four points or less. The Seahawks are looking for more consistency at QB from starter Matt Hasselback while the Niners looking for a backup to Jeff Garcia.  Expect to again see points scored in this contest, which is the preferred play.

St Louis (—2½) at San Diego (40): The Chargers are playing with an expected level of enthusiasm.  St Louis is in fine shape offensively and is more concerned with seeing that all its offseason defensive acquisitions mesh into a cohesive unit. San Diego is the preferred way to look at this game and a case can also be made for the Over.

Oakland (+6½) at Dallas (36): These teams met during the first week of the preseason with the Raiders winning 21-14. Rookie QB Quincy Carter has struggled thus far, making the usual mistakes.  This game will be interesting in that both coaching staffs have film to review. Laying almost a touchdown is not recommended. Perhaps the way to look here is again towards the Under.