Houston ready for some football

July 30, 2002 9:55 AM
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Welcome, to NFL preseason play.

The opening weekend features a pair of games taking us from Osaka, Japan to Canton Ohio.

Skins (2½) vs 49ers (35): Washington and San Francisco take the field in the annual American Bowl in Japan this Saturday night.

For the most part, this is a battle of wannabes. This will be Steve Spurrier’s debut as coach of Washington after a long and highly successful college career at Florida. Spurrier is intense and many observers expect him to approach the preseason much as Jimmy Johnson did in his early days with Dallas, with an emphasis on winning.

Spurrier realizes that he’s inherited a team with lots of talent but many questions, especially at quarterback. Battles for many offensive starting positions figure to be fierce.

The Redskins’ defense showed great improvement last season and luring defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis away from Baltimore should make the unit among the NFL’s elite.

San Francisco is a more veteran team with more starting positions already determined. The early focus of the 49ers is more likely on developing depth. The situation favors Washington in this game. If the line moves up to a field goal the Redskins might be worth a look. Caution should be exercised, especially early in the preseason. So many games are decided by crazy happenings in the fourth quarter, or from special teams play.

Giants (3½) vs Texans (32): The annual Hall of Fame Game next Monday in Canton showcases the league’s newest team against one of the famed NFL franchises.

The Giants slipped last season after losing to Baltimore in the 2001 Super Bowl. There are many questions along the offensive line and at backup quarterback position behind Kerry Collins.

Expect the Giants to emphasize the run and work on blocking schemes and techniques. Houston has competition for virtually all the starting positions. Head Coach Dom Capers has experience in building a franchise, becoming Carolina’s first head coach in 1995.

Capers had the Panthers in the NFC Title game just one year later before the franchise began a steady decline. The Panthers fashioned a 7-9 regular season record in that first season so pay attention to the Texans.

Top draft choice David Carr is expected to have every opportunity to be the opening day starter. Capers posted a perfect 5-0 ATS in the ’95 preseason, including three outright wins. The situation favors Houston in what should be a low scoring contest.

Remember, these games don’t count in the standings, so bettors should make sure the intent to win is there before wagering.

Preseason

SF: 2-8-1 ATS as favorite

WAS: OVER with Spurrier

NYG: 2-6 ATS as favorite

HOU: Capers 5-0 ATS

in 1st year at Carolina.