Preseason plea: Just end safe

Aug 26, 2003 9:37 AM

The NFL regular season begins for real next Thursday and the thought foremost in the minds of head coaches is to avoid injuries during their final preseason tune-ups.

Already lost for extended periods of time are Atlanta’s Mike Vick and Chad Pennington of the New York Jets. In years past many coaches have used the final preseason games to simply concentrate on filling out the roster before final cuts are due.

Games this week are being played on Wednesday through Friday meaning that most teams will have almost 10 days to prepare for their openers.

Next week, we will make our season predictions. For now, it’s one final preseason look.

Bears (+5½) at Pats (35): Chicago has major concerns on offense. New England has had a solid preseason and is ready to start. Look for more intensity from the Bears and the Patriots to go vanilla. BEARS.

Lions (+5) at Bills (40½): Both teams gained momentum from wins last week when the offenses performed well. More emphasis on defensive improvement here. UNDER.

Jets (+6) at Eagles (35½): The Jets have the greater sense of urgency and will likely look at several QBs with the starting unit. The Eagles may give RB Duce Staley some work. JETS.

Titans (+3) at Packers (38½): Both teams are set. Green Bay has some concerns on defense. Each side needs play a lot of receivers. OVER.

Cards (+5½) at Vikes (37½): Arizona is looking to conclude a perfect preseason, which will mean absolutely nothing next week. Minnesota has RB decisions. CARDS.

Chiefs (+3) at Rams (43½): Both teams like to throw the ball and spread it around. St. Louis has the better defensive talent, especially the backups. RAMS.

Texans (+7½) at Bucs (33½): Houston figures to compete on defense. The Bucs are well balanced, deep and may shut down Texans. Bucs won’t take many chances. UNDER.

Giants (+3½) at Ravens (34½): The Giants have gone through the motions on offense. Baltimore looking for starting QB. Rookie Kyle Boller has looked impressive. The Giants might open it up more. OVER.

Falcons (+3½) at Browns (38): Atlanta still needs work at QB with the injury to Mike Vick. Cleveland needs to make defensive adjustments. FALCONS.

Skins (+3) at Jaguars (36½): Washington finally showed some offense last week. The defense has been nice surprise for Jaguars, a perfect 3-0 at the betting window. UNDER.

Dolphins (+2½) at Saints (37): Miami is well balanced with depth at most positions except perhaps WR. New Orleans has questions on defense and likely to play starters longer. SAINTS.

Raiders (+1½) at Cowboys (35½): Oakland’s starting offensive unit has not been productive. Dallas is starting to show a better understanding of Parcells playbook. Don’t expect many chances taken. UNDER.

Steelers (+2½) at Panthers (34½): Pittsburgh likely to be more concerned with depth. Carolina on the rise and may go with more inexperienced starters. PANTHERS.

Bengals (NL) at Colts: Cincy has more personnel decisions to make. Indy off a short work week having played Monday in Denver. BENGALS.

Seahawks (NL) at Broncos: Denver is also off a short work week. Seattle played in the highest scoring preseason game, beating KC. Both teams strong on offense. OVER.

49ers (+1) at Chargers (37): 49er QB Jeff Garcia played well in his 2003 debut last week and might get an extended look. San Diego has scored just 36 points all preseason. 49ERS.

Last week: 8-8

Preseason: 22-26