NFL’s dress rehearsal

Aug 31, 2004 7:39 AM

Final dress rehearsals will be held later this week as NFL teams play their final preseason game before the season starts for real the weekend after Labor Day.

Some coaches will rest their regulars for much of this game while others will work out problems that have plagued the team through training camp. In most cases second and third teamers will see most of the action as questions about depth are answered prior to making final cuts.

Here’s a look at the final week of preseason games.

Baltimore (plus 1½) at New York Giants (Over/Under 35) — Baltimore is a playoff caliber team while the Giants are a team in transition. Kurt Warner gets the start for New York and the Giants are in need of some confidence building and the offensive line needs the work. NEW YORK GIANTS is the play.

Carolina (plus 2½) at Pittsburgh (36) — Pittsburgh’s offense is rounding into shape and their running game figures to be a strength. Carolina also has a solid running game. Both teams should work on depth in the backfield as well as providing the backup quarterbacks with extra playing time. UNDER the total is preferred.

Buffalo (plus 4) at Detroit (36) — Neither team’s offense has been productive for much of the preseason and both teams may open things up a bit this week to gain momentum and confidence for their season openers. OVER the total is the preference.

Kansas City at Dallas (No Line) — It must seem like Thanksgiving for the Cowboys who just played last Monday and have had little time to evaluate film and make adjustments. The extra preparation should benefit the Chiefs who have played well throughout the first halves of their preseason games. The preference is for KANSAS CITY.

Tampa Bay (plus 1½) at Houston (33½) — Houston should have the greater need for a good showing in front of the home fans after losing badly the past two weeks on the road. Tampa is a veteran team with a number of new faces but less likely to go all out this week. HOUSTON is the play.

Arizona (plus 7½) at Denver (38) — Arizona has many problems to address and they placed an emphasis on winning at home the past two weeks. They lost both games and now catch Denver as the Broncos have played well the past two weeks. Arizona is a bad team but they will have the greater motivation to play well and winning will be an important goal for them here. ARIZONA is preferred.

Minnesota (plus 3) at Seattle (41) — Both teams have playoff aspirations and are pretty much with their roster spots. Both teams figure to go through the motions and that might mean more work for the running backs. UNDER the total is the preference.

St. Louis (plus 3) at Oakland (39½) — Both teams have high-powered offenses that like to spread the field with the aerial game. Both offenses rely on the big play and we may see the backup quarterbacks go deep against defenses whose primary concern will be to stay healthy. OVER the total is preferred.

San Diego (plus 3) at San Francisco (37½) — Neither team is projected as a playoff threat this season. San Diego figures to give rookie quarterback Phillip Rivers more work this week which could be a confidence boost for the 49ers defensive starters. San Francisco seeks to avoid a winless preseason and might be the more motivated team. SAN FRANCISCO is preferred.

Jacksonville (plus 4½) at New England (35) — Jacksonville has averaged less than 10 points per game in the preseason and might be tempted to take some chances against a solid defensive unit. New England will also be facing a solid defense and might also wish to open up their offense in their final tune-up. OVER the Total is the preference.

Philadelphia at (plus 2½) New York Jets (36½) — These teams have closed their preseason against one another the past three years with the Jets winning twice and covering all three games. The games have generally been low scoring and neither team showed much. Look for this to be similar and at less than a field goal, the host is well situated. NEW YORK JETS is the preferred play.

Atlanta (plus 4) at Washington (38½) — Atlanta QB Mike Vick was held out of last week’s blowout win over Cincinnati so pay attention this week. Vick should see some action so he does not start the regular season with the rust of game inactivity of three weeks. Washington was overpowered by the Rams last week and should be more interested on focusing on their offense this week. OVER the total is preferred.

Indianapolis (plus 2½) at Cincinnati (40) — The Colts’ offense has been pretty ordinary this August but has already suffered a key loss at receiver. They figure to go through the motions as they prepare to open the season next Thursday in New England. Cincinnati is likely to place more of an emphasis on a good performance against one of the league’s elite teams. CINCINNATI is the preference.

Chicago (plus 3½) at Cleveland (35½) — Both teams need to work on their passing games and neither team has an above average defense. There may be some value in the total as the teams have combined for six UNDERs and zero OVERs this preseason. OVER the total is preferred.

Green Bay at Tennessee (No Line) — Tennessee just played Monday night and might not be as prepared for this game after Tuesday’s cut down date. Both teams are veteran playoff teams and likely to use this final prep game to evaluate final roster positions. UNDER the total is preferred.

Miami (plus 3) at New Orleans (35) — New Orleans has performed well this preseason and may give starting QB Aaron Brooks very limited action as he recovers from aggravating an earlier injury. Miami has major problems on offense and might be more likely to open things up as they decide on a starting QB. MIAMI is the preference.