The pro football preseason kicked
off this past weekend in the Hall of Fame game as the Dolphins battled the
Cowboys. Remember that each season is different, with players changing teams,
new coaches and assistants coming aboard, and star college players joining the
pros as highly touted rookies. August football offers fans their first peak at
all the new additions.
It’s a short week for the Dallas Cowboys who have to
head to Oakland to play the rebuilding Raiders. Dallas was a flop on defense
last year so they dumped defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and brought in 72-year
old Monte Kiffin. Despite sack masters DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer it’s
going to take time to change their 3-4 defense into a 4-3 Tampa-2 scheme. As for
the Raiders, for the second straight season they’re overhauling everywhere. QB
Matt Flynn is still trying to prove he’s a legitimate NFL starter and is
battling Terrelle Pryor and rookies Matthew McGloin and Tyler Wilson. Career
starts for the 28-year old Flynn: 9 TDs, 5 INTs, 13 sacks.
also have the short week traveling to rebuilding Jacksonville. Jacksonville was
outscored by -189 points last season, second worst in the NFL while going 2-14.
Former Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is the new head coach and
brings in Jedd Fisch as offensive coordinator, who ran the Miami Hurricane’s
offense last season. The offensive line was a mess adding to the team’s
quarterback woes with QBs Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne sacked 50 times.
A potential Super Bowl preview appears on the card as the Broncos are at
San Francisco. However, it’s Week 1. You’re likely to see far more of Brock
Osweiler and Colt McCoy behind center than QBs Peyton Manning and Colin
Kaepernick lighting up the skies.
This weekend the defending Super Bowl
champion Ravens head to Florida to take on Tampa Bay. It’s a game the defending
champs probably could care less about while the rebuilding Bucs might want to
get up for the game to impress their home fans.
One of the big stories
at the NFL draft was the Jets taking West Virginia QB Geno Smith. The Jets are
at Detroit and will unveil QBs Smith, Mark Sanchez, Greg McElroy and Matt Simms
to try to find someone reliable to throw the pigskin. The Lions had some
impressive stats but a train wreck 2013 season losing a string of close games.
Detroit has an impressive QB rotation in August deep in experience in Matt
Stafford, Shaun Hill, Kellen Moore and Thad Lewis.
quarterbacks the Redskins are at the Titans this week with QB Robert Griffin
still rehabbing after the playoff loss to Seattle. That means QBs Rex Grossman,
Kirk Cousins and mobile Pat White will be running the offense. Washington Coach
Mike Shanahan is an impressive 24-13 SU, 22-14-1 his last eight preseasons (6-2
SU/ATS the last two years).
Meanwhile, Tennessee has new looks all over
the offense. QB Jake Locker (10 TDs, 11 INTs) completed just 56% of his passes
and will get some competition from QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, released by the Bills.
The Tennessee passing game has WR Nate Washington (746 yards), Kenny Britt and
speedy WR Kendall Wright (626 yards), plus they add WR Kevin Walker from the
Texans and rookie WR Justin Hunter (Tennessee) with the No. 34 overall pick.
Another thing to keep an eye on is subtle strategic adjustments. Five
years ago the Saints loaded up in the offseason trying to improve a defense that
was 26th overall. They moved up in the draft to take USC nose tackle Sedrick
Ellis with the 7th pick, along with DT DeMario Pressley (5th round, NC State)
and CB Tracy Porter to improve the 30th ranked secondary. It took just one
season for those moves to pay big dividends as the Saints attacking style
defense under their new defensive coordinator went on to win the Super Bowl.
Unlike last preseason there is only one game where with a long travel
time: The Cardinals fly to Green Bay this weekend. A year ago the Packers were
at San Diego in Week 1 of the preseason, Tennessee headed to Seattle, while the
Vikings head to the Bay Area to play San Francisco. Tennessee looked jet-lagged
in a 27-17 defeat as did the Vikings in a 17-6 loss to the 49ers and the Packers
got beat up at San Diego, 21-13.
Two years ago the 49ers had the longest
Week 1 road trip, travelling from the West Coast down to the Bayou to play the
Saints. They looked gassed in a 24-3 Week 1 preseason loss. The 49ers then went
2-1 SU/ATS the rest of preseason, then wound up in the NFC Championship game in
January, so don’t read too much into Week 1.
Also keep an eye on home
field. In August of 2004, home teams went 21-10-1 against the spread the first
two weeks of preseason. Seven years ago, the home team went 10-5 SU/ATS the
first week of exhibition play, and in 2006 went 11-5 SU, 8-7-1 ATS. Last season
home teams went just 9-7 SU, 8-8 ATS, but in 2011 they went 11-5 SU/ATS in Week
1. There are edges in August football, you just have to know where to look and
what to look for. By Jim Feist of VegasTopDogs.com