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Preseason Week 1 Random Thoughts
by Larry Ness - 08/06/2008
The Indianapolis Colts and the Washington Redskins opened the 2008 NFL preseason last Sunday night in Canton, Ohio. The storyline featured the Colts being without Peyton Manning and Jim Zorn making his NFL head coaching debut. Of course, Manning wouldn't have played more than a series (or two) anyway, so really all eyes were on Zorn.
By any measure, Zorn 'aced' his first test, as the Redskins beat the Colts, 30-16. Hawaii's Colt Brennan was the offensive star, completing 9-of-10 passes for 123 yards and two TDs, finishing his first-ever appearance as a pro with a near-perfect 157.5 QB rating. However, it's hard not to congratulate Zorn and his staff for their game plan.
For the game, three Washington QBs combined to go 19-22 for 216 yards with three TDs and zero INTs. Also, despite playing without their top two running backs, Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts, the 'Skins ran for 156 yards on 31 carries (5.0 YPC). Week 1 of the preseason begins on Thursday with five games, including the Saints at the Cardinals on ESPN. There are three more games scheduled for Friday, seven more on Saturday and Monday night, it's the Bengals at the Packers on ESPN (where's Brett going to be?).
It was obvious that Zorn was trying to establish himself and his system in last Sunday's game and I wouldn't be surprised to look for him to make a good "first impression" with the hometown fans Saturday, when the Redskins host the Bills. However, I'm not so sure the other three coaches will be as lucky, as each faces an opposing head coach with strong winning tendencies in the preseason.
Zorn was just the first of four NFL coaches who will be making their head coaching debuts in 2008. Mike Smith takes over in Atlanta, John Harbaugh in Baltimore and Tony Sparano in Miami. Both Smith and Harbaugh open on the road, as the Falcons play at Jacksonville on Saturday, while the Ravens face the Patriots in Foxboro on Thursday night. Sparano of Miami is the lone coach to debut at home, as the Dolphins will host intrastate rival Tampa Bay on Saturday.
Jack Del Rio of the Jags is 14-6 SU and 13-7 ATS as a preseason coach, Bill Belichick of the Pats is 31-22 and 30-18-4 ATS and Jon Gruden of the Buccs is 27-15 SU and 21-17 ATS. Other head coaches with good preseason records include John Fox of the Panthers (16-8 SU and 14-9-1 ATS), Romeo Crennel of the Browns (8-4 SU and 9-3 ATS) and Mike Shanahan of the Broncos (40-24 SU and 35-28-1 ATS).
Looking for "go-against" head coaches in the preseason? Try Andy Reid of the Eagles (12-24 SU and 17-19 ATS), Dick Jauron of the Bills (10-18 SU and 12-15-1 ATS) and Tony Dungy of the Colts, who is now 21-30 SU and 23-26-2 ATS after last Sunday's loss. Mike Nolan of the 49ers is just 5-7 SU in his first three years but he's gone 8-3-1 ATS, so watch out!
'Over' and Under' players may want to note that Mike Holmgren of the Seahawks is 37-25 to the over in his career, while Tom Coughlin of the Giants is 28-21. Herm Edwards of the Chiefs is 19-9-1 to the under in his career, while Belichick is 28-15-1, Shanahan 32-24 and Dungy 28-16-1, after the Colts went over in the Hall of Fame game.
The Cardinals and Chiefs own the longest active losing streaks in preseason tilts, as each team went 0-4 last year. The Cards were 1-3 ATS, while the Chiefs went 0-4. No team made it through last year's preseason without a loss. The Texans saw all four of their games go over in '07 (longest active streak), while the Buccs and Titans take streaks of three straight overs into their Week 1 games. The Broncos own the longest active streak of unders (four straight), while the Chiefs have not played an over since Week 1 of the '06 preseason, playing six unders and a 'push' in Week 3 of last year.