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Preseason Notes

   by Larry Ness - 09/01/2009

Home teams went 11-5 SU in each of the first two weeks of this year's preseason (22-10 for a winning percentage of .688), although they were a more modest 17-14-1 ATS (54.8 percent). That's in keeping with the idea that the pointspread is the "great equalizer" (more on that in a bit). However, with the Vikings' 17-10 win over the Texans Monday night concluding Week 3's play, it was rough week for home team bettors.

Home teams concluded the week 6-10 SU and 5-10-1 ATS. Home dogs were a profitable 3-1 ATS, meaning home favorites were an awful 2-7-1 ATS. The NFL preseason will conclude with 13 games on Thursday and three more on Friday with the regular season kicking off on Thursday, September 10 (Tennessee at Pittsburgh). Home teams enter Week 4 of the preseason 28-20 SU (.583) but just 22-24-2 ATS (47.8 percent).

Total bettors saw seven games go over and nine games go over in Week 1 (average score was 34.3 PPG) and nine games went over and seven under in Week 2 (36.7 PPG). Nine Week 3 games went over (and seven under) but the average score was 41.9 PPG, five points higher than Week 2's average and more than a TD higher than in Week 1. With regulars seeing more playing time in Week 3 games that wasn't much of a surprise.

Totals were adjusted up this past week, as after just one game closed with a total as high as 40 in the preseason's first two weeks, San Diego at Arizona in Week 2 at 40 (Chargers won 17-6), five games closed at 40 or higher in Week 3 (3-2 to the over). Week 3 saw the preseason's third shutout, Pittsburgh 17-0 over Washington (first two game in Week 1) but also the two highest scoring games as well. The Eagles edged the Jaguars 33-32 last Thursday and then the Packers won at Arizona over the Cardinals 44-37 on Friday night.

I mentioned earlier that the pointspread tends to be the great equalizer but that's hardly been the case in the 2009 preseason. Seven teams remain unbeaten at 3-0 heading into the final week (Baltimore, Green Bay, Miami, Minnesota, New Orleans, San Francisco and Seattle) with those teams going a superb 17-3-1 ATS (85.0 percent). Five teams remain winless (Arizona, Carolina, Denver, Jacksonville and Kansas City) with those teams going 2-12-1 ATS (14.3 percent).

The Saints have arguably been the most impressive team, averaging an NFL-best 33.3 PPG while allowing the second-fewest points (28 / 9.3 per game). The Vikings have allowed the fewest points (26 / 8.7 per), overcoming a shaky offense which has averaged just 15.7 PPG. The Dolphins have also overcome a less-than-impressive offense (16.3 PPG) to remain unbeaten because of their defensive play (32 points allowed / 10.7 per game).

The 49ers remain unbeaten despite outscoring their opponents just 58-49. It should come as no surprise that they are 1-2 ATS, accounting for two of the three ATS losses suffered by the NFL's seven remaining unbeaten teams. The Jaguars, unlike the unbeaten 49ers, find themselves 0-3 but like the 49ers, have played three close games. Jacksonville lost its opening game 12-9 to Miami, then followed with one-point losses to the Bucs and Eagles.

The Cardinals almost beat the Steelers in last year's Super Bowl but they've hardly resembled NFC champs this preseason. The first-team offense has been ineffective and the defense (regulars and backups alike) has been awful, allowing an NFL-high 81 points (27.0 per game). If there is any team in the league which has looked worse than the Cardinals, it's been the KC Chiefs.

The Chiefs "shook things up" coming into the 2009 season, adding a new GM (Scott Pioli), new head coach (Todd Haley) and new starting QB (Matt Cassel) in an attempt to get this franchise "back on track" after a combined 6-26 (.188) record the last two seasons. However, the Chiefs have been abysmal on offense with just two offensive TDs, scoring a league-low 33 points (11.0 per game).

On top of all that, QB Matt Cassel has a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee (suffered on the third play of the game last Saturday night) and could miss the Chiefs' season opener and beyond. It was reported on Monday that Cassel could miss two to four weeks. The top candidates to replace Cassel are Tyler Thigpen and Brodie Croyle, who are a combined 1-18 as starting quarterbacks in the NFL!

The best matchup of Week 4 is 3-0 Miami at 3-0 New Orleans on Thursday (Saints are favored by three points and the total is 38), while 0-3 Arizona plays at 0-3 Denver on Thursday as well (no line yet), meaning that the both the Cards and Broncos can't both finish winless this preseason (I'm assuming there won't be a tie).

I'll return on Friday with CFB notes for the year's first Saturday.

Good luck, Larry

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