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Preseason Notes (Week 2 Recap; Week 3 Storylines)

   by Larry Ness - 08/25/2009

The Ravens and Jets concluded Week 2 of the preseason Monday night, as the Jets' TD with 22 seconds remaining (but failed two-point conversion), left Baltimore with a 24-23 win but the Jets with the cover. Home teams went 11-5 SU in Week 1 but just 8-7-1 ATS and then repeated their SU record in Week 2 (11-5), while improving their ATS mark just slightly (9-7).

The Bills and Titans have played three games (Titans won 21-18 in the HOF game) but the league's other 30 teams have all played twice. Seven teams will enter Week 3 at 2-0 and seven at 0-2. The 49ers are 2-0 SU but 0-2 ATS and the Ravens 1-1 ATS, after Monday night's ATS loss. However, the other five unbeaten teams (GB, Mia, Min, SF and Sea) are an impressive 9-0-1 ATS. As for the seven winless teams (Ari, Car, Den, Jax, KC, NYJ and Phi), they are an equally unimpressive 2-11-1 ATS.

Total bettors saw nine of Week 1's 16 games go under but in Week 2, over bettors cashed nine of 16 'tickets.' After two shutouts in Week 1, there were none in Week 2 but the week did feature the preseason's lowest scoring game to date, Cincinnati's 7-6 win at New England (August 20). While the highest scoring game of this year's preseason remains Detroit's 27-26 Week 1 win over Atlanta, three teams reached the 30-point mark in Week 2 (Dallas scored 30, Green Bay 31 and New Orleans 38), compared to only Oakland (31) reaching that mark in Week 1.

Two winless teams, the Jaguars and Eagles, open Week 3 in Philadelphia on Thursday (7:00 ET). The storyline surrounding this game is that Michael Vick is eligible to play the next two preseason games. Philly head coach Andy Reid is expected to announce on Tuesday whether Vick will make his Eagles debut against the Jaguars (most expect he will play). The early line has the Eagles favored by seven points (total is 37). FOX televises the Dolphins at the Bucs at 8:00 ET, as the NFL's youngest head coach, Raheem Morris, makes his home debut (Bucs are favored by 2 1/2 points and the total is 35).

CBS covers the Patriots visiting the Redskins in Washington at 8:00 ET on Friday night. The Pats are a road favorite of three points and the total is 37 1/2 . There were no home dogs in Week 1 and home dogs in Week 2 (Colts and Rams) went 1-1 SU and ATS (Colts beat the Eagle 23-15, while the Rams lost 20-13 to the Falcons). The 2-0 Packers visit the 0-2 Cardinals on Friday night (Cards are favored by three points with a total of 42), which is the first of three games in Week 3 between unbeaten and winless opponents.

Saturday's schedule features nine games, including 2-0 Baltimore at 0-2 Carolina plus 2-0 Seattle at 0-2 Kansas City. In each case, just like the Cards being favored over the Packers, the winless team is the favorite. The Panthers are favored by 3 1/2 over the Ravens (total is 37) and the Chiefs are 1 1/2 point favorites over the Seahawks (total is 38). The Colts are in Detroit to take on the Lions at 1:00 ET and a week after being a home dog to the Eagles, are three-point road favorites over the Lions (total is 40). The Jets and Giants meet in their annual Week 3 contest at the Meadowlands, with the Giants being the designated home team this year (Giants are favored d by 3 1/2 with a total of 37). CBS will air the Chargers and Falcons from Atlanta at 8:00 ET (Falcons are favored by three with a total of 42).

NBC gets the Bears at the Broncos from Denver on Sunday night (8:00 ET) and this game arguably offers the week's best storyline. Jay Cutler, the Broncos' starting QB these last two years, returns to Denver as QB of the Bears. Starting for the Broncos at QB will be Kyle Orton, who was Chicago's starter last year, before going to Denver as part of Chicago's deal with the Broncos to acquire the unhappy Cutler.

Here's a quick case study on the two QBs after two weeks. Cutler failed to meet the much-anticipated off-season buzz that he generated since Chicago acquired him in a blockbuster off-season trade with Denver in Week 1. The Bears lost 27-20 at Buffalo on August 15 with Cutler going just 5 of 10 for 64 yards in the loss. He didn't throw a TD pass but did throw an interception, on a poorly underthrown pass. However, Cutler rebounded with a much better effort in Week 2.

The Bears beat the Giants 17-3 last Saturday in Chicago. Cutler came out and led the Bears to points on their first three possessions, which were his only three series of the game. It was quite a turnaround from his Week 1 performance, in which he was limiting to three points and two FDs in four series at Buffalo. Cutler finished 8-of-13 for 121 yards with one TD and zero INTs (QB rating of 117.8).

Kyle Orton opened his tenure as Denver's new No. 1 QB by throwing interceptions in each of his first three series during his disastrous Denver debut at San Francisco on August 14. The Broncos would go on to lose that game 17-16, with Orton finishing 9-of-16 for 89 yards with zero TDs and those three INTs (32.6 QB rating). It didn't help matters that Chris Simms was 11-of-17 for 142 TDs and zero INTs in relief of Orton in that game (130.0 QB rating).

Orton needed to play better in Week 2 and he did. He completed 16 of his first 19 throws, including his first TD pass as a Bronco in last Saturday night's 27-13 loss at Seattle. He would finish 18-of-26 for 182 yards with one TD and an interception. While Orton's TD pass was a perfectly placed three-yard fade pass to Brandon Stokley, it should be noted that on the play right before the TD, Seattle's Ken Lucas should have intercepted Orton's throw into the end zone but merely deflected it.

A closer look at Orton's performance reveals that seven of his first 16 completions were on safe, swing passes and wide-receiver screens. He threw deep only once all night, a throwaway just before being hit by Seattle DE Patrick Kerney. As for Orton's interception, it came after he had led Denver 86 yards to the Seattle one-yard line late in the first half. Orton scrambled on a fourth down play before flipping the ball with his left hand into a group defenders at the goal line where it was picked off by Ken Lucas (revenge for his earlier near-miss!).

The jury is still out on Orton and in his last appearance in Denver, was loudly booed in a public preseason scrimmage just prior to the start of this year's preseason. The Broncos are favored by two points and the total is 38. Week 3 concludes with a Monday night game on ESPN (8:00 ET), as Brett Favre's Minnesota Vikings (just doesn't side right, does it?) visit Houston to take on the Texans (Houston is a three-point favorite and the total is 41).

A quick note to those betting totals. Not a single game saw a total in the 40s in Week 1 and only the San Diego at Arizona game closed as high as 40 (right at 40) in Week 2 (final score was 17-6, Chargers!). However, as of Tuesday afternoon, six games in Week 3 have totals 40 or higher.

Good luck, Larry

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