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NFL Football: Patience & Objectivity

   by Bryan Leonard - 08/25/2006

I'm not someone who looks at handicapping trends, but what do we find after the first two weeks of NFL preseason? Games have gone under the total by a whopping 20-11-1 count! It has been an under paradise thus far. However, before we jump all over every under this weekend, note that the unders were 12-4-1 the first week, but only 8-7 in Week 2.

Suddenly those unders are not so sizzling. Part of what is happening is that oddsmakers adjust. The Detroit Lions have new offensive schemes, with new quarterbacks and a new offensive coordinator in Mike Martz. Martz brings a more vertical passing attack to the table, as opposed to last season's boring (and unproductive West Coast offense). The Lions total was 37 and a half in Week 1, but was 33 in Week 2. They sailed under the total in a 20-13 win in the opener, but slipped over this past weekend in a 20-16 win. That's only 3 more points scored in their games, but it was enough to get them over the total via the adjustment.

Another thing that's happening is that defenses truly are ahead of the offenses this time of the season. Offenses take a long time to gel, with quarterbacks learning the timing patterns of their receivers, offensive linemen learning their blocking assignments, and everyone learning new plays. Some teams are learning brand new playbooks as there are 10 new head coaches in the NFL.

Scoring did take an increase in Week 2. It's going to be interesting to see what happens this week, as teams in Week 3 of the preseason give their starters the biggest workout. Overall, having the offense out there longer helps the offense develop more than having the defensive starters on the field longer.

For perspective, a year ago the unders led 9-7 in Week 1 of the NFL preseason then evened out at 8-8 in Week 2. In Week 3, with the starters playing more, the unders still ruled 10-6, while in Week 4 the overs bounced back 10-6. Starters don't play that much in Week 4. This is why tracking trends and patterns can be difficult and at times even confusing. It is best to be patient and use handicapping objectivity.

It's more important to look at each individual team. For instance, the Cleveland Browns have a lot of problems on offense, with a trio of young quarterbacks and serious offensive line injuries. The Miami Dolphins have given up a ton of passing yards in two preseason games and notice they have injury problems to the secondary. Rookie Jason Allen split time between safety and cornerback last week as coach Nick Saban said, “Because we don't have any cornerbacks left!â€쳌

The Redskins are 0-2 SU/ATS in preseason. Joe Gibbs was disgusted in a post-game news conference after losing to the Jets. "I'm concerned about the team," Gibbs said. "You've got to play good as a team, and we're not. I couldn't pick out one positive thing." Washington has a new offensive system brought in by Al Saunders from Kansas City, as well. Saunders' play-calling has been conservative and his unit's execution has been inconsistent. Pieces like that are far more important to finding wagering angles than any betting trend.

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