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Week 1 Preseason: Offense Takes A Holiday

   by Al McMordie - 08/12/2007

If you’re a fan of offense, Week 1 of the NFL preseason wasn’t for you. There wasn’t much scoring, which is usually the case. The unders had the edge again, starting 8-3 before a flurry of late Saturday games finally featured some scoring. In fact, one year ago preseason games started 9-4-1 under the total, so this is nothing new.

There were as many lowlights as highlights. Daunte Culpepper didn’t help himself, completing five of 12 passes for 78 yards in his preseason debut with the Raiders. He fumbled the snap and lost the ball to the Cardinals on his first play. No. 1 pick JaMarcus Russell continues to hold out for Oakland and after a performance like that by Culpepper, why should Russell hurry?

Another veteran changing teams was QB Trent Green. Green was booed in his first action with the Dolphins, completing just six of 15 passes for 60 yards against the Jaguars. They were 0 for 7 in third-down efficiency and RB Ronnie Brown had 8 rushing yards on eight carries. The Miami first-team offense played the entire first half and managed just 64 yards! It was a misleading 18-17 victory against Jacksonville as the offense was inept. Green looked as bad as he did, well, in the playoff game against the Colts. This happened while the Dolphins had their starters on the field and Jacksonville had already gone to second-team defenders. When Miami players dejectedly walked off the field, there was actually a smattering of boos by the sparse crowd. You sure you don’t want Culpepper back?

Another team with QB troubles is the Browns, with Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson fighting for the top spot. They needed a late 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Chris Barclay with 1:36 to play and a goal line stand in the final seconds against the disinterested Chiefs to win, 16-12. Still, chalk up one for Frye, who was 12-of-15 for 122 yards in three series taking the edge for the Browns' top QB job. Perhaps even better news for the Browns is that RB Jamal Lewis ran like the 2003 version in a Baltimore uniform. Lewis had 20 yards on four runs, including one of 15, and three catches for 16 yards. An effective ground game will take a lot of the pressure off whoever is the quarterback.

First coach to get fired? The odds-on favorite is still NY’s Tom Coughlin, and it didn’t change after a poor performance at home -- a 24-21 loss to Carolina. Carolina RB DeShaun Foster shredded the Giants defense for 62 yards on five carries, while Nick Goings had 50 yards on 11 carries. QB depth is so important in preseason and the Panthers might have the best one-two punch in August with Jake Delhomme and newcomer David Carr. Carr, seeing his first action for Carolina, was 6-of-8 for 83 yards. Carr says he’s happy and the Panthers aren’t trying to mess with his throwing motion, like the Texans did.

The Giants' defense was awful under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, another thing to keep an eye on in the always-volatile Big Apple. "Things didn't go the way we wanted it to," Antonio Pierce said. "Opening up the preseason by letting the other team score a touchdown on their first drive is not good. We've got a lot of work to do. We are still learning this new defense, but that's no excuse," he added (sounding much like an excuse).

Note that the Raiders made it clear Jerry Porter is their No. 1 receiving option for the first time since he came to Oakland eight years ago. Porter made his first start since the 2005 season during Oakland's 27-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Saturday's exhibition opener at the Coliseum. He had only two catches for 17 yards, but with Josh McCown at quarterback, the first two throws of the game, and four of the first six, were directed to Porter.

Dallas looked fired up for its new coach, Wade Phillips, dominating the Colts 23-10. It’s common this time of the season for new coaches to get a win and they are 3-1 SU/ATS in their first game this August. Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin and Miami’s Cam Cameron also got wins in their first games. You could throw the Raiders Lane Kiffin into that mix, but I didn’t as he was facing another new coach in Arizona’s Ken Whisenhunt.
A year ago, new head coaches at home or at a neutral site started 4-0 straight up and 3-1 against the spread. This season they started 4-0 SU, 4-0 ATS, counting Kiffin’s win as he was at home. Yes, new coaches want to impress the home fans and the management that hired them, as if to show they are the right men for the job. There are betting edges to be found, even in preseason, though you just have to know what to look for. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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