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Check the Preseason Boxscores

   by Al McMordie - 08/16/2005

I know it’s only preseason in the NFL, but there are plenty of things that a good handicapper can do to assess upcoming games and point spreads, even in August. Let’s start with the most basic of handicapping tools: Stats!

Checking the box scores from this past weekend’s opening games can provide a wealth of important data. For instance, look at the Chargers/Packers game last week. Green Bay won as a home dog, 10-7. What stands out from watching the game and the box score is how poorly the Pack played, and how well San Diego did. The Chargers had outstanding balance offensively with 125 yards rushing, 192 passing, something coach Marty Schottenheimer loves. They averaged a strong 4.5 yards per carry against Green Bay's defense. In fact, SD had the edge in total yardage by a significant 317 to 196. They even held the edge in turnovers, 3-1, and Green Bay ran for just 2.9 yards per attempt! If this were a regular season game, based on those numbers you’d predict a 24-10 San Diego victory. But they didn’t get the win, or the cover. Three missed field goal attempts in the fourth quarter did them in as Charger kicker Nate Kaeding still seems to have a Scott Norwood-sized hangover from the playoffs. Still, there are plenty of relevant points to digest. The Packers have a revamped offensive line, after losing Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle to free agency. The new line was not impressive at all, especially in the running game. This is a key problem worth watching the next few games, especially if the Pack plays a team with terrific depth on the defensive line or strong pass rushers.

And the Chargers look fine, with the exception of the kicking game. Schottenheimer stuck by his kicker saying, “I believe in the guy.â€쳌 What do you expect him to say to the media, “Throw the bum out.â€쳌 Or, “There’s an open invitation at Monday practice to anyone in San Diego county that can kick a pigskin straight.â€쳌

Another thing to note is the Chicago Bears new offensive approach, which is aggressive, to say the least. The Bears were anemic on offense a year ago, going 14-6 “underâ€쳌 the total in 2004 (counting preseason). However, new offensive coordinator Ron Turner has changed that grind-it-out philosophy, and the Bears might no longer be a team to look at “underâ€쳌 the total because of this. It will be interesting to see how they respond without starter Rex Grossman, the first significant major casualty of the season.

Finally, check out the box score of the New Orleans Saints. This is a team that has been embarassingly bad on defense for much of two years. Coach Jim Haslett wanted a strong performance in the preseason opener at home, yet the Saints were awful in a blowout loss to the Seahawks. New Orleans allowed 386 yards, including 216 on the ground. My odds on the first NFL coach to be fired: How about Jim Haslett at 2-to-1? Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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