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NFL Preseason Week 1

   by Al McMordie - 08/11/2006

For football fans, this is an exciting weekend. Even though the games don’t count in the standings, they do count at the betting window. There are plenty of opportunities to locate valuable information to help predict point spread winners, even in August. I recall a game a few years ago where the Dallas Cowboys played poorly in their first exhibition game and the next few days all you read about in the newspapers was how furious Bill Parcells was with his team. The next week they clobbered their opponent, 31-6. Yes, they covered! With that in mind, here are some tidbits to think about as you examine the games this weekend.

Jets at Bucs: This is a long road trip for the Jets, heading south to humid weather. NY has a first-year coach in Eric Mangini. He has gotten glowing reports, too, about how organized and disciplined his camp has been. They run into a Tampa Bay team coached by Jon Gruden, who has been great in preseason, with a 23-11 SU, 18-14-1 ATS exhibition record.

Broncos at Lions: Another game featuring a new coach in Detroit’s Rod Marinelli. New Lions’ offensive coordinator Mike Martz has a history of aggressive, attacking offenses, but he says he'll keep offensive schemes simple for the first exhibition game. One player to keep an eye on is Detroit backup QB Dan Orlovsky. He struggled in last year’s plodding West Coast offense, but his drop back ability is well suited to the vertical passing system Martz uses. Denver gets a look at rookie QB Jay Cutler, but who will he throw the football to? Mike Shanahan said he expects to hold back veteran WRs Rod Smith (hamstring) and Javon Walker (knee) from the game, and WR Ashley Lelie is still holding out. The Broncos' top two wide receivers will be Darius Watts and rookie Brandon Marshall, followed by David Terrell and David Kircus.

Bills at Panthers: If you look strictly at preseason head coaching records, the home team has a huge edge in this one. New Buffalo head coach Dick Jauron is 2-6 ATS his last 8 preseason games (with the Bears), while Carolina coach Jon Fox has been great in preseason, with an 11-5 SU, 10-4-1 ATS mark in August.

Patriots at Falcons: Atlanta might have an edge at quarterback in this one. QB Michael Vick will start but only play 1-2 series. Backup QB Matt Schaub, who impressed last season, will finish out the first half, then QBs Bryan Randall and D.J. Shockley will split time in the second half. That’s an interesting blend of QBs who can throw and run. Meanwhile, Patriots second-year QB Matt Cassel will see significant action as the Pats want to see if he can handle the No. 2 quarterback job. A problem for Cassell is that the Pats are short on wideout depth, with star WR Deion Branch still holding out.

Steelers at Cardinals: Another interesting game as reports are that QB Ben Roethlisberger will start, though only play 1-2 series. Rookie QB Omar Jacobs will get the most time. This is a game featuring two veteran head coaches who have been terrific in preseason. The Steelers are 30-27 SU, 31-25-1 ATS in preseason under Bill Cowher, while Arizona coach Dennis Green is 32-19 SU, 28-23 ATS in August (though 4-4 SU/ATS with Arizona).

Chiefs at Texans: Both teams have new head coaches. Be careful of the Chiefs, as they’ve had a lousy week with quarterback injuries. No. 2 QB Damon Huard (sprained foot) won’t play, and rookie QB Brodie Croyle is also hurt. So they picked up QB Jeff Smoker this week, released by the Rams. Asked whether he’d consider giving more snaps Saturday to Trent Green, new coach Herm Edwards said: “Oh no, we won’t do that. We won’t put the starter back in. We’ll just run the ball every play if we have to.â€쳌 Edwards said the offense will run the ball more in 2006 and this would be a good game to start! Perhaps this one might be worth a look under the total, as the Chiefs might run the ball and want to get out of town without any more injuries.

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