Here's a quick look at what to expect in Saturday's NFL preseason tilts.
Buffalo at Washington (+1, 42.5)
Injuries at the quarterback position are the story here for this late Saturday afternoon start time. Both the Bills and Redskins are 2-0 SU/ATS in the preseason, but the respective moods surrounding both teams are a bit darker than you’d think. In Buffalo, EJ Manuel appeared to be well on his way to winning the starting QB job in his rookie season. But after completing 26 of 33 passes for 200+ yards in two games, swelling was discovered in his left knee & he’s been lost for the remainder of the preseason. This leaves Kevin Kolb to start here. After injuring himself by slipping on a wet practice mat and missing the opener, Kolb didn’t look too good last week, throwing an INT and completing only 13 of 21 passes.
The Robert Griffin III saga has grabbed all the headlines in the Nation’s capital during training camp. Though he reportedly took reps against the starting defense in practice, RG3 has still not been cleared for the regular season opener against Philadelphia on September 9th (Monday night game). This is problematic because backup Kirk Cousins sprained his knee in Monday’s 24-13 win over Pittsburgh. Rex Grossman is the only other QB currently on the roster. The short week certainly is no help to Washington here.
NY Jets at NY Giants (-2, 38.5)
This annual clash is always one of the “most anticipated” games of the preseason, if for no other reason that it’s New York vs. New York. Because they’ve really never accomplished anything since Super Bowl III, the game was always taken more seriously by the Jets, who hold a 14-5 ATS edge since 1993. However, the Giants dominated last year’s game, winning 26-3. That was actually the second and not the third preseason game for both teams though.
After losing their opener to the Lions, the Jets won last week against the Jaguars 37-13, but that score is somewhat misleading as they outscored Jacksonville 27-0 after halftime. Rookie Geno Smith will get the start at QB this week over Mark Sanchez and this is his moment to try and earn the starting gig. Sanchez has been his usual uneven self this preseason, looking good at times and then turning the ball over like always. Smith did not play last week after injuring his ankle in the first game.
Cleveland at Indianapolis (-2.5, 43)
The Browns are 2-0 and have surprisingly looked pretty good for first year head coach Rob Chudzinski. They have beaten both St. Louis and Detroit at home, and the most promising bit of news has been the play of second year QB Brandon Weeden, who has gone a combined 18 of 25 for 229 yards and three touchdowns. To no one’s shock, he was officially named the team’s starter for the regular season, mid-week. In both games the Browns have led 17-0. Running back Trent Richardson saw game action for the first time last week. Unfortunately, several Cleveland players suffered serious injuries last week, including Richardson’s backup (Dion Lewis) as well as 1st round draft choice Barkevious Mingo.
The Colts responded nicely from a 44-20 drubbing at the hands of Buffalo in their opener to defeat the Giants on the road last week, 20-12. The defense (obviously) played much better, recording six sacks. QB Andrew Luck threw a pair of touchdown passes. Putting Indianapolis at somewhat of a disadvantage here is the fact they will have had two less days to prepare.
Tampa Bay at Miami (-3, 40)
During the week, we all learned how Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton felt about Bucs QB Josh Freeman. Still though, it is widely presumed that he will win the starting job over rookie Mike Glennon out of North Carolina State. Tampa Bay is 0-2 this preseason and last week’s final score vs. New England was somewhat misleading as the team trailed 25-10 going into the fourth quarter. The week previous they were dismantled at home by Baltimore 44-16.
Miami is playing its fourth preseason game, but its first at home. After opening the NFL season with an outright loss to the Cowboys in the Hall of Fame Game, they have split a pair of road games, first winning at Jacksonville 27-3 and then losing last week at Houston 24-17. The worst news of all has been the loss of tight end Dustin Keller for the year on a much debated shot to the knee. On a positive note, second year QB Ryan Tannehill and newly acquired WR Mike Wallace connected on three passes for 58 yards last week.
Kansas City at Pittsburgh (-3, 40)
Both of these teams are 0-2 so far and have scored 13 points in each of their games. Thus, it hasn’t been pretty for either of these playoff hopefuls. The short week does the Steelers no favors here, though they will at least get to play at home. Rookie running back Le’Veon Bell won’t play for the remainder of the preseason after getting hurt last week at Washington, but at least the injury doesn’t appear to be as bad as was originally feared. But it has been a sloppy two games for Mike Tomlin’s team.
One would think that the Chiefs would really want to get Andy Reid a win in his first preseason with the team. But then again, they failed to ‘circle the wagons’ last week for QB Alex Smith, who was facing his former team, the San Francisco 49ers. Playing without injured running back Jamal Charles, the only touchdown Kansas City scored last week came via a kick return. Smith did not look very good. Surprisingly, after playing one another, the Chiefs and 49ers made a trade. They exchanged receivers Jonathan Baldwin and AJ Jenkins, both of whom have been considered disappointments in their short careers.
Philadelphia at Jacksonville (+3.5, 43.5)
Mike Vick has officially been named the starter for the Eagles, which seems to be the right call as his skill set seems better suited to run Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense compared to Nick Foles. This will be Philadelphia’s first road game under Kelly as they split a pair of home games against the Patriots and Panthers. It will be interesting to see how the quarterbacks perform now that the competition has been settled. The defense was much better last week, holding Carolina to only nine points after being shredded by Tom Brady and New England in the opener. Five-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman Jason Peters is set to return to the lineup here and is scheduled to play about three quarters.
For the Jaguars, it’s the same old story. This team simply cannot put points on the board. They are 0-2 and have scored only 16 points total. The much maligned Blaine Gabbert has officially been named the starter by 1st year Head Coach Gus Bradley, but I found that interesting as he’s injured and there are concerns about him being ready to practice for the regular season opener. Gabbert did play well last week vs. the Jets and the team did lead 13-10 at halftime before getting blown out in the second half.
Atlanta at Tennessee (-3, 43)
Both teams here are 0-2, but with the Falcons that’s a bit misleading as their backups stink and blew a 23-7 fourth quarter lead last week at Baltimore. Both Julio Jones and Stephen Jackson looked good in limited action last week. With the first team offense getting extended playing time this week, you have to like Atlanta’s chances more. However, special teams have been an issue so far as they have given up a touchdown on a punt return each of the first two games.
Tennessee is a team that I don’t have much regard for heading into the regular season and it’s not been a very good first two games for them at all. The first team offense has yet to generate a touchdown and the kicking game was a disaster last week in Cincinnati with three missed field goals. The Titans defense allowed the most points in the league a year ago and again looks suspect coming into 2013. Wide receiver Kendall Wright is injured. Just about the only positive has been the re-tooled offensive line.
St. Louis at Denver (-6.5, 43)
Big line here as the injury-riddled Broncos host the 0-2 Rams. After pulling out an ugly 10-6 victory over San Francisco in the opener, the Broncos were flat out embarrassed last week by Seattle, losing 40-10. This will be their first home game of the preseason. Denver defenders have been dropping like flies as of late, most notably now Von Miller, who will be suspended for the first six regular season games. At least Peyton Manning will see his most action of the preseason this week, thereby giving the team a chance.
The Rams issues have been on offense as they generated only seven points last week in a loss to Green Bay, at home. That lone touchdown came in the fourth quarter as once again the first team offense failed to impress. St. Louis was 1 of 14 on third down vs. the Packers and 0 for 3 when going for it on fourth down.
Cincinnati at Dallas (-2.5, 43.5)
The Bengals are becoming a trendy pick to contend not just in the AFC North, but to be one of the very best teams in the conference as well. They are 2-0 so far in the preseason and that’s playing without stud receiver AJ Green, who may play this week here in Dallas. I like what I see from rookie running back Giovani Bernard. The first team offense put up 220 total yards in last week’s win over Tennessee. In two games, the Bengals have averaged 431.5 yards of offense as a whole.
This will be the fourth preseason game for the Cowboys and their first at home. Since winning the Hall of Fame Game, they have lost at both Oakland and Arizona and looked unimpressive in doing so, scoring a combined 24 points. The lone touchdown last week came in the fourth quarter. The first team offense has yet to account for a single point. The ugliest part of last week’s 12-7 loss were the six turnovers.
San Diego at Arizona (-4, 40.5)
If one thing is clear with the Cardinals, it’s that they have a solid defense. In two games, they have given up just seven points and that came on a touchdown in the fourth quarter last week vs. Dallas. As mentioned in the Cowboys writeup, they forced six turnovers. Now 2-0 in the preseason for first year coach Bruce Arians, they host a San Diego team that’s 0-2 and not looked very good. This would seem to be a favorable matchup for the home team.
The Lightning Bolts appear to be headed for a long season in their first year under Mike McCoy. While both Cardinals’ preseason games have gone Under, both Chargers games have gone Over. The San Diego defense has allowed 64 total points thus far. On offense, there were four turnovers in last week’s 33-28 loss at Chicago. At least running back Ryan Matthews looked decent, carrying the ball nine times for 45 yards. Don’t forget that both starting receivers are sidelined with injuries.