Three NFL preseason games for Thursday as the teams head into Week 3 of the exhibition season. This is typically considered the ‘dress rehersal’ week when teams play their starters the longest and–presumably at least–exert the greatest effort toward actually winning the game. We’ve got a side and a totals play on Thursday’s card.
CAROLINA PANTHERS AT CINCINNATI BENGALS 4:00 PM PACIFIC
This matchup between a couple of bad but rebuilding teams won’t be ‘must see TV’ but we think it may offer a strong wagering position. The Carolina Panthers are going to start Cam Newton and let him play for three quarters. Newton is an impressive athlete but the jury is still out on his ability to be a NFL starting quarterback Right now his biggest liability is his inexperience in a pro style offense. The offense he ran at Auburn was brutally simple and designed to maximize his unique talents. Now he’s forced to play within a much more complex NFL style offense and so far he has struggled. The fact that Newton is getting three quarters of playing time here strongly suggests that first year coach Ron Rivera will give the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner the starting job and let him ‘sink or swim’ as a starting quarterback.
On the other side of the field, the Cincinnati Bengals are in a similar situation. The Bengals are very likely going to make former TCU standout Andy Dalton their starting quarterback. Dalton may have more familiarity in a complex, pro style offense but so far he’s taken his lumps in the preseason. So far the big rap on Dalton is his patience—or lack thereof—which has resulted in poor accuracy and too many interceptions.
The quarterback rotation behind each team’s rookie is far from inspiring. Carolina has Jimmy Clausen, Derek Anderson and Tony Pike behind Newton. Cincy has Bruce Gradkowski, Jordan Palmer and Dan LeFevour backing up Dalton. With both teams apparently ready to let their rookie QB’s ‘learn on the job’ we don’t expect a lot of points in this one. Carolina was the league’s lowest scoring team in the regular season last year and has been a strong Under play in the preseason. 8 of the Panthers’ last 10 exhibition games have gone Under the total. Cincy has a bias to the Over in preseason games but much of that was accomplished with veteran Carson Palmer at the helm. Palmer was the type of quarterback who could put up numbers in August but failed to execute when the games started to count. The Bengals biggest problem so far in the preseason has been a porous defense, but they’ll have far less of a challenge against the sputtering Panthers’ offense. Cincinnati is averaging a woeful 5 PPG through two preseason games and Carolina is averaging only 15 PPG. This game might not make it out of the 20’s and should go well Under the total.
Bet Cincinnati/Carolina Under 34
CLEVELAND BROWNS AT PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 4:30 PM PACIFIC
The conventional wisdom from the ‘man on the street’ is that the Philadelphia Eagles are going to want to atone for a horrible performance against Pittsburgh last week and make mincemeat of the downtrodden Cleveland team. We doubt it. Philadelphia is going to play their starters for most of the first three quarters, but we’re not going to be surprised if Michael Vick’s ‘comeback story’ comes crashing back down to earth in 2011. Vick was playing last year with no expectations or pressure whatsoever. Forgetting for a moment that he may be the most loathsome human being on the planet due to his involvement with dog fighting, keep in mind that even before that became public he wasn’t exactly a ‘character guy’ during his time in Atlanta. More importantly, he wasn’t a player who responded well to pressure. And he’s going to feel a lot of it this year both personally and in terms of his role within the team. He faced a good Steelers’ defense last week, but we’re thinking that Vick will make a lot of defenses look good this year as he reverts to the bad on field decision making that plagued him during his tenure in Atlanta.
The most important thing, however, is the simple fact that Andy Reid is one of those coaches that cares very little about preseason results. His poor showing in exhibition play may not be to the level of the Colts’ laughable effort in August but its not anything that I want to invest in either—in his time at Philly Reid is 18-32 SU in preseason play. Since 2009 the Eagles are 2-8 ATS in the preseason and 2-5 ATS as a favorite. We don’t think this Cleveland team is anything special, but they are exerting a decent preseason effort and particularly on offense where they’re averaging 27.5 PPG. We expect the Browns to get their points and at this price that fact alone could make this play a winner. Ultimately, we think that the Eagles are just overpriced in this matchup due to the endless ESPN hype. We’ll gladly take points against a team with such a poor SU and ATS record in preseason play.
Bet Cleveland Browns +7 over Philadelphia Eagles
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