NFL Betting: What we learned from Preseason Week 1

LT Profits Sports Group

Friday, August 9, 2013 4:00 AM GMT

Preseason games do not count, but that does not mean we cannot learn more about NFL teams. Here are some notes on Preseason Week 1 that may teach us something about the regular year.

We are in the midst of Week 1 of the NFL Preseason and the two participants in the Hall of Fame Game are each set to play their second games already on Friday. While these contests obviously do not count, that does not mean that we cannot take away valuable lessons from each game that will help us with our NFL picks once the regular season begins.

To that end, we will attempt to take away as much as possible from the preseason and present our thoughts here weekly for all four weeks leading up to the official NFL opener when the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens visit Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on Thursday night, September 5th.

There were six games played on Thursday night of Preseason Week 1, and when you add in the Dallas Cowboys and the Miami Dolphins squaring off in the Hall of Fame Game, it means that 14 teams have taken the field for live game action thus far in August. Here are some thoughts on those 14 teams based primarily on their performances, with a few off-the-field judgments thrown in.

Atlanta Falcons: Some people think that the addition of running back Steven Jackson in place of the plodding Michael Turner could propel the Falcons to the Super Bowl this season, but he did not look good in a 34-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals while rushing for just eight yards on five carries and being stopped for no gain on his sole reception. In his defense, Atlanta struggled with its run blocking vs. the stout Cincinnati defensive line, and that will have to improve. Atlanta’s other big off-season acquisition Osi Umenyiora did look good despite not registering a sack, as he did apply nice pressure while forcing Cincinnati quarterbacks into a couple of hurries.

Baltimore Ravens: The Super Bowl Champion Ravens dominated Tampa Bay 44-16 in the opener as Coach John Harbaugh continues to be one of the best preseason coaches in the game, but the news was not all good. Despite the score, Joe Flacco was very sloppy with his throws and the main wide receivers dropped quite a few passes, with deep reserve LaQuan Williams finishing as the team’s leading receiver. Furthermore running back Bernard Pierce, who is expected to play an expanded role this year as a compliment to Ray Rice, dinged up his knee after rushing for 21 yards on only three carries, although the injury is not believed to be serious.

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals can rest easy knowing they are in good hands (and feet) should Andy Dalton ever go down with an injury as backup quarterback Josh Johnson was the best quarterback on the field for either side in 34-10 romp over the Falcons in Atlanta. Freeman was officially 9-for-16 for 100 yards, but that does not include a long pass interference that would have been a long completion if not for the penalty and he was very adept when he took off running, displaying halfback speed and elusiveness while gaining 64 yards on four scampers. Highly touted rookie running back Giovani Bernard had a short touchdown run, but he was rather disappointing with only 28 yards in 10 carries, so the “Law Firm” BenJarvus Green-Ellis may be safe for now.

Cleveland Browns: Quarterback Brandon Weeden was hoping to impress the new coaching regime in Cleveland, and he did just that in the coaching debut of Rob Chudzinski as he completed 10-for-13 for 112 yards and a touchdown in a nice 27-19 win over the St. Louis Rams. The back-up running back situation behind Trent Richardson remains murky however. Dion Lewis was believed to have the inside track with Montario Hardesty missing time with a hamstring injury, but Lewis managed only 12 yards on five carries. He did have a nice 16-yard reception out of the backfield to redeem himself somewhat however.

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys beat the Miami Dolphins 24-20 in the Hall of Fame Game despite resting all of their starting offensive skill position players, playing with a decimated offensive line and resting DeMarcus Ware on defense. Yet the backup running backs all looked great while running behind a makeshift offensive line that blocked better than expected, as Dallas rushed for a whopping 170 yards on 5.0 yards per carry. The defense also performed well as the defenders seemed to embrace the new scheme based on the old Tampa Bay defenses.

Denver Broncos: In what was probably the ugliest of the 2013 preseason games so far, the Broncos nipped the 49ers 10-6 in San Francisco in a game that did not have an offensive touchdown. The highlight for the Broncos was a fumble return by linebacker Shaun Phillips for the game’s only touchdown. The worst part for Denver is that there was no clarification of its running back situation. Ronnie Hillman currently tops the depth chart and got the start, but he gained only nine yards on three carries. Rookie Montee Ball then had his chance to make a statement, but like many plodding Big Ten running backs before him, he looked slow hitting the hole and finished with only nine yards on five carries. Knowshon Moreno was serviceable enough with 23 yards on six carries but it was actually fourth stringer C.J. Anderson that stole the show while running for 69 yards on 4.60 yards per carry.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins upgraded their receiving corps in the off-season with Mike Wallace being their first game-breaker in many years, and other newcomers Brandon Gibson and tight end Dustin Keller as well as incumbent Brian Hartline are all expected to play prominent receiving roles. However, one position that may prevent the passing game from reaching full potential is left guard, as Jonathan Martin has struggled during training camp and those struggles spilled over into a 24-20 loss to Dallas in the Hall of Fame Game where Martin was easily tossed aside by Dallas defenders on many occasions.

St. Louis Rams: The biggest news for the Rams in their 27-19 road loss to the Browns was that starting offensive tackle Rodger Saffold suffered a dislocated shoulder, which could be a serious concern for a team that struggled on the offensive line last season. However, the dislocation is apparently not very severe as the latest word is that Saffold will only miss a couple of preseason games. That would be great news if true as Saffold needs the work while moving over from the left side of the line in previous seasons to the right side this year.

San Diego Chargers: It is no big secret that San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers has been awful the last two years after being widely regarded as an elite quarterback before that, but after the firing of former head coach Norv Turner, who was involved in calling offensive plays, play-calling will be quicker now with the calls going directly from offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt to Rivers. Thus, Rivers had more time to assess the defense and there were no rushed snaps during his brief stint in a 31-10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks as he completed 5-of-6 passes for 45 yards. Rivers may have a revival and throw the ball a lot this year, as the defense looks lousy again with rookie Manti Te'o showing very little at inside linebacker in the opener.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers are among the favorites to win the Super Bowl this season, and while the defense appeared to be in mid-season form in an ugly 10-6 home loss to the Broncos, the offense did not show much. Losing the game may not be the worst thing that happened to the Niners though as backup quarterback Colt McCoy injured is shoulder and neck and is scheduled to undergo an MRI. Considering that the pedestrian Scott Tolzien is currently the third quarterback, San Francisco could be in big trouble if Colin Kaepernick were to go down with an injury.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks did not play running backs Marshawn Lynch or Robert Turbin in their 31-10 rout of San Diego and Russell Wilson is obviously not in jeopardy despite his 2-for-6 stat line. Seattle did show off its depth though as running back Christine Michael ran for 89 yards on 16 carries and seemed to get stronger as the game went on. Also, Tarvaris Jackson may be pushing Brady Quinn for the backup quarterback job after completing 8-of-9 passes for 128 yards including two beautiful bombs to Stephen Williams.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Buccaneers got destroyed 44-16 by the Ravens, but both starting guards were out on offense, which is why the starting Baltimore defensive line spent a lot of time in the Bucs’ backfield, and shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis was absent from the defense. A couple of positive notes were the play of running back Brian Leonard and wide receiver Kevin Ogletree. Leonard rushed for 23 yards on six carries and he displayed excellent blocking instincts while successfully picking up blitzes. Ogletree may have become the favorite for the third receiver job with his 65 receiving yards on five catches.

Tennessee Titans: In perhaps the most exciting preseason game of 2013 so far, the Titans fell to the Washington Redskins 22-21 when the Skins converted a two-point conversion following their final touchdown with 2:23 remaining. Still, Tennessee has to be pleased with the performance of Chris Johnson, who had a nifty 56-yard touchdown run where he resembled the CJ2K of three years ago. The Titans also received nice quarterback play from Jake Locker (7-for-11, 58 yards) and Rusty Smith (7-for-10, 75 yards, one touchdown), although Ryan Fitzpatrick did not impress in his Tennessee debut.

Washington Redskins: No current NFL coach has won more preseason games than Mike Shanahan and that continued with an exciting 22-21 win over the Titans in Tennessee. The latest word is that Robert Griffin III, who is recovering from his ACL injury, will be ready for the regular season opener, but backup Kirk Cousins continues to show that he can hold down the fort whenever necessary as he completed 6-of-7 passes and was crisp with his throws in the starting role. Besides Griffin, running back Alfred Morris and wide receiver Pierre Garcon also sat out the opener, but the Washington receiving depth may have taken a hit with Donte' Stallworth injuring his hamstring, and the run defense was shoddy while allowing Tennessee to rush for 126 yards on 25 carries.