The first full week of the NFL Preseason kicks off this Thursday night. As part of ongoing weekly series written especially for Doc’s Sports Service on the importance of specialization when it comes to wagering on professional football, the following is a preview of my focus team this season, the Philadelphia Eagles. I will provide weekly picks (using Doc’s unit system for money management) for every Eagles game through the preseason all the way to the playoffs and Super Bowl, if they were to make it that far. Their first preseason game is against Pittsburgh this Thursday at Lincoln Financial Field. It is slated to get underway at 7:30 p.m. EST and will be broadcast locally.
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Pittsburgh has been a perennial Super Bowl contender in recent years with three trips to the championship game since 2005, including titles in 2005 and 2008. It is once again one of the top-five favorites in the AFC to make it all the way to Super Bowl XVVII in New Orleans. However, there are more than a few question marks on both sides of the ball as the Steelers take to the field for their first preseason game.
On offense, quarterback Ben Rothlisberger has already admitted to having a slight tear in his throwing shoulder, but he insists it will not affect his game. And running back Rashard Mendenhall remains on the mend after tearing up his knee last season. Wide receiver Mike Wallace is still not in camp in an effort to cut a new deal. The defense remains loaded with talent but somewhat depleted in the secondary.
None of these issues will affect the outcome of Thursday night’s game, but they bear watching for anyone who calls themselves a Steelers fan.
The Eagles will take the field in this game with heavy hearts after the sudden and unexpected death of 29-year-old Garrett Reid, the son of Head Coach Andy Reid, this past Sunday. The long-time Eagles’ leader is expected to be on the sidelines come kick off, but you have to question what the focus of his team will be for a basically meaningless preseason game as it tries to come to terms with this tragic loss.
You get the feeling that Philadelphia will be going through the motions against Pittsburgh given that the wound to this tight-knit group of players is just too fresh to ignore. Garrett’s unfortunate demise could very well become a rallying cry this season for a team that appeared to lack focus and motivation at times in last year’s disappointing 8-8 campaign. However, it is way too soon to project those feelings onto a game that, right now, is more of a distraction than anything else.
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The Steelers went 8-2 straight up down the stretch last season and 12-4 SU overall, but this was not good enough to avoid a trip to Denver as a wild card team in the playoffs. The result was an embarrassing 29-23 loss as 7.5-point road favorites. The loss dropped Pittsburgh to 3-6 against the spread in its last nine games and 7-9 ATS on the year. The total stayed “under” in its last six regular-season games before going “over” the 34-point line against the Broncos. The Steelers went 3-1 both SU and ATS last preseason with the total going over in three of the four games.
Philadelphia showed signs of life at the end of last season with four SU victories to close things out but came up one game short in their bid to sneak into the playoffs. The Eagles finished 8-8 ATS as well and the total went 8-7-1 in their 16 regular season games. They also went 3-1 SU and ATS in the preseason last year after going 1-3 ATS in 2010 and 0-4 ATS in 2009.
Point spread: Pittsburgh +1
Total Line: 34.5
Given the traumatic shock the Eagles have endured as a team this week, it is hard to see them putting too much into this game. Next week and the ones to follow will certainly be a different story, but while Thursday night may act as a much-needed distraction, it will not result in one of their better performances.
Using Doc’s Sports Unit Betting System, there is no reason to get carried away in the preseason, so go with a one-unit play on Pittsburgh in this one.
Pittsburgh 24, Philadelphia 13
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