NFL Preseason Betting: Top Storylines
by Trevor Whenham - 8/18/2011
I hate the NFL Preseason. I would rather watch a peewee team practice than sit through most preseason games — especially in the first week. Still, as painful as it can be you have to pay attention to what is going on. The betting public loves to overreact, and these preseason games give them a whole lot to overreact to. By keeping an eye on what is going on you can spot places where they are likely to read too much into things, and that can create opportunities for value down the road. Here’s a look at six of the most interesting storylines to emerge from this first week of action:
San Francisco’s QB disasters - We knew that things were going to be rocky at QB for the start of the Jim Harbaugh-era. I am personally a fan of Alex Smith — or at least of his potential — but when a guy faces a new coordinator and a new system he is doomed for failure.
I was braced for things to be bad for the Niners from the start, but I didn’t expect them to be this bad. Smith looked absolutely awful — 2-of-7 for 10 yards were his numbers, and if anything those were flattering. He was sacked twice, he fumbled, and he looked lost. He looks like a guy who has been told too many things and just doesn’t know what to believe anymore.
The first look at Colin Kaepernick didn’t make him look like an immediate answer, either.
The team was so desperate after the sorry showing that they worked out Daunte Culpepper this week. If they are going to bring him in they are taking their time, but just taking the step of trying him out isn’t going to do anything for the already obviously fragile confidence of the existing guys.
The public perception of the QB situation here is extremely poor, so I’ll be looking for them to show signs of life so that they can exceed public expectations. For now, though, it certainly doesn’t look good.
Houston’s defensive progress - You can’t tell a lot from the first game of the preseason, and defenses are almost certain to be ahead of offenses in most cases. Still, there was a lot to like from Houston’s defense this year. Last year the unit was so bad it was incomprehensible.
One game against the Jets’ second stringers proves nothing, but there was clearly and obviously a new sense of focus, intensity and general competence that was lacking last year — especially in the secondary.
They have made changes in personnel and coaching, so they are expecting to be much, much better than they were. They won’t be an elite unit, but any improvement will help, and first indications were that we will see a lot of progress.
Disarray for the Jets - I’ll say this up front — I hate the Jets. I don’t like anything about how this team is built or run right now. Given that, I was not at all impressed by how they looked in their first game against the Texans. They were sloppy, they looked disinterested, and they weren’t engaged on the sidelines.
The game was irrelevant, so you can’t read too much into what we saw. However, it certainly wasn’t the most encouraging thing I have seen.
I had the Jets penciled in as a team that could be a letdown, and nothing I saw so far did anything to weaken that opinion.
Colt McCoy overreaction - I like Colt McCoy, and I think he’s going to get better as time passes. The love-fest after his first game was truly ridiculous, though. He put up some solid numbers against the defending champions, but that means nothing. Green Bay really didn’t seem engaged, and both teams were using stripped down playbooks. All it told us was that McCoy is a confident guy who can comprehend simple systems very well, but we already knew that.
Add in the early numbers with the fact that he worked with Brett Favre in the offseason for a few days to learn the West Coast offense, and you have a recipe for massive overreaction from the public.
The facts are clear, though — he’s a guy adapting to a new coach and a new system surrounding by a real shortage of talent in many key spots. It’s going to be a rocky road, and nothing we saw in that opening game changed that.
Lions’ enthusiasm silly, too - Detroit is already a bandwagon team this year, and a big 34-3 win that featured some strong play from Stafford will only add to the excitement.
Regardless of what you feel about the Lions, though, the opening contest taught us absolutely nothing. They were playing a Cincinnati team that is so bad right now that they should fold. They are in disarray at QB and pretty much everywhere else. Detroit faces much stiffer competition in practice than they did in that game.
Detroit may still prove itself to be impressive, but we don’t know that, yet.
Colts don’t care - The Colts have a long tradition of being the least engaged team in the league in the preseason, and the tradition clearly continues this year. While that doesn’t mean anything by itself, what did emerge from this game is that they really have issues at backup QB. More correctly,, they don’t really have a backup QB.
If, like me, you have a bit of an uneasy feeling about Manning this year given his offseason health issues and his run of extremely good luck regarding his health, then you have to be concerned like I am about what would happen if he were forced to miss any time. At this point it would be ugly.
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