NFL Handicapping: Preseason Week 4
by Trevor Whenham - 8/26/2013
The fourth week of the NFL Preseason is really stupid. Really, the whole preseason is stupid, but the fourth week is the most offensive. Teams don’t care. Stars don’t play. It’s a cash grab. In most cases you need to be really desperate as a bettor to seek out action in the fourth week — especially because it corresponds with the opening week of the college football season. In a (very) few cases, though, there are reasons to watch these games that are little more than an NFL cash grab.
Here are six games with at least a little bit of a reason to pay attention (all games take place on Thursday, Aug. 29):
Detroit at Buffalo
There are not many reasons to be excited about the Lions in this one. They know what they are, and they are just looking to get to the regular season intact. The only potential storyline for them is whether Kellen Moore can continue to play himself into a role as the third QB on the roster — though it seems likely that the team will keep him around. What makes this game interesting, though, is Buffalo. They worked hard this offseason to change course at quarterback, but they have been met by a whole lot of bad luck so far. First round pick E.J. Manuel looked like he was going to win the job, but then he got hurt — and at this point it’s not yet clear when he will be healthy and ready. Kevin Kolb seemed like he would be the early starter, but a Week 3 head injury has muddied the waters, and his fate is unknown as I write this. The team has signed Matt Leinart as a stopgap. Will he play? Will either of the top two be close to returning? How will the team respond to the turmoil and the change? How they respond here could give us clues to how they might respond when games matter.
New Orleans at Miami
The biggest thing we learned in Week 3 from the Saints is that their offensive line can struggle to protect the QB at times — and J.J. Watt wasn’t even playing for the Texans. With an older QB who is incredibly valuable and has had injury issues, this is a real concern. Brees isn’t likely to play much, but the offensive line will be in the spotlight. Was last week an anomaly, or is the unit a real concern? It will be hard to know for sure because Miami won’t tip their hand with their front seven, but anything we can learn will be useful.
Philadelphia at N.Y. Jets
The Jets have drama at QB at least on par with the Bills. Geno Smith has been lousy in preseason action and was particularly poor in his opportunity in Week 3. Mark Sanchez seemed to have the starting job wrapped up, but then Rex Ryan pulled a Rex Ryan. He put Sanchez in the game in the fourth quarter of a meaningless game, and the QB hurt his shoulder. His status isn’t known at this point, but it didn’t look good. That puts huge pressure on Smith. Will he respond better here than he did last week? How will Ryan use him after the Sanchez debacle?
Jacksonville at Atlanta
Neither team has a whole lot on the line here. This is the only game on the tab, though, in which both teams have yet to record a preseason win. Records don’t matter in the preseason — the Lions went 4-0 the year they went 0-16 in the regular season — but no team wants to get skunked in August. The Jaguars can’t be too surprised they are where they are, and starting QB Blaine Gabbert has been sidelined with an injury, so this game is even less important than it might be for them. The Falcons view themselves as serious Super Bowl contenders, though, so this flat August performance is just plain embarrassing. Without compromising their regular season, can they show the pride and determination to end things off on the right note?
Green Bay at Kansas City
I had one of those “wow” moments when I heard that the Packers had dumped Graham Harrell after Week 3 of the preseason and had presumably handed the backup job to Vince Young. I hadn’t expected that. We’ll get a chance to see more of Young here, and now that we know what is in store for him we’ll get a chance to assess whether he is really up for that challenge or whether the health of Rodgers should be even more of a concern than normal.
San Francisco at San Diego
Last year the Niners had very enviable QB depth — enough to cause controversy. This year they have issues. Colin Kaepernick is the obvious starter and a potential superstar. Behind him, though, there is uncertainty. They had four potential backups on the roster in Week 3 — never a good sign. This game could provide a bit more clarity towards what they will do — and how much we should panic if Kaepernick is injured.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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