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Friday, August 12, 2011

NFL Preseason Predictions: August 13, 2011

Week 1 has gotten off to a good start with the exception of ATL.  Mike Smith decided to flip the script and won't be receiving a Christmas card from me this year after keeping Redman on the sidelines.  But let's move on and see what's on the schedule for Saturday.

Green Bay Packers vs Cleveland Browns: OVER 35

If it wasn't for Seneca Wallace I'd like GB in this game, but he is too much of a wild card to play the Packers with any confidence.  Instead, I like this game to go over.  10 of the last 12 GB preseason games have gone over the total, as well as 5 of the last 6 preseason games for CLE.  This might not mean much given the sample size and all the variables, but all the ingredients are in place to believe these trends will continue.
Pat Shurmur is determined to make his mark on this CLE team and get some early production out of them this preseason.  Yes, the same can be said for SF and CIN (and look how they performed yesterday), but I believe that all three CLE quarterbacks are capable of putting up some points.   McCoy will get time with the starters in the 1st quarter, while Wallace should play the 2nd and 3rd.  Jarrett Brown will likely get mop-up duty.  What I like about the latter two guys is their mobility.  You've seen how many times plays have broken down in these early games and it pays to have QB's who can run around and make things happen.  

On the other side, CLE is trying to install a 4-3 defense and they have a horrible punting situation right now.  This should provide more than enough opportunities for Matt Flynn to put some drives together.  All reports indicate that he's made more strides this year.  Behind him you have Justin Harrell who is being called the best 3rd string QB GB has had in 6 years.  Also don't be surprised if Randall Cobb makes some big plays in the return game.  The Packers just got back from the White House and might still be basking in that Super Bowl after-glow.  Prediction: Bank OVER 35.

Indianapolis Colts vs St Louis Rams: STL -7

The worst kept secret in the NFL is that IND doesn't care about the preseason whatsoever.  I was planning on using STL in a teaser, but I decided to take them straight after everything I've read.  The only thing worse than the Colts in the preseason is the Colts in the preseason without Peyton Manning.  Under Jim Caldwell, IND is 0-3 on the road ATS, 2-5 as an underdog ATS, 1-7 straight up, and 0-2 in the 1st week.  
Painter, Orlovsky, and Davis are scheduled to handle the action and they are not exactly the most inspiring trio.  Caldwell doesn't do any preparation as he is most concerned about getting through the game without any injuries to their fragile set of skill players.  They are planning on using five drafted rookies and 15 undrafted free agents against STL. 

Things will get ugly for STL in the 2nd half, but they should be able to build up a nice lead before Taylor Potts and/or Thad Lewis take over.  The Rams bring stability at QB with Bradford and Feeley and coach Spags has proven that he likes to win in the preseason (6-2 over the last two seasons).   In fact, Bradford has openly said that he wants to play more than one or two series in this game and that he's going to try to score a touchdown everytime he gets the ball.  This is a refreshing approach because so many coaches and quarterbacks around the league are simply worried about understanding the playbook and limiting mistakes this year.  Norwood and Cadillac will backup Jackson at RB and there is heavy competition at the WR spot.  Also keep an eye on RC TE Lance Kendricks. Roll with the Rams and lay the points. Prediction: Bank STL -7.

Minnesota Vikings vs Tennessee Titans: MIN +3.5

If you shop around you can find the hook for MIN, but I would still make this a play at +3 as well.  There are no trends to speak for either side as MIN and TEN have new coaches that were promoted from within.   At first glance, you would think that there isn't really much that differentiates these teams in this game.  Both have brought in veteran WCO quarterbacks and plan to groom newly drafted rookies behind them.  
Not so fast my friend.  Christian Ponder hasn't been the greatest in camp so far and he's not a lock to have the number two QB position behind Mcnabb.  He did receive a partial playbook at the draft, but the Vikings are protecting him a bit and plan to start him as the number three guy for this game.  Joe Webb has a better grasp on the offense and will likely be with the second team.  He also has great athletic ability to compensate for a glitchy game-plan.  Mcnabb knows the language of this offense and should be good to go from the start.

Things aren't as promising for TEN.  Hasselbeck has had a lot of trouble understanding the verbiage of this system and is only scheduled to play one series (maybe two depending on the drive).  After that it's the Jake Locker show.  All TEN coaches are looking for from him is to "handle pressure, stay patient, and manage the clock".   The playbook has been stripped down to its bare bones for this matchup.  Kenny Britt and Chris Johnson won't play and that should limit TEN's ability to put up quick points in the first quarter.  Coach Munchack has said that they haven't scripted any plays and have only prepared for "situations".  After Locker, Rusty Smith will come in and do his best not to embarrass himself.  I believe the wrong team is favored in this one.  Prediction: Bank MIN +3.5.
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