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Monday, August 15, 2011

NFL Preseason Predictions: August 20, 2011

UPDATE: Line has moved to -3 for SEA.  5dimes still has it at -2.5.

UPDATE#2: Might be adding another play for Saturday depending on info/line movement.

For latest odds check out one of my trusted sportsbooks - 5 Dimes, Bodog or Intertops.

Tennessee Titans vs St Louis Rams: STL -3

5 Dimes has had STL at -3 all week, but I wanted to wait until more books moved the line before I put this out as a play (although I do highly recommend having an account at 5 Dimes.)   All reports indicate that TEN were very impressive in their week 1 game against MIN, but a closer look reveals some misconceptions.  Yes their defense played inspired ball, but they shut down a MIN offense that had problems all over the field.  Hasselbeck was a bright spot on offense, but let's not get carried away with Jake Locker.  Everyone saw the strong arm and improvisational skills for the touchdown, but if you watched the entire game you would have seen how many times he overthrew receivers.  Granted it was his first live NFL action, but this kid has a lot of work to do before he can be counted on as a legitimate NFL quarterback.  Munchak told his team to play with pride and that's what they did, but they'll need more than effort to topple STL on Saturday night.

Coach Spags indicated that the starters will get close to, if not the entire first half in this game.  This gives them an immediate edge over TEN because the Titans won't have Johnson at RB or Britt at WR.  Jackson will get some time, but he'll make way for Norwood/Williams before the rest of the starters.  The offensive line has looked good protecting Bradford and this second year QB is determined to make that big leap this season.  This fits perfectly with Spagnuolo's philosophy because he's 7-2 straight up as a preseason coach.  Bradford has looked much more confident, prepared, and comfortable this year.  The transition to Mcdaniels offense has been smooth as they've meshed some of the old system with the new one.  Right now most of the playbook is in place and should be much further ahead in their development than TEN's offense.  AJ Feeley isn't the best backup in the league, but he's should be able to out-duel Locker in the 2nd half.  Locker was correct when he said he expects to see more pressure from STL's defense than he did vs MIN's.  They won't make life easy on him and there is a lot of competition at a lot of positions so there won't be a dramatic fall off in intensity with STL's 2nd stringers.  Lay the points and take the home team--they are on the rise. Prediction: Bank STL -3.

Oakland Raiders vs San Fransisco 49ers: OAK +3

One of the biggest bright spots for OAK in week 1 was the fact that Jason Campbell remained upright.  Offensive line is one of the biggest question marks surrounding this team in 2011.   They may catch another break this week as defensive line depth isn't one of SF's strengths.  In fact, the entire SF defense has been suspect even before camp opened.  They haven't looked good in practices, lost 4 starters to injury/free agency, and now must "buy-in" and start from scratch.  OAK have a good QB battle going on for the 2nd spot and Boller/Edwards looked pretty good last week.  Advantage--Raiders.

Offensively, things don't get much prettier for SF.  Yes they weren't expecting rabid cover zero blitzing schemes from Williams in week 1, but both Smith and Kaepernick failed to respond.  The offensive game-plan is far behind schedule and the pass protection has been worse than anticipated.  The offense has worked on handing the blitz in practice, but they've been riddled with mistakes and sloppy play all week.  Making matters worse is the fact that OAK's strength is their ability to generate pressure without blitzing. Their front seven is very stout so Smith/Kaepernick will need to be more accurate to beat the coverage.  On the bright side, OAK has struggled in the secondary--especially after losing Asomugha.  Still, when a team is starting from scratch and installing new systems across the board, they are going to enter the game at a disadvantage.  I expect a better effort from SF, but not a better result.  Take the points and ride the Black and Silver.  Prediction: Bank OAK +3.

Minnesota Vikings vs Seattle Seahawks: SEA -2.5

MIN was my big disappointment from week 1.  I expected a whole lot more from Mcnabb and Webb, but their effort remained ugly from the get-go.  Given Webb's performance, he's been demoted to the 3rd string crew for week 2 which means Christian Ponder will get significant playing time with the two's.  But the question marks go far beyond the quarterback play for the Vikings.  The offense is still very much a work in progress and questions linger at wide receiver and running back.  The secondary struggled and there were glaring breakdowns on the offensive line.

Granted, it's important not to overreact to one week of preseason football and guys like Allen, Williams, and Winfield didn't play a single snap, but it's not a good sign when the question marks go right across the board.  Shiancoe will not play and don't expect a lot from Peterson either. UPDATE: Harvin ruled out.

SEA came through in week 1 like I expected.  The combination of Whitehurst and Portis at QB provided enough offense in the 2nd half to pull out the win.  Jackson has already been anointed the starting job, but that will continue to be a source of contention if Whitehurst outplays him for a 2nd straight week.  I like this kind of QB competition for my preseason picks and this game carries added interest for the former Vikings on the roster (Jackson, Rice, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell).   Williams is on track to return after suffering a toe injury.   Also look for some nice returns on special teams as Longwell isn't the most prolific touchback kicker.  Prediction: Bank SEA -2.5.
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