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Monday, August 22, 2011

NFL Preseason Predictions: August 25, 2011

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

UPDATE #2: The line has crossed the 7 at most places and even sits at -8 at a few others.  Given how bad the books have gotten beat the 1st two weeks, it's hard to blame them for making such a move.  They've taken a ton of the value out of this play.

UPDATE#3: Books moving line back to -7.  I was a little surprised they crossed 7 as I'm sure a lot of people grabbed the middle opportunity.  But these things happen much more in preseason than the regular season.

Cleveland Browns vs Philadelphia Eagles: PHI -6

The "dream team" enjoyed some grade "A" humble pie last week and you can be sure this squad still has a bitter taste in its mouth.  Yes it was the preseason, but it was also on national TV.  Reid has come out and said the starters will play into the 3rd quarter (and maybe 3 full quarters) on Thursday night.  UPDATE: Mike Patterson is cleared to play in Thursday's game. This will be a much welcomed addition to shore up the run defense--especially if Hillis gets some reps. Look for the starting crew to right the ship and build some chemistry heading into the season.  The O-line is still riddled with questions on Vick's blindside, but CLE's pass rush is less than stellar.  As it stands now, King Dunlap is handling the right tackle duties while Ryan Harris and Winston Justice are out with injuries.  PHI will provide him with help because once Dunlap gives up half a step, he’s beat.  DET exposed CLE's backups last week and that lack of quality depth is going to hurt them in the 4th quarter.

CLE do have some positives to bring into this game--starting with Colt McCoy.  The kid has been lights out this preseason despite facing significant pressure and being without starting tailback Peyton Hillis.  The run defense looks improved, but PHI is a pass-happy team. The Eagles will stretch the field and force them to cover every inch of the field.

On the flip side, CLE have a lot of things to worry about on Thursday.  First up, they could be without 8 significant players that includes Massaquoi, Hillis, Moore, and Cribbs.  Massaquoi is the closest thing this team has to a number one receiver. Greg Little has talent, but he’s working on raw ability alone at this point. If Hillis could go he would give McCoy some much needed blitz pickup skills.  Moore and Cribbs have done an excellent job creating mismatches in the short-passing game and exploiting zones over the middle this preseason.  Without these two in the lineup, McCoy is going to find life difficult under pressure.

Making matters worse, this is an offense that is predicated largely on rhythm and timing.  When you have the kind of pass rush that PHI has, McCoy could sputter.  CLE have enough trouble overcoming their own mistakes (dropped passes, penalties, missed tackles, fumbles), so this game will likely be chalked up to a "learning experience".  Seneca Wallace, once thought to be a major asset because he was familiar with the WCO, has suddenly become a liability as the backup.  He's been off-target for much of the preseason. When you matchup the starters for 3 quarters, CLE are simply too out-matched and undermanned to keep this within a touchdown. UPDATE: Pat Shurmer said the starters will play at least a half, and possibly into the 3rd quarter.  Moore returned to practice, but it's unknown if or how long he will play on Thursday.   Prediction: Bank PHI -6.

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