Friday Betting Notes
August 24, 2012
By Antony Dinero
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Philadelphia at Cleveland
Since the teams are set to square off when it counts on Sept. 9, this dress rehearsal will feature little that can be deemed conventional for a third preseason game. Michael Vick wasn't going to see much action, if any, but is now completely 'out' after taking a nasty hit to the ribs from New England's Jermaine Cunningham on Monday night. Nick Foles will try and continue his big week, playing about a half with Philadelphia's first and second units. With Mike Kafka still out, Trent Edwards will close out the game for the visitors.
Brandon Weeden is also going to see a half, according to head coach Pat Shurmur, but we're not likely to see anything but basic offense given the impending regular season opener. Colt McCoy, still on the trade block, will get time to showcase his skills. First-rounder Trent Richardson has been out since getting his knee scoped earlier this month, so with his status still unclear, don't count on backup RB Montario Hardesty getting much work. Brandon Jackson, coming off a field day against his ex-team, Green Bay, has a chance to rack up more preseason numbers.
The Eagles won't expose top weapon LaSean McCoy much, but it's an important game for rookie RBs Bryce Brown and Chris Polk, who both had nice fourth quarters against New England. Dion Lewis will play the McCoy role first, while Mardy Gilyard and Damaris Johnson will attempt to do their best DeSean Jackson's impersonation in an effort to open some eyes.
Atlanta at Miami
According to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Falcons new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is going to try and give Michael Turner an opportunity to stretch his legs in this third preseason game. It makes sense, since the passing game has flexed its muscle throughout the preseason. Turner and backups Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling are likely to get increased play. Snelling has been out for a lot of camp because of a right leg injury, so this is a chance for him to get up to speed against live bullets.
Ryan Tannehill has already been named the first opening day rookie starter in Dolphins history to polarizing reviews. Those that oppose the baptism-by-fire approach are lining up to say he'll be ruined for life if thrown to the wolves in Week 1, particularly with a receiving corps that boasts more question marks than the old-school Frank Gorshin-played Riddler's suit. Atlanta is looking to flex some muscle in the secondary, so this first half bears watching. Matt Moore is set to take over and play the bulk of the second half.
HBO's "Hard Knocks" has created a faction rooting for or against Dolphins backups, which will make the fourth quarter interesting even no matter what the score is. With popular Eric Steinbach having retired, there's healthy competition to fill a vacancy up front, while receiver Chris Hogan has assumed people's champion status in many minds as he attempts to earn a spot. Falcons backups, many fighting for their own lives, will undoubtedly welcome the possible increased exposure.
New England at Tampa Bay
As detailed on Monday with so many regulars taking the night off, the Patriots were looking forward to a week of joint practices and this dress rehearsal as their most serious work this preseason. Tom Brady has played the equivalent of a single quarter thus far, so this will likely be his one opportunity to do serious in-game work. New Bucs coach Greg Schiano wants to take advantage of this opportuity to see exactly where his team stands against one of the game's best teams, especially since they're not going in cold having held joint practices with them all week.
As dominant as the Brady-run Patriots offense can be, there's still roles to be carved out. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will return to the mix after joining Brady as inactives, but another performer set to get into the mix is potential downfield threat Brandon Lloyd. Look for New England to see how he fares against Aqib Talib and prized rookie safety Mark Barron, slated to play his second contest.
Tampa is expected to let its starters open the second half, but may be careful with LaGarrette Blount, who suffered a scary episode landing awkwardly last week. He returned to practice Monday and will join Josh Freeman in the backfield behind first-string left tackle Donald Penn, who will debut after missing the first pair of preseason games with a calf sprain. It will be interesting to see how he and maligned right tackle Jeremy Trueblood deal with impressive rookie Chandler Jones and Vick-killer Cunningham. TE Dallas Clark is also slated to see the most in-game reps he's seen to date since joining the Bucs.
San Diego at Minnesota
No, Adrian Peterson won't play, though it's a great sign that he's getting through non-contract practices without any knee swelling. The Vikings are still crossing their fingers he'll be ready for the opener and are attempting to get Christian Ponder more comfortable. His ability to continue clicking with Percy Harvin and impressive newcomer Jerome Simpson will go a long way in how effective the team can be early as Peterson shakes off rust.
The Chargers are going to be in discovery mode after losing arguably their top receiver, Vincent Brown, in last week's comeback victory over Dallas. That said, it might not be Philip Rivers out there auditioning the wideouts for very long, since uncertainty up front has Norv Turner thinking twice about exposing his All-Pro quarterback. Center Nick Harwick and left tackle Jared Gaither won't play, while left guard Tyrone Green is questionable after missing most of the week with a sore foot. Charlie Whitehurst, who shined against the Cowboys, would joing rookie Jarrett Lee in getting the bulk of the snaps against the Vikings.
With Brown out, it's up to a host of newcomers to separate themselves and impress the San Diego coaching staff, as head coach Norv Turner, offensive coordinator Hal Hunter and legendary receivers coach Charlie Joiner all have to come to a consensus. First-year Chargers Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal, Roscoe Parrish, Michael Spurlock and rookie Taylor Embree are attempting to standout alongside likely new No. 1 Malcom Floyd.
Chicago at N.Y Giants
Victor Cruz and the no-name gang remain Eli Manning's targets with Hakeem Nicks still out, so it remains to be seen how much Tom Coughlin exposes his two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Left tackle Will Beatty is out and it appears undersized veteran Sean Locklear is set to fill the void, but even given the likelihood that will continue to be the case entering the Sept. 5 season opener, it's still up in the air as to how long Manning will be out there with a compromised first-team offense.
It helps New York's cause that Brian Urlacher remains out of action after getting his knee scoped on Aug. 14. The gossip around Bears camp this week involved the Pro Bowl linebacker heading to Europe this past spring, a story that simply adds to the speculation that there's a lot more going on with him physically than he's letting on. Insisting he'll be ready Week 1, Urlacher remains out of preseason action and won't be a factor here. Defensive tackle Stephen Paea and safety Major Wright will also miss the contest. Both Julius Peppers and Lance Briggs are slated to participate in the first half.
Jay Cutler also gets an opportunity to do more work with his first-team offense after he, Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall skipped the opening preseason encounter and marched down the field in last week's meeting with the Redskins. Another name to watch is rookie Alshon Jeffery, who has looked dominant as an x-factor at receiver.
Seattle at Kansas City
It's Russell Wilson's world right now, and everyone including Matt Flynn is just living in it. Signed as the team's biggest free agency splash in March, Flynn may end up a backup despite signing a three-year $26 million contract. It's going to depend on how the rookie looks running with the regulars, an opportunity Pete Carroll is affording Wilson after watching him dominate reserves in consecutive weeks, twice bringing the Seahawks victories with dominant performances. If he remains the explosive dual threat he's been to date against Kansas City, it's very possible that Flynn winds up a very expensive clipboard-holder come Week 1. The former Packer was held out of Thursday's practice with arm soreness.
Another huge theme to watch from the Seahawks side is how Terrell Owens handles what is likely a make-or-break situation for the veteran former All-Pro. After dropping a sure touchdown from Flynn last week and failing to come up with a catch despite five targets in his Seattle debut a week ago, speculation is that his new team might run out of patience with him before the regular season even begins. With Braylon Edwards out-performing T.O and mainstays Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin getting healthier, this could be make-or-break for the controversial wide receiver. That definitely brings snarky implications to "get your popcorn ready."
Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe will see his first and potentially only preseason action after ending his holdout last Friday. It's unknown just how long the Chiefs top target will work with the first team and QB Matt Cassel, but there is plenty of curiosity regarding what type of shape he's in entering a critical season that will determine whether he'll eventually sign long-term with the only franchise he's ever played for. Bowe signed the equivalent of a one-year deal and will join a potentially explosive offense featuring last year's top pick Jonathan Baldwin, newcomer Kevin Boss and has seen Jamaal Charles and Tony Moeaki return from knee injuries.