NFL preseason set to end with usual thud
We’ve reached the final week of the NFL preseason, which is always shunned since it’s invariably the least riveting week of the year. The opener is always packed with excitement, while weeks 2 and 3 end up deciding position battles and roster spots.
Outside of the rescheduled Washington-Tampa Bay game that now gets its own stage, the Thursday night card is overshadowed by the start of the college football season. Between an SEC opener between South Carolina and Vandy as well as Oregon State’s visit to Minnesota, those will be more compelling than anything that goes down on the NFL gridiron besides, of course, Colin Kaepernick. The eyes of the sports world will be on San Diego when that game starts, as he’ll likely play so long as he hasn’t been cut.
Watching Tony Romo get cracked in the back by Seahawks DE Cliff Avrilwill give most every other coach pause about putting anyone of significance into the mix before the season opener, so handicapping this week’s action is entirely about determining roster depth and backing the second and third-string quarterbacks who will play.
Since we do have lines available and wagers will be made, here are a few angles to be aware of as we put the preseason to bed.
Week 4 NFL exhibition snapshot
‘Skins at Bucs: Indiana product Nate Sudfeld, one of many rookies seeing extensive action this week, will start and is expected to play all of this one for Washington. Tampa’s defense recorded eight sacks against Cleveland on Friday, the most in a preseason game since 2000. They’ll likely feature Ryan Griffin, who they like enough to keep as the third-stringer. He played extensively at Tulane and was with the Saints for a few years trying to break in. This contest was moved up due to threat of severe weather.
Jets at Eagles: Young projects Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg each had their moments this preseason, while Geno Smith was lustily booed and could be on the market, so it will be interesting to see how Todd Bowles rotates his QBs here. We know we won’t see No. 2 pickCarson Wentz, whose rib fracture hasn’t healed enough for him to participate, which meansChase Daniel and McLeod Bethel-Thompson will handle the bulk of this one as they try and close out the preseason a perfect 4-0.
Jaguars at Falcons: Jacksonville just played on Sunday night, rallying to beat Cincinnati, so Atlanta definitely has an edge in recovery time since they last worked on Thursday in Orlando, losing to Miami 17-6. With veterans Matt Schaub and Matt Simms looking to close out with a strong performance at the Georgia Dome, the Falcons are rightfully favored.
Titans at Dolphins: Miami is making its season home debut and has largely struggled despite a 2-1 record. With Matt Moore having locked up the No. 2 QB spot, Zac Dysert and rookie Brandon Doughty will entertain the handful of spectators who show up to the newly renamed Hard Rock Stadium. Tennessee failed to score an offensive touchdown with its backups on Saturday night, so the under could be worth a whirl since Alex Tanney will likely play the bulk of this one for the visitors.
Patriots at Giants: These teams have played the final game of the preseason every year since 2005, and Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin typically played low-scoring games, even producing a 6-3 result once. This will be Ben McAdoo’s first chance against the master and despite a 21-20 Snoopy Bowl win on Saturday night, his Giants backups have looked extremely shaky. New England is looking for its first perfect preseason since ’03 when it went on to win Super Bowl XXXVIII. It wouldn’t be surprising to see rookie Jacoby Brissett start and play the entire game here.
Bills at Lions: After having a game-winning TD against Washington nullified by offensive pass interference, Buffalo visits Detroit. Rookie Cardale Jones has a shoulder injury hindering him, which means E.J. Manuel might play the majority of this one. Detroit rookie Jake Rudock will likely get a long look.
Colts at Bengals: Indy’s offensive line issues cut Andrew Luck’s night short against Philadelphia, so he’ll be holding a clipboard. Stephen Morris has been very productive, so look for him to get the bulk of the work on the road in Cincinnati, likely squaring off against Keith Wenning and rookie Joe Licata.
Steelers at Panthers: Carolina’s Joe Webb led a pair of scoring drives against the Patriots at home, so he’ll be riding a little momentum into this one. Pittsburgh finally got its first win at New Orleans after being outscored 47-17 in its first two home games. Bruce Gradkowski has yet to play this preseason, which means late signee Bryn Renner will likely handle the bulk of the workload here.
Packers at Chiefs: Kansas City’s Alex Smith would be on the short list for preseason MVP if there was such a thing given how efficient he’s been, so the Chiefs won’t look at good as they have with Tyler Bray, Aaron Murray and Kevin Hogan taking most of the snaps. Green Bay has allowed an average of 11 points per game through three preseason contests. Rookies Joe Callahan andMarquise Williams will work at QB for the Pack.
Ravens at Saints: New Orleans will try and avoid a winless preseason for the second consecutive year, but they got rocked 38-10 at Green Bay in this spot last year, which suggests Sean Paytonwon’t be losing too much sleep over this one. John Harbaugh, who has one of the highest preseason winning percentages among all active head coaches, will be looking to go 4-0.
Texans at Cowboys: Because Romo’s injury elevated rookie Dak Prescott into a starting role, snake-bitten Dallas will likely ride Kellen Moore and Jameill Showers here. Ironically, former Cowboys castoff Brandon Weeden should see a lot of time here as he’ll look to help Houston wrap up a perfect preseason. Starter Brock Osweiler and backup Tom Savage combined to post a 158.0 QB rating in Sunday’s 34-24 win over Arizona.
Bears at Browns: These two come in 0-3 and have largely looked terrible outside of Robert Griffin III showing some signs of life in his new digs. He won’t play here, so even by preseason Week 4 standards, this one may wind up unwatchable.
Rams at Vikings: Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer has made no secret of his preference to win every game his team plays and has improved to 11-1 in preseason action with this year’s 3-0 start. Top pick Jared Goff has had a terrible opening to his career and got banged up in Saturday’s 17-9 loss at Denver, so L.A.’s attack should be led by Sean Mannion and Dylan Thompson.
Broncos at Cardinals: The Denver defense has largely shined, but they could struggle here with so many final cuts likely to play the bulk of this one, depreciating the product. Carson Palmerhas been terrible this preseason, but he’ll be watching backups Drew Stanton, Matt Barkley andJake Coker here.
49ers at Chargers: The controversial Kaepernick has stolen the spotlight here, so it will be intriguing to see how he’s treated by both the San Diego crowd and the opposing defense after his controversial stance on the national anthem. Rookie Mike Bercovici had a chance to steal a cover for San Diego at Minnesota last week but was picked off in the end zone, so we’ll see how he responds closing this one out.
Seahawks at Raiders: Oakland rookie Connor Cook will get a long look in front of the home fans, who barely saw him last week since he didn’t check in until the late stages of the fourth quarter. Seattle has seen what it wanted to out of rookie Trevone Boykin to settle on him as Russell Wilson’s backup, which means Jake Heaps will look to help the Seahawks close out on a winning note.