Submitted by Jim Feist on Wednesday, August 9, 2017 at 12:00 AM
by Jim Feist
The pro football preseason kicked off this past weekend in the Hall of Fame game as the Cardinals battled the Cowboys. Remember that each season is different, with players changing teams, new coaches and assistants coming aboard, and star college players joining the pros as highly touted rookies. August football offers fans their first peak at all the new additions.
It's a short week for Dallas, heading on the road again to Los Angeles to play the rebuilding Rams. The Cowboys didn’t care much about preseason last August, going 1-3 SU/ATS, including a Week 1 loss at these same Rams, 28-24. Their other road game they lost at Seattle, 27-17.
The extra work will probably be good for Arizona after a disappointing 2016 campaign despite high expectations. The Cardinals were lifeless last August, starting 0-3 SU/ATS and that continued in a Week 1 opening night loss to the Patriots as a home favorite. Coach Bruce Arians might want to see more of an effort this preseason.
Atlanta takes the field for the first time as a unit in a game at Miami. The Falcons have a loaded team on offense and a speedy young defense that impressed....until the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. They were involved in a high scoring Week 1 preseason game last August, topping Washington 23-17. They also played this Miami team in Week 3 and got routed on the road, 17-6. The Dolphins don't have much to proved this preseason, making the playoffs last year under first-year Coach Adam Gase. If there's any place they need to improve it's on defense, 30th in yards allowed and last in yards per attempt against the run.
Buffalo has a new coach in Sean McDermott after six seasons as the Carolina defensive coordinator. He's seen the playoffs a lot and even a Super Bowl, neither of which the Bills have experienced in a while. They face the Vikings this weekend, a team that has excelled in preseason under Mike Zimmer. Last August they lost QB Tedy Bridewater and it's still not known whether he will be back or healthy. They added Case Keenum this offseason, joining Sam Bradford, along with Taylor Heinicke, who’s never thrown a regular-season pass during his two years with the team.
The defending champion Patriots open the preseason at home against the Jaguars. The Pats certainly have nothing to prove with a loaded roster and 40-year old QB Tom Brady. Jacksonville has been stockpiling high draft picks for years but never seems to improve. They didn't even show much last preseason, going 1-3 while losing the opener, 17-13 at the NY Jets. For the record, Bill Belichick rarely uses franchise Tom in Week 1. Last August they smoked the Saints, 34-22, as Jimmy Garoppola played most of the way as Tom Terrific sat.
If there's any team that needs to see a QB emerge this August it's the Chicago Bears. They signed Mike Glennon and Mark Sanchez, while trading up and up and up for Mitch Trubisky. The Bears host the Broncos this weekend, a rematch of a Week 1 preseason game last August where Chicago was home but Denver stuffed the Bears, 22-0. Sanchez was with the Broncos that game and played well. 4 Chicago QBs combined for 82 yards passing, 7 sacks and a pick. Incentive for a better showing this August? About as much as you could find in Week 1.
The Jets host Tennessee this weekend and have plenty to prove after a train-wreck 2016 campaign (5-11). The offense was a turnover-machine and never got going, #30 in the NHL in points (17.2 ppg). QB Josh McCown looks like the starters with kids Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg vying for backup.
Seattle always seems to play hard for Coach Pete Carroll, even in August. They open the preseason at the new Los Angeles Chargers, who are playing in a ridiculously small stadium. Seattle won in Week 1 a year ago in preseason, 17-16 at Kansas City, before losing at home to Minnesota (18-11), then topping Dallas in Week 3 (27-17) beating Oakland on the road in Week 4 (23-21).
That's nothing new. After winning the Super Bowl they opened the preseason in a rematch and the Broncos won at home, 21-16. However, Carroll got his team up the next two weeks, crushing the Chargers (41-14) and Bears (34-6) at home.
The Washington Redskins open the preseason at Baltimore in an area rivalry game. Both have established veteran QBs, so the backups will be fighting for a job. The Redskins have QBs Colt McCoy and Nate Sudfeld, while the Ravens have Ryan Mallett and Dustin Vaughn backing up Joe Flacco. Mallett was impressive in Week 1 last August throwing for 91 yards on 11-of-15 passing in a 22-19 win over the defending NFC champion Panthers. Sudfeld and McCoy shared time in their opener, a 23-17 loss at Atlanta, where Sudfeld was sacked three times.
The veteran Saints open at Cleveland, a young Browns team that has plenty to prove after going 1-15.
Cleveland lost the 2016 preseason opener, 17-11, totaling 95 passing yards from four QBs! Last preseason the Browns scored 11, 13, 13 and 7 points (0-4). This season the Browns will sort through QBs Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan and rookie DeShone Kizer.
Finally, keep an eye on home field. In one recent season home teams went 21-10-1 against the spread the first two weeks of preseason. Two years later the home team went 10-5 SU/ATS the first week of exhibition play. There are edges in preseason football, you just have to know where to look and what to look for, even in August.