One week in the books and already some factors that favor some teams and threaten others are obvious. First, the Cleveland Browns might be real, real good. This is a team that won ten games last year in advancing to the playoffs and opening the postseaosn with a road win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In fact, the Browns won both their playoff point spread results last January, clipping the spread in a narrow loss at Arrowhead Stadium to the Kansas City Chiefs. Those two point spread winners was in contrast to how Cleveland backers did during the regular season. Five of the Browns straight up wins were reversed against the point spread. Their straight up mark of 11-5 reduced to 6-10 against the spread.
Cleveland opened the preseason in Jacksonville, and didn’t allow first pick in the draft quarterback Trevor Lawrence any points enroute to a 23-13 victory. While the Jaguars were in a likely let-down spot, backed heavily by public bettors and shifting from a home underdog to favorite on the spread, the Browns win is of note.
The Browns maintained their lead throughout the second half while the Jaguars had all the motivation from their home fans, is something I pay great attention to. That is, it is one thing for a team to win when they are supposed to, but when a team breaks a rule, wins when the situation is against them, those are special teams.
The Tennessee Titans opened the season with the swagger of a Super Bowl contender. Their one-sided win in Atlanta over the Falcons, 23-3, shows that the team that advanced to the AFC Championship Game two years ago and the playoff field last season is a seasoned threat.
The Buffalo Bills won in Detroit, and like the Titans, they have made steps towards a Super Bowl win with a progression that includes a postseason berth two years ago and a trip to the AFC Championship game last season. The Bills kept starting quarterback Josh Allen out of the opening preseason fray, but with just two preseason games left on the schedule, Allen is sure to get some practice reps before the Bills open the regular season at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Those three teams sparkled in first week of preseason action, and one team showed up rolling snake eyes for what might be the start of a very long and disappointing campaign.
The Minnesota Vikings have dealt with all sorts of distractions both on the field and off, and their performance at home on Saturday indicates head coach Mike Zimmer might be the front runner for first head coach fired this season.
The Vikings appeared close to breakthrough seasons in recent years, but with a quarterback who has a horrible record against teams with winning records and a coach seemingly losing control of his squad, the Vikings sound a sour chord this year.
Each week during the preseason more and more elements crystallize for each team’s strengths and weaknesses.
Teams perform on Sunday the way they prepare all week. Handicapping success relies on utilizing the preseason to be ready for when the season starts in September.