The New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles will kickoff the second full week of National Football League preseason action tonight when they tangle at Lincoln Financial Field. Like the coaches and players, we at Qoxhi are just getting a handle on how the three preseason games schedule will govern the play on the field.
There was a rhytom long established on how coaches got their teams ready in a four game preseason format. Now, with one less game, will this be more like a third week game of the past or second?
Turns out, it is different for different coaches.
Historically, third week preseason games were the contests that most teams played their starters for an extended period, while the fourth game was left to test marginal players who could be affected by the teams’ final cuts. The third week play for the starters also gave them two weeks to prepare for the regular season openers without facing the bumps and bruises of live game action.
Now, the teams have a built in longer period between the final preseason game and start of the regular season. The preseason will end next week and the regular season doesn’t kickoff for three weeks. Which means, starters could see more action in the final week of preseason play and still have more than a week between that action and the start of the regular campaign.
This makes a huge difference from a handicapping perspective in the preseason. More than talent, most preseason game results are more tied to the coaching game plans.
This week, the Redskins have already shown they are going to play more of their starters for their game tomorrow against the Cincinnati Bengals, while the visitors appear to have a preparation schedule that will play more of their starters for an extended period next week.
Two of the better teams in the league, the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks, are decided underdogs to the Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos this week based much more on coaches objectives than team talent.
Two teams couldn’t be more different matchup on Saturday when the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Detroit Lions.
The Steelers have won a record six Super Bowls in franchise history, the Lions have never participated in a Super Bowl and last won a postseason game in 1991. The Steelers have had three head coaches since the team hired Chuck Noll in 1969. Following Noll after his Hall of Fame career ended in 1991, was Bill Cowher, who also led the Steelers to a Super Bowl and was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Since 2007, Mike Tomlin has guided the Steelers fortunes, and he too has a Super Bowl win to his credit.
While that trio of head coaches have been guiding the Steelers fortunes, the Detroit Lions have had 18 head coaches and only three of them ended their Detroit tenures with a winning won/loss record.
So, how can we expect anything but a huge Steelers win when Pittsburgh opens their home preseason schedule on Saturday?
We can, because while this preseason the Steelers have won both their practice games, they played an extra one by virtue of meeting the Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame Game, the Steelers have not scored with their initial lineup on the field. Veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has not yet seen August game action, but the rest of the starters that have participated have trailed at halftime in both their initial games.
Tomlin and the Steelers staff will not panic, they know their job is simply to get ready for the games that count. But a young team like the Lions, under first-year head coach Dan Campbell, will have preseason motivation to punch a win against their more talented hosts.
Qoxhi Picks: Detroit Lions (+6½) over Pittsburgh Steelers