We enter uncharted territory this week when the National Football League plays their third and final preseason game. “Uncharted” because the league has never ended a preseason with a third game before, and historically third week contests during a four game preseason have featured the most action by projected starters.
Are the teams going to use their starters more this week given it is a third game and they have two weeks to prepare for their regular season openers?
Are teams going to use this final exhibition contest to primarily evaluate marginal players for the critical cuts coming up before the season starts?
Do teams playing more starters have a huge advantage over teams simply evaluating marginal talent?
While these different objectives will influence the results on the field, how will we know what each team’s game plan is?
This is where the preseason offers an advantage not available in the regular campaign and serves up two reliable ways to know what teams are playing more starters and which squads are counting on the experience of their players to have them ready for the regular season. The first advantage is this; coaches tell the truth in the preseason.
While the competitiveness of the regular campaign will have coaches shade the truth on the availability of players, particularly at quarterback, in the preseason the coaches have no need to use that clandestine edge. If a recently injured player is questionable to be able to play in the next regular season game, coaches will keep it questionable to force an opponent to prepare for multiple players even if they know his availability.
No such shenanigans are utilized in the preseason when both sides are essentially working together to prepare for games that count.
The second way to evaluate which teams are looking to play more starters and which teams are manned by athletes that may not be on the opening day roster, is to follow the books lead. They will shift point spreads that illuminate teams that are resting starters or playing first line athletes. The books have resources that make their evaluations more reliable than simple news stories, and those assessments are always reflected in the point spread shifts.
Here is one the books are shouting from the rooftops; the Chicago Bears at Tennessee Titans.
The Titans have looked like one of the favorites to win it all based both on their development the past two years and their first two preseason games in 2021. Tennessee was on the road for both their initial practice games, at Atlanta and Tampa Bay, and won easily, 23-3 and 34-3, respectively.
That’s right, Mike Vrabel’s team has outscored their first two opponents by a combined 57-6 margin which includes a 31 point margin of victory over the reigning Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
This week, they host the Chicago Bears, who got whipped last week by the Buffalo Bills on their home field, 41-15.
If the Titans have won easy twice and the Bears got slammed on their home field and this week’s game is in Tennessee how many points do you think the Titans are favored by on Saturday?
The Bears are favored.
First, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel is in covid protocol and second, the books know more than we do.
Qoxhi Picks: Chicago Bears (-2½) over Tennessee Titans