by Micah Roberts
Thursday’s NFL action kicked off the season to a starving football audience, albeit pre-season games. The two early moves got there for the players as the Ravens and Raiders won and covered. The Ravens opened as a -3 ½-point favorite and were pushed to five -- where the game eventually landed 17-12 -- while the Raiders as a dog saw action getting +4 ½ and dropping to +3 by kickoff.
Overall, the line moves for the week went 7-7 with the two biggest moves of the week not getting there for the players. The Texans went from pick ’em to -2 ½ at Arizona and lost 19-16. The Rams went from +1 to -2 ½ and lost 28-7 to the Vikings.
Take a look at some of these rosters, in particular for next week’s wave of games and then the final week. In week three of the pre-season, just about every team will play their starters through the first half, and in some instances will go mid-way through the third quarter, but in the weeks sandwiched around that critical week, it’s all about the coaches taking a look at their squad before they decide who makes it and who gets cut.
When making a wager on the games, you’ll want to feel confident about the back-up quarterback and the third-stringer, the guys running the show for the majority of the game. The only team that really gives a good vibe for all three is Baltimore with Joe Flacco, Marc Bulger, and Troy Smith.
Atlanta comes with a seasoned back-up of Chris Redman making them an attractive pre-season team. Even though the Browns have an anemic offensive game plan, Seneca Wallace has always been one of the better pre-season quarterbacks because he makes things happen on the fly, which usually has to happen because not everyone is comfortable with their assignments.
Jimmy Clausen looked outstanding for the Panthers and showed that he has much more confidence out there than the starter Matt Moore. He didn’t look like any rookie I have seen in game conditions recently. He played smart, scanned the field, read defenses, and had that sixth sense of awareness in the pocket. I think he might become a pretty good one.
Tim Tebow’s play in the fourth quarter of Denver’s loss to Cincinnati had mixed reviews. He made some good throws and some bad, he felt the pressure of the pass rush and moved well and then he didn’t. One thing is for sure though; the two Bengals defensive backs who got in his way as he came full speed into the end zone as time expired will find another approach to tackling Tebow should they ever meet again. Three bodies met going full speed, one went in for the touchdown and the other two got knocked down like bowling pins, one of which didn‘t get up until TV coverage stopped. I’m not sure how much playing time we’ll see out of Tebow this year, but Bronco fans are sure to want to see some more of that type of action on offense regardless of where he plays.
This seasons break out fantasy star looks to be Chargers rookie running back Ryan Mathews whose fresh young legs will fill in for the departed LaDainian Tomlinson. The last two seasons, a lot of the Chargers deficiencies rested with their lack of a running game with blame being placed at Phillip Rivers taking over and wanting to pass along with a struggling run blocking offensive line. But the real culprit was Tomlinson who plain and simply just got old and lost a step.
Mathews has that zip in his step and should put up numbers that would warrant him a legitimate top-five back in the draft. The system he’s in should allow for him to gain over 4 yards per carry which will be a welcome sight for the Chargers who watched Tomlinson gain only 3.3 yards per carry last year. Mathews is the feature back and will score double digit touchdowns and rush for over 1,400 yards, not to mention all the dump offs he’ll get from Rivers as well.