Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Pre-season week 4 preview (part 1)

We'll start briefly with some news and then we'll hit the preview for the first eight of Thursdays 16 pre-season games. -- Brett Favre catches our attention first. Favre has told Sports Illustrated that he is unsure whether his ankle will hold up to the rigors of the season ahead. Which is basically Favre speak for "I'm not sure how well we're going to play this season, best divert blame from myself". Nice to see him getting the excuses in early after a less than stellar game against the Seahawks. -- The NFL competition committee has concluded that Peyton Manning was right; the rule on the refs new position should be changed to specifically accommodate teams that run a no-huddle offense outside of the final two minutes of a half. And people wonder where fans get the idea that the NFL is being deliberately contorted into a pass first league or that teams like the Colts get favourable treatment? Think about the tuck rule for a minute. How long have we had that rule? How many times have pro-players from both sides of the ball, offense and defense, from all positions, complained about that? How many times have people spoken out against it? How many Head Coaches have complained about that stupid, mother f***ing tuck rule? But here we are, in 2010, with the rule still in place. Yet when Manning speaks out about a new rule, it's been changed almost immediately! Literally less than a week later and the rule has been altered! Are you kidding me? -- And finally, Jay Glazer of FoxSports has reported on his twitter account that several of his sources are telling him that the Cardinals have indeed begun to shop QB Matt Leinart. There's no word so far on what the asking price might be but it's unlikely to amount to anything more than a conditional pick in 2011. Right. Preview time!! It's week 4 of the pre-season so be prepared to see very little of the marquee names, while keeping a beady eye out for some hard fighting rookies and fringe veterans. Starting with: -- Bills @ Lions: Stoppable force meets movable object. Namely, the Bills offense against the Lions D. It's unlikely that C.J. Spiller will be called upon to play after a very impressive showing already in the pre-season. That leaves the Bills back at square one; leaning on a QB nobody trusts (any of them) throwing to receivers that nobody has faith in (any of them except maybe Lee Evans). Helping their cause is the potential that Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch will not play, leaving the Lions defense back at square one; .... just plain terrible. So all eyes are on their offense. With Jahvid Best and Matthew Stafford watching from the sidelines, it's the perfect opportunity for Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton to battle for the back up QB job, while Aaron Brown and Kevin Smith fight for what looks like a place behind Best. -- Bengals @ Colts: Work of art laid out on the turf of Lucas Oil stadium. Or not, as the case may be. Curtis Painter will undoubtedly step up to the plate once more for the kind of unique spectacle that only he can provide. I'm flipping the coin of destiny now..... and it says heads; Painter has a good game! Stupid coin. So there you have it, scientific methodology at its best. Curtis Painter will rock the field on Thursday. As for the Bengals, my main focus is on the members of my rookie watch list, namely; WR Jordan Shipley, DT Geno Atkins, LB Roddrick Muckelroy and WR Dezmon Briscoe. It's unlikely that Carson Palmer will play for anything more than a few snaps, if that, so I'm not holding out high expectations of the two receivers. That said, if there was ever a way to get noticed on a team that possesses Chad Ochocino and Terrell Owens, then it's to make the back up QB (and me) look good. C'mon lads. -- Patriots @ Giants: The other New England/New York battle. At least we know this much about this game; the Jets hate both of them and they both hate the Jets. With that out of the way, down to business. Looking over the Patriots roster you kind of wonder whether they'll even miss Tom Brady, providing Zac Robinson and Brian Hoyer can avoid having a truly chronic game. Defensively there are a few more questions and holes, but this is what pre-season is all about. Looking at the Giants roster, I'm not even sure who will start at the receiver position. They're so thin that it's worrying, but I'm guessing Victor Cruz will get another chance to shine. On the defense, rookies DT Linval Joseph and DE Jason Pierre-Paul are unlikely to have a better chance than this to shine. -- Falcons @ Jaguars: Shocking end to pre-season. Will another Jaguars game be delayed by lightning? Will another Jaguars game be blacked out on TV? Will another Jaguars game be blacked out by lightning? Who knows. Providing the elements and the TV networks play ball, then we can see the Jaguars and Falcons play ball too. For the Falcons it's another great opportunity for DE Kroy Biermann and rookie DT Corey Peters to showcase their skills. Expect Sean Weatherspoon (rookie watch list) to go all out and show the Falcons what he can do to. I imagine the Jaguars will give Luke McCown another chance to shine and pile pressure on David Garrard. I'm hoping that Tyson Alualu (rookie watch list) (I really should post that somewhere on the sidebar) will be let loose again against an O-line that hasn't really inspired confidence this off season. I'm also intrigued to see how rookie DT Kommonyan Quaye gets on, for no other reason than having a spectacularly brilliant name. -- Panthers @ Steelers: Quarterback battles all the rage. So far, this is what we've deduced from watching Dennis Dixon and Byron Leftwich battle for the starting QB job in Pittsburgh; that Charlie Batch should probably get it. Batch is the only one who looks remotely comfortable behind that O-line and may get a lengthy shot on Thursday. After lengthy spells for the other running backs, I'm hoping to see Mewelde Moore get a proper chance to light up the field. It's unclear how much time the Panthers starting D-line will get to prove that their last game wasn't a fluke, but even the number twos should provide some fireworks. I'll be watching for rookie LB Eric Norwood (watch list) to put in a good showing as well. Offensively stay tuned for WR(s) Brandon LaFell and Armanti Edwards, as well as RB Mike Goodson. The QB job is still up in the air (no pun intended) so Moore and Clausen may have to put on the gloves and fight it out for a fourth round once again. -- Jets @ Eagles: The F***ing Jets, visit f***ing Philly for a f***ing game of f***ball. And time for a good test of their Revis-less secondary. More to the point, time to test rookie CB Kyle Wilson (watch list) to see whether he can fill in opposite Cromartie. The entire line-backing corps will also be worth watching to see how much pressure they can generate without Calvin Pace. If you start seeing blitzes from the slot, then be worried. The Eagles will probably turn the reins over to Michael Vick and Mike Kafka for the day, shielding Kevin Kolb from the Jets pass rush and the Philly press after a less than awesome start to his reign as the Eagles starting QB. Defensively I'm keyed in on rookie DT Jeff Owens (watch list) and veteran DE Juqua Parker trying to get his job back. -- Ravens @ Rams: Bulger has a point to prove. Literally. Returning back to the team that cut him loose, Bulger will be out to show that Rams that given the right toys to play with he can get the job done. Keep an eye out also for "Mount Cody" to get a full game against a Rams offense that has taken off under the guidance of Sam Bradford, but may just fall back flat on its face with Keith Null or Thaddeus Lewis under center. For the Rams the rookie watch list throws up WR Mardy Gilyard and CB Jerome Murphy. Murphy in particular might benefit if the Ravens continue with their aerial approach to the 2010 season. WR Danario Alexander is still injured I believe. Here's rooting as well for rookie TE Michael Hoomanawanui to carry the flag for players with awesome names. -- Bears @ Browns: Time for rookie QBs to show us what they've got. Namely Dan LeFevour for the Bears and Colt McCoy for the Browns. LeFevour was highly touted heading into the draft and projected to be possibly the 3rd QB to come off the board. He ended up sinking into the 6th round, being taken 181st overall. Now is the time to prove all those doubters wrong with a strong showing. Just a shame he has to do it with the O-line, receiving corps and RBs of the Bears. McCoy has a slightly easier task in the sense that it's slightly easier to find a needle in a haystack with the aid of a magnifying glass than it is without. To be fair he did put together a solid drive near the end of his last game, but ultimately still came up short. He certainly hasn't taken to the NFL like a certain Monsieur Tebow, but at least there are promising signs. Somewhere. Under that haystack. Look out as well for RB Montario Hardesty (rookie watch list) who apart from sounding like he should be a character in an Alexandre Dumas novel, is also known to carry the football. That then is eight games down, which leaves eight games for tomorrow. Then at some point on Thursday I've got to come back and review them all. Chances are I'll split the games into two posts. I will also endeavour to put the rookie watch list up somewhere where you can see it permanently; try and move the clickable ads around into a more manageable space (might as well try and claw back some revenue for the time invested); and also mess about with fonts to try and make it look a little less bland. As always any free word of mouth/e-mail/telephone/twitter/facebook promotion you care to give me is greatly appreciated, and you can still send me abusive e-mails about why I should pay more attention to 'Advanced NFL Stats' ( at: Till tomorrow, Have a great day everyone.

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