Week 3 is often regarded as the dress rehearsal for the regular season. Starters usually play into the second half, and second stringers finish the game up in the 4th. In other words, week 3 is the closest football handicappers will get in the preseason to betting on “a real game”.
On Saturday, the Miami Dolphins will make the short trip to Raymond James Stadium for a preseason bout with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers are a team with high hopes this season. They expect to take a big step forward under their young signal caller, Josh Freeman. If week 2 of the preseason is any indication, the Buccaneers have a lot of work to do. The New England Patriots starters methodically picked Tampa apart for 28 points in the first half. The offense didn’t fair much better either, as they put up a big fat donut on the scoreboard. Josh Freeman certainly didn’t look the player people are expecting him to be this season. Freeman managed just a measly 33 yards on 5 of 10 passing, with a 57.5 QB rating. Following the game, Raheem Morris publicly stated that they didn’t prepare or have a game plan for the Patriots game, similar to many other teams in the preseason. That isn’t ground breaking news, but Morris was so upset over their performance, that he decided not to give them their scheduled time off on the weekend. Instead of resting up, the Buccaneers hit the weight room. He also called out several of his players, and plans on approaching the Dolphins game as a regular season game. Don’t expect the starters to play a full game, but the Buccaneers should be motivated given their lackluster performance last week. Raheem Morris had this to say to the media:
“The third game is always the greater game in the preseason, one we’re going to prep for, and hopefully this practice was able to shake away the Pats game a little bit.” “You get them in (the meeting room), and you cuss them out,” Morris said. “We were going to have two days off, but after a loss like that, you want to get them back on the field as soon as possible”.
The Dolphins on the other hand, had the honor of welcoming Cam Newton as a starting quarterback in the NFL last week. The defense managed to keep the Panthers anemic offense in check, only allowing 10 points and 199 total yards. However, they should be tested a little more from an upset Buccaneers team at home. From the offensive side of the ball, Chad Henne looked in control against the Panthers, passing for 194 yards on 15 of 24 passing. Henne is a difficult quarterback to pinpoint, sometimes he looks like a player that belongs in the NFL, and other times he looks like he should be holding a clipboard. I believe Henne will be content with his performance last week and coast through this one.
Above anything else, when looking to bet the preseason, a handicapper should diagnose a coach’s motivation. The attitude of Raheem Morris this past week reminds me of Mike Tomlin heading into week 2. Tomlin was visibly upset over the Steelers week 1 performance, and made a vow to make changes. Sure enough, the Steelers starters went out and throttled the Philadelphia Eagles. Now, the Steelers aren’t the Buccaneers; however, the mind set going into this game should be similar. I would be shocked if the Buccaneers don’t come out and make a response to the comments their coach made earlier in the week. The preseason is often referred to as a crap-shoot, but there are usually small bits of information that justifies picking a side. Definitely look at the team looking to make an impact at home.