NFL Preseason Betting: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Miami Dolphins Preview
Neither one of these coaches have any preseason experience as the guy calling the shots, but we have a very clear message coming out of each camp.
In fact, Greg Schiano might have made our jobs very easy with his recent comments to the media,
"I want to make sure we keep it simple enough so we can evaluate our guys," said Schiano. "I don’t want the reason that a guy didn’t make a block, a tackle, a catch or a run to be that he didn’t know what he was doing. Right now I want to evaluate their physical ability to play against people in a competitive arena. We're in a game-plan week, but we didn’t game plan at all."
When a coach comes out and says that they didn't game plan at all, that's music to our ears.
Meanwhile, Joe Philbin is ramping up the QB competition with each passing day,
"In no way is this competition over," Philbin said on HBO's Hard Knocks. "This is a reflection of what's gone on up to this point in time at training camp. Our minds are not made up at all. I hope you know, if you have a problem with that you should talk to (assistant quarterbacks coach) Zac (Taylor) about it, talk to Sherm (offensive coordinator Mike Sherman) about it, talk to me about it."
The Dolphins opened -3, but there was a short move towards the Bucs. After hanging out at -2.5 for a while, the line has moved back to -3. Seventy-five percent of the bets have come in on Miami. I expect that trend to continue leading up to game time.
Who covers the spread?
In the QB department, we have a significant mismatch going on. The Tampa Bay rotation is fairly set. Coaches say they want Dan Orlovsky to push Josh Freeman, but this depth chart is just a matter of semantics at this point. Is Orlovsky really an upgrade over Josh Johnson? I have my doubts there.
Brett Ratliff rounds out this crew, but practice squad QB's don't usually come out of nowhere to lead the way in preseason action.
In Miami, David Garrard has the inside track on the starting position, with Matt Moore and Ryan Tannehill serving as the No. 3. As Philbin said, this competition is far from over, and performance in preseason games is going to tell the story. This is perhaps the most competitive QB battle in the league, and there is more than enough incentive to drive the field and put up points.
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
Both of these teams are looking to make some headway in 2012. There are more areas that need improving than I have time to list, but let's take a quick look at where each coach will put under the microscope.
The Bucs were atrocious against the run last season, and this could be priority No. 1 during the preseason. In fact, improvement in all areas on this side of the ball is welcomed. Camp battles exist at linebacker and at the nickel spot. Grabbing Vincent Jackson indicated a need at WR, but depth at the position will also be important. Arrelious Benn is out of the mix with an injury.
The Dolphins have obvious focus on the passing game, but they also need to shore up the pass protection from 2011. The red-zone offense and third-down conversion rate is also sure to be an area of focus. The wide receiving options aren't great, but there isn't going to be complex defensive schemes to contend with either.
Finally, Miami will want to pay extra attention to its pass defense. Vontae Davis has already been relegated to the nickel spot at camp in favor of Richard Marshall.
I like what Tampa Bay has done in the offseason, especially acquiring Jackson, Doug Martin, Eric Wright, Carl Nicks, Mark Barron, and Dallas Clark, but Greg Schiano is trying to whip this roster into shape with discipline and a focus on fundamentals. Miami's game plan is much more straightforward: get production.
I loved the Dolphins at -2.5, but I still like them at -3 too.
NFL Pick: MIA -3.
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