|Date||Match Up||Rating||Score||Result||Profit||Lead Time||Analysis|
|08-26-18||Cardinals -2 v. Cowboys||Top||27-3||Win||100||12 h 20 m||Show|
10* Arizona (8:00 ET): Add the Cowboys to the list of teams who aren't taking the third week of the preseason very seriously. However, I think in their case, the move is quite understandable. It's not been a good week when it comes to the health of the offensive line. Center Travis Frederick (auto-immune disorder) and guard Zack Martin (knee) are both out and that means that HC Jason Garrett is very likely to sit starting QB Dak Prescott as well as RB Ezekiel Elliott for this one. All indication is that neither of those two stars will play. Considering that the run game is widely thought to be the strength of this Cowboys' team, I'm not sure what that leaves us with, except a team that's probably not going to be very competitive. Lay the points.
Steve Wilks is in his first year on the job as the head man at Arizona. Thus, I expect him and the Cardinals' coaching staff to take this game far more seriously than their counterparts are. Rookie QB Josh Rosen's availability might come down to a game-time decision due to his injured thumb, but Rosen was not going to start this game anyway. That "honor" goes to Sam Bradford, who by all accounts will be the Week 1 starter. We'll also see a lot of Mike Glennon, who has been a regular season starter at different points in his career. Wilks is off to a 2-0 start this preseason, covering both games as well. It was a 24-17 win over the Chargers in the first game (as three-point chalk), then a 20-15 "upset" of Arizona (as six-point dogs) last week.
The Cowboys are 0-2 so far in the preseason. They did cover the first game, as 3.5-pt dogs, losing 24-21 to San Francisco. Then came last week's anemic looking 21-13 loss to Cincinnati. It's not just Frederick and Martin that will be missing along the offensive line here. Four of the team's five starting lineman are unlikely to play. So its pretty easy to understand why Jerry Jones ... errrr Jason Garrett would choose to sit Prescott and Elliott for fear of them getting injured. Keep in mind that the Cowboys may have the worst receiving corps in the entire NFL entering this season. So this offense, which will likely be led by Cooper Rush at QB, is going to be pretty brutal Saturday night. 10* Arizona
|08-25-18||Texans -2.5 v. Rams||Top||20-21||Loss||-127||8 h 47 m||Show|
10* Houston (4:00 ET): Several teams appear to be approaching this preseason with little sense of urgency or effort. Count the Rams among that list. This is clearly a team w/ its eye on the regular season (and beyond). They had quite the busy offseason, adding to an already stacked roster, which makes them the overwhelming favorite to take the NFC West. But presently, there are issues, namely the Aaron Donald holdout. Then you have RB Todd Gurley publicly boasting that sitting out the preseason is every player's "dream." (Hey, can't blame him). Gurley hasn't played at all in the preseason, nor will he here. Now the same may hold true for QB Jared Goff due to the Rams' banged up offensive line. All things considered, I'll gladly lay the points w/ the Texans in this one.
Houston figures to be one of the more improved teams in the league this year. They'll have QB DeShaun Watson and DE JJ Watt back after both missed a large portion of last season due to injuries. They have opened the preseason w/ a pair of wins, beating Kansas City 17-10 and San Francisco 16-13. Keep in mind that the Texans' offense averaged an amazing 34.7 PPG in Watson's six starts last year. With Watson and the first-teamers expected to get extended time on Saturday afternoon, it should be easy pickings against the "skeleton crew" Los Angeles is trotting out there. Watson completed 5 of his 8 pass attempts last week vs. the 49ers, for 77 yards. This week, he'll be able to throw to both Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins, neither of whom have yet to suit up this preseason.
The Rams' defense, sans Donald, may be at near full strength here with starters ready to play. But it's the offensive side of the ball that you have to worry about. Gurley definitely isn't playing and it's become pretty apparent that Goff will be joining him on the sidelines. Then you have the offensive line, which is down three starters. That's both tackles and the center. So you can see why HC McVay isn't eager to put Goff and/or Gurley on the field. The Rams two options at QB are Sean Mannion and Brandon Allen, neither of whom are a particularly attractive option. Mannion was BRUTAL in the team's preseason opener, completing just 3 of 23 pass attempts. The Rams lost that game 33-7 to the Ravens. They did actually win last week, beating the Raiders 19-15, but that was an odd circumstance w/ neither side showing ANYTHING due to the fact the teams will be playing each other again in Week 1 of the regular season. The Texans are 6-3-1 ATS their L10 preseason games and it's clear to me that they're the ones taking this third week of the preseason more seriously. 10* Houston
|08-24-18||Packers v. Raiders -6||Top||6-13||Win||100||14 h 7 m||Show|
8* Oakland (10:30 ET): If you're wondering how a spread could be this high in the preseason, particularly when it's Green Bay getting the points, be aware that Mike McCarthy is opting to rest the majority of his key veterans Friday night. That includes Aaron Rodgers. Reportedly, several starters aren't even making the trip out to the West Coast. So that should pave the way for the Raiders to garner an easy win and cover in this third preseason game. Lay the points.
The Packers have admittedly looked impressive in their first two preseason games and that's w/ Rodgers attempting only four passes. I had them last week in a 51-point effort against the Steelers where they could not be stopped, no matter who was at quarterback. It was their second straight 17-point victory, though they were actually outgained in the contest. (GB had two defensive touchdowns, one right off the bat, which definitely helped). The Packers' defense was certainly less than stellar against Pittsburgh. Both of Rodgers' backups - Brett Hundley and DeShone Kizer - have fared well this preseason, but now let's see how they perform against a team's starters.
Despite Khalil Mack holding out, the Raiders' defense has played well in its two preseason games, allowing just 29 pts. Problem is that they've scored only 31. But w/ Derek Carr and the first team offense getting extended playing time this week, I expect the Raiders' highest scoring effort to date. With regards to LW's loss to the Rams, keep in mind Jon Gruden used a very "vanilla" gameplan as Oakland opens the regular season up against the Rams. It was a game that the coaching staff seemingly had very little interest in. Much like Green Bay here. It's obvious to me that the Packers are NOT taking the third game of the preseason as seriously as most teams, so that makes them an easy fade. 8* Oakland
|08-24-18||Lions +3.5 v. Bucs||Top||33-30||Win||100||32 h 12 m||Show|
10* Detroit (8:00 ET): The Lions are reportedly taking this game very seriously. That shouldn't be all that surprising seeing as the third game of the preseason is the one teams are supposed to take the most seriously. But in the case of the Lions, they have every reason to treat this as if it was a regular season affair. They're 0-2 SU in the preseason, including a 30-17 loss LW to the Giants in new HC Matt Patricia's home debut. Reportedly, the team and coaching staff was quite disgusted with that performance and really looking for across the board improvement. The opponent, Tampa Bay, is a team that would just as soon NOT play this game. They've had a terrible week with injuries and thus the "dress rehearsal" game is not something they're probably looking forward to. Take the points.
The good news for the Bucs is that they've opened the preseason by going 2-0. QB Jameis Winston has looked good, but the problem there is he won't be available for the first three regular season games (suspended). So, with an eye on the regular season, you have to think this game will be less about Winston and more about getting his replacement ready for Week 1. That should mean a lot more of Ryan Fitzpatrick in this game. Then there is the issue of injuries. LT Donovan Smith went down w/ a knee injury Tuesday and will be out 2-4 weeks. The team was already thin along the O-line and now has to sign guys off the street. There are also multiple injuries in the secondary, safety Justin Evans being the latest.
With the injuries along the Bucs' offensive line, there might be hope yet for a Lions' pass rush that has been basically non-existent so far in the preseason. With QB Matt Stafford set to see extended time here, the Bucs' secondary can also be exploited. The Lions threw the ball a lot LW vs. the Giants, but it would also be nice to see them getting the run game going. The first half wasn't the issue last week for the Lions, it was the second where things got out of hand. Backups are less of an issue in the third preseason game. Handicapping the preseason sometimes just comes down to the simple question of motivation. The Lions should have it, so take the points. 10* Detroit
|08-23-18||Eagles v. Browns -3||Top||0-5||Win||100||23 h 46 m||Show|
8* Cleveland (8:00 ET): As far as the NFL spectrum goes, you can't get any further apart than these two teams. The Eagles won the Super Bowl last season. The Browns went 0-16. Yet, here we are in the preseason and Cleveland is favored. For what it's worth, the Browns did go 4-0 SU/ATS last year in the preseason. They are 1-1 SU/ATS this year. Philly has dropped both of its preseason games thus far, including a Super Bowl rematch w/ the Patriots last week. I took New England in that one, noting the likelihood that the Patriots would be the more motivated side (revenge!). I was clearly right as the Pats quickly raced out to a 17-0 lead and never looked back. They led by as much as 34-7 in the 2nd half en route to a 37-20 win and cover.
This being the third week of the preseason, starters will see the most action of any of the four games. That means QB Nick Foles (hero of LY's Super Bowl) will play about a half for Philly. That would seem to give the visitors a significant advantage. But Foles injured his throwing shoulder last week, taking a hit, and did not return. Expect the Eagles' coaching staff to be extra cautious w/ Foles given the uncertain status of Carson Wentz, who will NOT play here and may or may not be ready for the start of the regular season. It's not like Foles was particularly effective when he was in there last week. He completed just 3 of 9 passes for 44 yards in his 2018 debut. Also, Foles will be missing a ton of key receivers and wideouts. Four running backs (Ajayi, Clement, Pumphrey and Sproles) are all out as are the top three WRs (Jeffrey, Agholor, Wheaton).
The Browns are reportedly drawing some serious action from the betting public for the upcoming season, both in terms of exceeding their projected number of wins as winning the AFC North and Super Bowl. Hey, everybody loves a longshot. Maybe its being on Hard Knocks that's responsible for that. Obviously, this team is not going to win its division, let alone the Super Bowl, but they should be vastly improved. This is still preseason and I expect them to be the more motivated side Thursday night, especially playing at home. They're certainly more healthy compared to the Eagles. At QB, Tyrod Taylor (presumed Wk 1 starter) will play the bulk of the first half. But after he exits, expect #1 overall DC Baker Mayfield to come in and make plays. 8* Cleveland
|08-18-18||Bears +3.5 v. Broncos||Top||24-23||Win||100||13 h 47 m||Show|
10* Chicago (9:05 ET): The Bears are a team w/ a 1st year head coach (Matt Nagy) that has yet to taste its first victory of the preseason. They've played twice mind you, losing both games close. They covered for me in the Hall of Fame Game, losing 17-16 as underdogs to the Baltimore Ravens. They followed that up LW w/ a 30-27 loss at Cincinnati. Unlike the Ravens game where they scored late to "steal" the cover, that loss to the Bengals saw them ALLOW a late TD to blow the lead and cover and they left w/ no cash in what closed as a pick 'em game. I fully expect the Monsters of the Midway to want to win this week's game for their new HC and it should come easy against a Denver team that was absolutely shredded last week in a 42-28 home loss to Minnesota. Take the points.
Last season was the first on the job for Denver HC Vance Joesph. He went 4-0 SU/ATS in the preseason, but that did not translate to the regular season where the team finished a very disappointing 5-11 SU. The defense isn't what it once was and the offense had (has?) a hole at the most important position (quarterback). To address that issue, Case Keenum was brought in to be the starter. But in limited action LW, he was able to complete just 1 of 4 passes for five yards. Behind him is Paxton Lynch, who is quickly turning into a major bust, and Chad Kelly. Kelly was a surprise last week, throwing for two TD passes and 177 yards against the Vikings backups. But I wouldn't expect a repeat performance of that. Then there is the Broncos' defense, which gave up 24 pts in the first half and 400 yds for the game. I'm not a big Joseph fan and wouldn't be surprised to see him gone at the end of this season.
Now the Bears certainly have things to work on themselves here, namely turnovers. They have 7 TO's so far, but the good news is that that's correctable. Their own defense gave up 447 yds, but the offense gained 423 of its own. Starters will play deeper into the first half here. Most of the key offensive weapons saw very limited or no time last week, but that'll change here w/ Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen and Allen Robinson all suiting up. Having an extra game under their belt at this point will help the Bears here. 10* Chicago
|08-18-18||Raiders v. Rams||Top||15-19||Loss||-110||8 h 53 m||Show|
8* Oakland (4:00 ET): We've seen some substantial line movement here, which - at least so far this preseason - has typically been a sign to "follow the money." One could certainly argue that the Rams will want to atone for an ugly showing in the first week of the preseason where they were routed by the Ravens 33-7. But there's yet to be any real indication that the Rams are taking the preseason very seriously. This is a team w/ a clear eye on the regular season and making the playoffs. Their activity in the offseason puts them on a short list of Super Bowl contenders for some. But there has been some turmoil, namely the Aaron Donald holdout. HC Sean McVay held out most of his starters in Week 1 and has vowed to do the same here.
Meanwhile, the Raiders are operating under a 1st year HC (Jon Gruden), thus they will be more inclined to be motivated. They did win their preseason opener, at home, 16-10 over the Lions. Now, both coaches have publicly stated that they'd rather NOT play this game considering the teams will open the regular season opener against each other on Monday Night Football. So you can expect some pretty vanilla game plans. Again though, that nullifies that talent edge that the Rams have, at least when at full strength. Withe the Raiders coming off a disappointing 2017 season (went 6-10 SU), they've got more question marks and thus position battles where individual players are competing for spots on the roster. It might not be until late in the game, but eventually it will become apparent that the Raiders are the more motivated side here.
Oakland's defense held Detroit to just 227 total yards last week, so I wouldn't expect them to be a problem against a Rams' offense that probably won't show anything. Rams' QB Sean Mannion looked terrible last week against Baltimore, completing only 3 of 13 pass attempts for 16 yards. Brandon Allen did better, but still threw for only 73 yards. Again, Jared Goff is almost a lock NOT to play. For the Raiders, Derek Carr did take some snaps LW and I'll take his backups - Connor Cook and EJ Manuel - over what Los Angeles has to offer. 8* Oakland
|08-17-18||Giants v. Lions -3||Top||30-17||Loss||-110||11 h 22 m||Show|
10* Detroit (7:00 ET): Both of these teams have first year head coaches and both dropped their respective preseason opener. In the case of the Giants, now led by Pat Shurmur, they lost 20-10 at home to the Cleveland Browns (a team Shurmur formerly coached). Matt Patricia's Detroit Lions lost their opener 16-10 at Oakland. Can you believe its only been two years since BOTH of these teams were in playoffs? Me either. The Giants fell harder last year as an injury-riddled team basically quit on Ben McAdoo and finished 3-13 SU. The Lions were 9-7 SU and actually finished w/ a better point differential (+34) than they did in their 2017 season playoff season. But it still wasn't enough to save Jim Caldwell's job. Bottom line here is I expect Patricia and his coaching staff to be highly motivated to win the first time in front of the fanbase.
The lone highlight for the Giants in that first preseason game may have been the performance of #2 overall draft choice, RB Saquon Barkley. He went for 39 yards on his first carry. Sadly though, it's highly unlikely he'll be seeing any time in this game. Barkley suffered what is being termed a "minor hamstring injury" and did not participate in the joint practices w/ the Lions this week. At QB, Eli Manning is at the point in his career where the preseason is fairly useless. That leaves an underwhelming trio of signal-callers for Shurmer to rely on here. Last week saw Davis Webb, Alex Tanney and Kyle Lauletta combine for 167 passing yards on 38 attempts. Hardly inspiring. The G-Men were 4 of 17 on third down last week as well.
Detroit was hardly impressive in Patricia's debut. They too scored 10 pts and gained just 227 total yards (3.5 yards per play). They were 3 of 14 on third downs and neither QB - Jake Rudock or Matt Cassel - attempted to throw the ball downfield much. Like I said earlier though, the determining factor here should be the homefield advantage as Patricia looks to win over the fanbase. One interesting stat is that the Lions are 11-1 SU their last 12 preseason home games, covering the spread nine times. I fully expect them to "play to win the game" Friday night. 10* Detroit
|08-16-18||Steelers v. Packers -5.5||Top||34-51||Win||100||23 h 42 m||Show|
8* Green Bay (8:00 ET): It's been a rather traumatizing week in Steelers camp w/ Ben Roethlisberger getting knocked down in practice and ending up in the league's concussion protocol. Thus, I have to believe the team is just going to want to "get through" this Week 2 preseason game in Green Bay. Taking advantage of three Eagles turnovers, the Steelers won their first preseason game, 31-14. I do not anticipate they'll be as fortunate this week. Lay the points.
QB Aaron Rodgers will make his preseason debut here (will likely play for just a few series) for the Packers. But even if he leads the offense to a score or two, it will be more than worth it. Rodgers has made headlines by ripping his young receiving corps for what he perceived as some "sloppy" practices. So expect that group to be motivated Thursday night. One thing is for certain and that's Green Bay had no problems racking up yardage on offense in the first preseason game. They ended up w/ 445 in a 31-17 win and cover over the Titans. Overall, they had three TD drives of 75+ yards. Behind Rodgers will be Brett Hundley and DeShone Kizer, both of whom have started regular season games last year. Both should be able to move the ball against the Steelers' backups.
The Packers are one of the teams that seem to take the preseason fairly seriously. They've won seven of their last nine overall, scoring 20 or more pts in four of the last five. They've also been particularly strong at home where they've won eight of nine in preseason play, including six straight. Meanwhile, I just can't see the Steelers taking this one too seriously. (Remember, there's no LeVeon Bell either). It's been a tough week of camp w/ multiple injury scares. Do not be surprised is Pittsburgh ends up being a bit of a disappointment this season. 8* Green Bay
|08-16-18||Eagles v. Patriots -3.5||Top||20-37||Win||100||22 h 12 m||Show|
10* New England (7:30 ET): Think there might be some motivation from the favorite here? Even Tom Brady is likely to see time in this one as the Patriots look to exact a little bit of revenge here against the Eagles. Granted no matter what takes place Thursday night, it cannot erase the memory of what happened to the Patriots last February in Super Bowl 52. That was the rare instance of a Bill Belichick team seemingly being outplayed and outcoached. Preseason or not, if you don't think the New England coaching staff wants to win this one, you're kidding yourself.
The Super Bowl Champion Eagles committed three turnovers in a 31-14 loss to the Steelers last week. They looked anything but the part of defending Super Bowl Champs, but it was just the 1st preseason game. Perhaps the only interesting thing that they did was attempt a two-point conversion after each touchdown (went 1 for 2). Neither of Philadelphia's top two quarterbacks - Carson Wentz or Nick Foles - took a snap. Since Wentz has yet to be cleared for contact, he's unlikely to play at all in the preseason. Foles, who is battling neck spasms, will start. But HC Doug Pederson will probably have Foles on a short leash. Only one starting receiver will see time and that's newcomer Mike Wallace. The first team defense was the bright spot LW vs. the Steelers, but won't be out there long either.
Again, I feel this one comes down to simple motivation. Under Belichick, New England has been driven by spite and any measure of revenge they can exact on the Eagles - no matter how small - is something worth going for. Consider that even though they fell behind by double digits last week, the Patriots rallied back to win and cover against Washington, 26-17 as 2.5-pt chalk. As far as "wanting to win the game" goes, the Pats outscored the Redskins last week 23-0 in the second half. They clearly were playing to win. If that's the case, you can only imagine the mindset entering this one. 10* New England
|08-11-18||Chargers v. Cardinals -2.5||Top||17-24||Win||100||24 h 48 m||Show|
10* Arizona (10:00 ET): We've got a first year HC for Arizona (Steven Wilks), so that should lead to added motivation for the home side Saturday night in the desert. Meanwhile, as per usual, the Chargers appear cursed. We're not even halfway through August and already three players have been lost for the year to ACL injuries. Two were expected to be key contributors, those being TE Hunter Henry and DB Jason Verrett. I still think Los Angeles can compete for an AFC West Championship in the regular season, but clearly they're going to want to error on the side of caution here in the preseason opener. I'll lay the short number w/ what should be the more motivated side, which is looking to win for its new HC the first time he's in front of the fanbase.
The Lightning Bolts are just 2-6 SU and ATS in the preseason the last two years. Their only win a year ago came in the "dress rehearsal" game (Week 3) where starters saw extended time. I simply cannot imagine QB Philip Rivers will play much, if at all, in this game. His two backups are Geno Smith and Cardale Jones. Yikes! Neither is inspiring at this time in their respective careers. On the defensive side of the ball, last year HC Anthony Lynn elected to play his starters about a quarter in the first preseason game. Maybe that holds true again Saturday, but it's highly unlikely we'll see Joey Bosa after he didn't practice this week due to a sore foot. The Chargers' special teams, particularly the kicking game, are always an adventure.
For the Cardinals, the big story is going to be rookie QB Josh Rosen. Expect him to play a lot here. Rosen has a chip on his shoulder after not being drafted as high as he thought he should be. Personally, I felt Rosen was the most "NFL ready" signal caller in the Draft. I can see him playing quite well Saturday night even though it's his first professional game. That could make for an interesting 1st major decision for HC Wilks as it's believed Sam Bradford will enter the regular season as the starter. Maybe that's the way it ends up being, but Rosen isn't going to sit back and allow the decision to be an easy one. By all accounts, Rosen is grasping the offense well in practice. The vanilla schemes the Chargers' D is likely to offer him here will not be difficult to take advantage of. 10* Arizona
|08-10-18||Falcons v. Jets -2.5||Top||0-17||Win||100||80 h 6 m||Show|
10* NY Jets (7:30 ET): The Jets aren't expected to be very good this year. Quite frankly, no one - save for the Patriots obviously - is going to be very good in that division (AFC East) in 2018. But that won't matter here in the preseason where it will be more about backups and position battles as opposed to the overall level of talent on the teams. The Flyboys open their preseason at home tonight against the Falcons, a team that typically doesn't take the preseason very seriously. Two years removed from the Super Bowl, Atlanta should be formidable in the regular season. They know who their "horses" are, but that works to their disadvantage here. Lay the points.
I am a little surprised that the Falcons are expected to play some of their regulars for as much as a full quarter tonight. This is includes QB Matt Ryan. But it won't include WR Julio Jones. On the other side of the ball, the first string defense is not expected to see extended playing time. It may just be the first set of downs. Even if Atlanta was to get off to a nice start w/ Ryan under center tonight, don't expect them to hold the lead or do much after he exits. Last year saw the Falcons go 0-4 SU in the preseason, scoring 14 pts or less in three of the games. The key here is going to be a motivated Jets side taking control in the second half.
Unlike Atlanta, NY doesn't know who its starting QB will be in Week 1 of the regular season. They have rookie Sam Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater and veteran Josh McCown as their options. Of the three, Bridgewater (coming off major injury) is the one LEAST likely to earn the job. But all three will see time Friday and they'll each want to show the coaching staff what they can bring to the table. The rookie Darnold is the most intriguing player to watch here. HC Todd Bowles enters this season firmly on "the hot seat" and would probably like nothing more than to start the year out w/ a victory. Look for the Jets to "play to the end" and cover the spread here. 10* NY Jets
|08-09-18||Colts +2 v. Seahawks||Top||19-17||Win||100||25 h 41 m||Show|
8* Indianapolis (10:00 ET): The big story for this game is that Colts QB Andrew Luck is expected to play, perhaps for as long as a full quarter. That's obviously pretty rare - for a starter of his caliber - to play so long in the first preseason game. But this is a special circumstance. Luck has not played in a NFL game in 20 months. His amount of throwing has gradually increased as training camp has progressed. Without question, Luck's shoulder is the biggest key to the Colts' 2018 season.
Indianapolis will be looking to bounce back from a horrific season where they went 4-12 SU and were outscored by 141 pts, the third worst differential in the entire luck. Presuming Luck is back in the fold, an increase in the number of wins is all but assured in '18. But the rest of the roster is full w/ holes and question marks. It also simply isn't that talent-rich. But what we'll be getting Thursday night is a lot of position battles (and thus a high level of effort) for a new coaching staff, led by Frank Reich. Another reason you can probably expect the Colts to win more games this year - they blew a NFL-high seven 2nd half leads. That's actually the third most in one year by any team since the AFL-NFL merger. It's also highly unlikely to be repeated.
Meanwhile, it's a very different Seahawks team in 2018 than what we're used to seeing. The Legion of Boom was disassembled (only Earl Thomas remains) and this is now very much QB Russell Wilson's team. Problem is, like Luck, he's no longer surrounded by a lot of talent. Here, WR Doug Baldwin won't play due to a knee injury. Another veteran wideout, Brandon Marshall, may not play either. The offensive line, long the weak spot of this team, is learning a new scheme. On the other side of the ball, the secondary has to break in three new starters and the front seven is already down two starters. For years, Seattle has been great in the preseason, under HC Pete Carroll. They went 4-0 SU/ATS last year. But this is a much different team, one where the odds are shorter that they WON'T make the playoffs than they will. 8* Indianapolis.
|08-09-18||Panthers v. Bills -2.5||Top||28-23||Loss||-115||56 h 31 m||Show|
10* Buffalo (7:00 ET): This past offseason should have been a time to rejoice in upstate New York. Last season saw the Bills end what had been the longest playoff drought in league (dated back to 1999). Granted, the playoff game didn't go so well. It was an ugly 10-3 loss to Jacksonville, but the bottom line is the Bills should have felt fortunate to even be there. This was a team that had been outscored by 57 pts in the regular season and did not do well against teams w/ winning records.
The goodwill from that first playoff appearance in two decades has quickly disappaited w/ the front office deciding to shed salary, leaving a roster that's clearly inferior to last year's team. Perhaps one of the more notable changes occurred at QB where Tyrod Taylor was jettisoned. It never seemed like the coaching staff liked Taylor and they now have three potential choices to replace him. None are particularly attractive as you have AJ McCarron (career backup), Nathan Peterman (complete disaster LY) and Josh Allen (a rookie w/ questionable potential). The irony though is this uncertainty at the most important position actually works to the Bills' BENEFIT here in the preseason opener. All three signal-callers are likely to see time Thursday and should be motivated. Having motivated signal-callers on the field for the majority of the game is always something to look for when handicapping the NFL preseason.
Carolina is another playoff team from last year that I expect to take a step backwards in 2018. They were fortunate to go 11-5 SU as they were 7-1 in one-score games. The big difference, at least for this game, between them and Buffalo is the key question of motivation. The Panthers are far more likely to be content w/ "what they have." They probably aren't as aware of the pitfalls that await them this season. They pretty much bring back the same roster, led by QB Cam Newton, who isn't going to play much here (if at all). There is the question of depth at running back w/ Jonathan Stewart gone. The small-ish Christian McCaffery simply isn't built to be an "every-down" back in this league, if such a thing even still exists anyway. Another issue facing the Panthers here is they've suffered multiple injuries along the offensive line in camp. They aren't going to want to risk further depth issues. Therefore, you're likely to see an overwhelmed third string OL much of the time Thursday. That means trouble. Lay the short number w/ the more motivated team that's playing at home. 10* Buffalo
|08-02-18||Bears +2.5 v. Ravens||Top||16-17||Win||100||26 h 13 m||Show|
8* Chicago (8:00 ET): I can only assume that it is Baltimore's "preseason reputation" that is responsible for the early line move in this year's Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. Under HC John Harbaugh, the Ravens have gone a remarkable 28-12 SU in the preseason including a perfect 4-0 three of the last four seasons. Not only that, but they were also a perfect 4-0 ATS last season (also 4-0 SU). Given that preseason lines are generally short, the ATS record (27-13) isn't that much different than the SU mark. When it comes to handicapping the preseason, so much comes down to the simple question of motivation. Obviously, Harbaugh's teams have proven to consistently have that edge over their opponents this time of year. But, for this game, I expect it to be the Bears that come out as the more motivated side. This is their first game under new HC Matt Nagy and I'm taking the points.
I view the Bears as a potential darkhorse in the NFC North this season. Minnesota and Green Bay are the obvious favorites, but don't be surprised if the Monsters of the Midway make it three playoff teams from the old "Black & Blue" division. Nagy's expertise is on the offensive side of the ball (comes over from the Chiefs where he was OC) and will be expected to tutor second year QB Mitchell Trubisky, who has a bevy of new weapons this year. The front office went out and added the following receivers via FA: Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel & (tight end) Trey Burton. For the defensive side of the ball, Nagy made a smart move and retained DC Vic Fangio, the one thing worth keeping from the failed Jox Fox regime. The Bears actually had a good defense LY as they ranked in the top 10 in both yards and points allowed.
Baltimore is obviously the more "known commodity" here, but that could lead to complacency. Despite still being buried by the albatross that is Joe Flacco's contract, the Ravens are thinking playoffs for 2018, which will be GM Ozzie Newsome's final season at the helm. I seriously doubt Flacco will play much here, if at all. That leaves the reigns to rookie Lamar Jackson, a former Heisman winner that is still learning the playbook, and Robert Griffin III, who was out of football entirely last year. That's hardly inspiring. Trubisky is certainly more likely to play than is Flacco and so are some of the Bears' starters. You have to think they'll want to impress their new HC and as underdogs, I'll gladly take them. 8* Chicago
|08-31-17||Dolphins +3 v. Vikings||Top||30-9||Win||105||12 h 9 m||Show|
8* Miami (7:30 ET): The Dolphins were a playoff team in 2016 and almost certainly will NOT be one in 2017. Even before the loss of QB Ryan Tannehill, the Fish figured to regress in a major way due to the simple fact that they're highly unlikely to be as lucky as they were last season. This is a team that managed to go 8-2 SU in close games (those decided by 7 pts or less) last season and those two losses came in the first two weeks. Despite finishing 10-6 SU, they were actually outscored and that doesn't even include them getting exposed (badly!) in a 30-12 playoff loss to the Steelers. An easy schedule certainly helped; outside of New England (whom they have to play twice), they faced only two other playoff teams in 2016. But regardless of all of the above, I'm on them in this preseason finale as they're a good value getting points against the Vikings.
Minnesota was a franchise on the rise two years ago, but a serious injury to Teddy Bridgewater has derailed all progress. Sam Bradford is nothing more than a stopgap until Bridgewater (missed all of last year) can finally return. Tonight is a terrible spot for the Vikings as they're laying points in meaningless game and doing so on a very short week. They just played Sunday when they rallied to beat San Francisco 32-31 w/ two touchdowns in the final six minutes. They won on a two-point conversion on the game's final play. Despite that, they were outgained in the contest (gave up 431 yards!) and, in fact, have been outgained in all three preseason games. They might be 2-1 SU in the preseason, they're actually being outgained by 70 yards per game!
Miami has had far more time to get ready for this game as they last played exactly one week ago. They lost 38-31 to Philadelphia, giving up 400+ yards themselves, but four turnovers are what really hurt. One of them was an INT return for a TD, which wound up being the difference in the ballgame. The good news is that Cutler completed five passes for 105 yards. He won't play here obviously, but neither will any of the Vikings regulars. I think the fact that Minnesota has been outgained in every preseason game thus far is very key as is the short week they're working on here. 8* Miami
|08-27-17||Bengals v. Redskins -3||Top||17-23||Win||100||9 h 45 m||Show|
8* Washington (4:30 ET): The Redskins have opened the preseason at 0-2 SU/ATS, but after a somewhat disastrous opener at Baltimore (lost 23-3), they looked a lot better last week at home vs. Green Bay. They actually outgained the Pack 335-266, but gave up the GW TD w/ 6:16 to go when the backups were all in. Now I'm well aware that QB Kirk Cousins failed to impress. He and the 'Skins' first-teamers actually played the entire first half, yet didn't produce a touchdown until the sixth drive when they were facing the Packers' backups. Heck, they didn't even gain a single first down until the final play of the 1st quarter! As a result, I expect a very motivated team on Sunday. Cincinnati (1-1) has been outgained in both games so far and looked suspect on defense. I'm laying the points.
Consider that the Redskins were actually bet to the role of favorite at Baltimore for the 1st preseason game! By comparison, this line offers tremendous value as they're at home. It would appear as if the consensus prognostication for this team is not all that rosy in 2017, but I think they're not bad (should finish at or around .500). You can debate Cousins' fair market value all you want, but he's a good QB by 2017 standards. The Redskins actually had one of the most efficient offenses in the league a year ago as only the Falcons and Saints gained more yards. The team was actually tied for second in YPP (yards per play) differential! Starters are again expected to play the entire first half (at least) here and with this being the final chance to impress the home fans before the regular season, I look for Washington to score a lot more points Sunday.
It also helps that they're facing a Cincinnati defense that has looked suspect so far in the preseason. That they gave up only 12 points in the opener to Tampa Bay is misleading as the Bucs' first team offense had their way w/ them. Last week, they gave up 30 points to Kansas City, allowing them to score on each of the first five drives. Three different Chiefs' QB's threw touchdown passes against what remains a short-handed Bengals stop unit. Meanwhile, the Cincy offense could only manage four field goals and no touchdowns. Their only two TD's scored this preseason both came in the third quarter of the first game w/ Jeff Driskel under center. In many ways, this franchise finds itself at a crossroads entering 2017 as they are coming off a 6-9-1 season after making the playoffs each of the previous four years. 8* Washington
|08-26-17||Bills +3.5 v. Ravens||Top||9-13||Loss||-105||22 h 49 m||Show|
10* Buffalo (7:00 ET): Few coaches have been more profitable this time of year (meaning the preseason) than Baltimore's John Harbaugh. With a 2-0 ATS (also 2-0 SU) start this year, he's now 25-13 against the number in his career. The Ravens have won all six preseason games the L2 seasons, the only team that can claim to be unbeaten during that time frame. If this all sounds like an endorsement for them this week, well, think again! As impressive as the resume may be, I'm not a huge fan of this team heading into 2017. QB Joe Flacco's ornerous contract has really hindered GM Ozzie Newsome's ability to construct a deep roster. Making matters worse, Flacco has yet to play this preseason ... or even practice. His status for the reg season opener remains questionable.
Now the Ravens haven't needed Flacco in the preseason as their defense has been incredible, holding Washington and Miami to 10 points and 258 yards - total. This Ravens' defense was very stout last year, particularly against the run, but they did slip late in the year and that played a role in the team missing the playoffs. Buffalo, very quietly, had the league's top rushing offense a year ago. So that's something to keep in mind here. I do not think the Ravens' defense will be as good as it was last year and certainly not as good as it's been the first two weeks of the preseason. Last week, they got to face a depleted Miami team that was breaking in Jay Cutler (came out of a retirement) for the first time. With no Flacco, the Ravens will have to lean heavily here on Ryan Mallett, who has been his usual horrible self in the preseason. His passer rating is 53.2, which ranks 93rd among all QB's that have seen action. He threw two INT's last week. Baltimore's offense does not impress me, nor should it impress anyone.
Buffalo is 0-2 SU/ATS this preseason, but has actually outgained both opponents. Last week saw them outgain the Eagles (in Philly), putting up over 400 total yds. But they couldn't get out of their own way (four turnovers) in a 20-16 loss. Full disclosure, despite trading away Sammy Watkins and the retirement of Anquan Boldin, I'm higher on this team than most. I think they were better than LY's 7-9 SU record. The problem is they were poorly coached (Rex Ryan). Ryan is gone (thankfully) and Sean McDermott is a 1st year HC still looking for a win. That should be a motivational edge here. QB Tyrod Taylor is better than he looked last week and backup Nathan Peterman (rookie) looked good in Week 1. In limited duty, RB LeSean McCoy looked explosive last week. Baltimore will be a popular play here, but taking the points is the way to go. 10* Buffalo
|08-25-17||Patriots -2 v. Lions||Top||30-28||Push||0||56 h 31 m||Show|
10* New England (7:00 ET): The Lions have opened the preseason 2-0 SU, also covering both games. But they've also had the good fortune of playing both the Colts (traditionally one of the worst preseason teams and w/o Andrew Luck) and the Jets (the consensus worst team in the league this year). Furthemore, while both victories came by double digit margins, neither was particularly impressive. Meanwhile, the Patriots are 0-2. That means nothing in the grand scheme of things, but you can bet it has Bill Belichick at least a tad bit more ornery than usual. With this being the week that most resembles regular season action (starters seeing most action), I give a huge edge to the Patriots, obviously a far more talented team than Detroit. Lay the short number.
Despite Tom Brady playing only two series so far, the Patriots have put up 47 points, which is more than the Lions. Brady completed six of nine pass attempts last week, his first game action since the Super Bowl, and directed a touchdown drive. That bodes well for this week. The Pats' offense has severely out-first downed its two opponents thus far (50 total) and even w/o Brady put up 426 total yds of offense against Jacksonville in Wk 1 (lost 31-24). Last week, they outgained the Texans (339-281) w/ a 24-13 first down edge, but were undone by a -3 turnover ratio. After Brady inevitably leaves this game, he'll give way to Jimmy Garoppolo, who is a more than capable backup. Rob Gronkowski will also play here. One thing I can also guarantee is that after two sub-optimal efforts, Belichick will have his defense better prepared for Week 3.
While New England enters the 2017 season as the Super Bowl favorite (what else is new?), I have Detroit regressing rather severely. Yes, the Lions did make the playoffs a season ago (at 9-7), but they had zero wins over fellow playoff teams. They were outscored by 32 points (including 26-6 playoff loss to Seattle) and the defense actually allowed the highest completion percentage in NFL history (Brady and Garoppolo have to be salivating!). Were it not for a record EIGHT fourth quarter comebacks, no way would this team have made the playoffs. This year, I believe they will end up as one of the worst teams in the NFC. Were this game to be played in the regular season, the line would clearly be far greater and thus there's some value considering New England's starters will see extended time plus they are the deeper team overall. 10* New England
|08-21-17||Giants v. Browns +1.5||Top||6-10||Win||100||24 h 44 m||Show|
10* Cleveland (8:00 ET): Saying last season was "bad" for the Browns would be an understatement of epic proportions. Not only were they 1-15 SU in the regular season, they lost all four preseason games as well (0-4 ATS!). In fact, prior to last week, this moribund franchise had lost 10 of its previous 12 exhibition contests. But led by rookie QB DeShone Kizer, they were able to beat the Saints, 20-14 as three-point home favorites. Cleveland gets to stay in the "Dawg Pound" this week for a nationally televised affair against the Giants, who lost their preseason opener 20-12, as 3.5-pt chalk, to Pittsburgh. Right now, it is the Browns that - clearly - have more to prove and I look for that to translate onto the field tonight as they win their second consecutive preseason game.
The Giants are in store for some major regression in 2017, at least from where I sit. Last year saw them go 8-3 SU in one-score games and finish w/ a point differential of just +26, which is more indicative of a 9-win team than an 11-win one. I've got them falling back to 7-9 (SU) for 2017 due to a variety of reasons. As I just made note of, they exceeded their Pythagorean win expectation (8.8) by over two games last year. So they were quite fortunate to go 11-5 SU. Only Houston had a larger difference between actual and Pythagorean wins last year. The defense made a massive jump from 30th in DVOA to 2nd, so that unit will regress. QB Eli Manning is now getting up there in years (he's 36!) and is in decline. Manning did not play last week and figures to only be on the field for a few series (at most) tonight. The QB's that did see time last week - Geno Smith, Davis Webb and Josh Johnson - hardly strike fear into my heart.
The Browns do not yet know who will be their starting QB come Wk 1 of the regular season. Brock Osweiler (brought over from Houston via trade) is being given every opportunity, but he stinks and isn't long for the job anyway. Cody Kessler saw significant time under center LY, but was outplayed last week by the rookie Kizer, who finished up w/ 184 yds passing (including the GW TD). The organization probably doesn't want Kizer to be the starter just yet, but that doesn't mean he won't play well again. I also liked what I saw from the Browns defense LW as the two rookies - Myles Garrett and Jabril Peppers - both looked good. The Browns have also had an extra day to prepare for this game and like I said earlier, this being a national TV affair should only further motivate the team in front of its own fans. Unlike most teams in the league, Cleveland SHOULD care about winning in the preseason. 10* Cleveland
|08-19-17||Broncos v. 49ers -2.5||Top||33-14||Loss||-115||14 h 15 m||Show|
10* San Francisco (10:00 ET): This will be the first home game for the 49ers new coaching staff, led by Kyle Shanahan, the architect of the great Falcons offense we saw a year ago. Anyone who thinks Shanahan can come even remotely close to that kind of production w/ the personnel he inherits here ought to have their head examined. That beind said, the Niners gained an impressive 434 total yards in last week's 27-17 win over Kansas City, the most of any team in Week 1! And starting QB Brian Hoyer played only one series. So maybe Shanahan is onto something here. Certainly, he'll be "out for victory" again tonight as the Niners are in desperate need of impressing a fanbase that hasn't had much to cheer about since Jim Harbaugh left for Michigan. Lay the short number.
Denver was also victorious in their first preseason game, 24-17, but they were outgained 363-281 and made a rookie (Mitchell Trubisky) look like the greatest Bears QB in multiple generations. This Broncos team has been carried the L2 years by an awesome defense, including to a win in Super Bowl 50 even as Peyton Manning's skills were deterioriating at a rapid rate. But I don't see that defense performing at the same level this year (DC Wade Phillips has left) and the team still has no answer at QB as neither Paxton Lynch nor Trevor Siemian has impressed. In fact, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see the Broncos finish in last place in the AFC West. They too have a 1st year HC, Vance Joseph, but he's likely more concerned w/ next week's home debut (against Green Bay) than he is w/ this game.
While it was not the first team Denver defense that got torched by Trubisky last week, it's nevertheless concerning here. A rookie was able to come in and in his 1st NFL action complete 18 of 25 pass attempts for 166 yards and rush three times for 38 yards. Those numbers don't even tell the full story of how good the UNC product looked. So there's hope for the San Francisco QB's here. I also like how Shanahan stayed committed to running the ball last week as the offense finished w/ 188 yds on 36 carries. He should do the same again here as the Broncos defensive front is thin right now. The 49ers defense also kept the Chiefs under 200 total yds and forced a pair of turnovers. This time of year, it's the bad teams from the previous season that have more to prove and thus they tend to show more effort. The Broncos were lucky to even win last week as they scored two TD's late and got another (early) from the defense. 10* San Francisco
|08-18-17||Vikings v. Seahawks -3.5||Top||13-20||Win||100||21 h 31 m||Show|
8* Seattle (10:00 ET): Minnesota HC Mike Zimmer has found great success this time of year. Not only did his Vikings win LW, 17-10 at Buffalo, but they swept all four preseason games LY as well. He now carries a 12-2 SU/ATS record in preseason affairs into tonight's date w/ Seattle, but may have met his match in Seahawks HC Pete Carroll, who is now 19-9 ATS in the preseason after his team destroyed the Chargers LW, 48-17. Tonight is the Seahawks home debut, which always carries at least a little extra motivation and last week's performance - even w/ the backups in - showed me that Carroll's team isn't messing around. Lay the points.
Thanks in large part to the backups, the Seahawks rolled to a 48-17 win last week w/ a 458-322 edge in total yards. They also forced four turnovers. The backups being able to score so much is certainly encouraging. While the overall depth here might not be what it was in the team's Super Bowl season, Seattle remains one of the "teams to beat" in the NFC coming into 2017 and they certainly are in the position Minnesota wishes it was. I was encouraged by what I saw from Seahawks backup QB Trevone Boykin, who threw for 189 yards. We're likely to see more of RB Eddie Lacy tonight as Thomas Rawls suffered a "minor" ankle injury last week. Chris Carson has also looked good in training camp.
Minnesota may have won last week, but did so despite being outgained by 67 yards. They managed just a field goal in the 1st half, a far cry from the 34 points Seattle put on the board in the 1H against the Chargers. To me, this Vikings team will continue to remain "average at best" as long as Sam Bradford remains the QB. I think replacing Adrian Peterson w/ rookie Dalvin Cook will end up as a net positive, but still the team barely gained 3.0 YPC last week against Buffalo. Finishing w/ only 152 yds passing isn't very impressive either, especially considering the majority of it came w/ third stringer Case Keenum in the game. I expect the Vikings offense to struggle again here and Zimmer to suffer a rare preseason defeat. 8* Seattle
|08-13-17||Seahawks v. Chargers -1.5||Top||48-17||Loss||-115||12 h 29 m||Show|
10* LA Chargers (8:00 ET): We all know the NFL preseason carries little importance, but from the Chargers' perspective, this 1st game probably has some meaning. It's their first game in their new market and thus the first chance for HC Anthony Lynn (1st year HC!) to impress the fanbase. We saw a 1st year HC win his home debut last night (Rams' Sean McVay). I believe we'll see the same here. The Lightning Bolts have a lot to prove coming into 2017. Meanwhile, the same cannot be said for Seattle, a perennial contender that just wants to get the regular season healthy. Lay the short number.
I'm going on the record right now, stating the Chargers will be vastly improved this year. Yes, I said the same last year and while they technically improved (4 to 5 wins), it was quite neglible. But now with a new coach and in a new market, a far larger jump in the standings could be forthcoming. Really, how could it not? Over the last two seasons, they have a mind-numbing 11 blown fourth quarter leads while ranking among the most injured teams in the sport. They were 1-8 SU in games decided by seven points or less last season. Their Pythagorean win expectation for last year was actually 7.7. All of the above factors clearly point to upward mobility this year because, if anything, we know these metrics will tend to always regress/progress to the mean.
QB Philip Rivers is set to play one series tonight while the rest of the team's starters may play two. One key for Rivers is that - despite a new head coach - there is some continuity on the coaching staff as Ken Whisenhunt was retained as the OC. On the Seattle side, there's a number of injuries, mostly at wide receiver w/ Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett both out tonight. I just think this is a very important spot for a 1st year HC, in front of a new fanbase, and the line move seems to agree with me. This game means nothing to Seattle; the Chargers need to get the season started on a positive note. 10* LA Chargers
|08-12-17||Raiders v. Cardinals -3||Top||10-20||Win||100||28 h 13 m||Show|
8* Arizona (10:00 ET): This will be preseason game #2 for the Cardinals, who lost the Hall of Fame Game 20-18 to Dallas. While a loss, there's little takeaway from that game as none of the starters played. Honestly, if there was a takeaway, it was a positive one as QB Blaine Gabbert (much maligned most of his career) played well, engineering a pair of touchdown drives which got the Cards out to an early 15-0 lead (successful 2-pt conversion). Traditionally, coming off the H.O.F. Game has been an advantage in Game #2 as you're (obviously) playing an opponent that is only seeing "real" game action for the first time. There's been a sharp line move here and I agree w/ it. Lay the points.
Spoiler alert: I will NOT be as high on Oakland as everyone else this season. Derek Carr leading a Silver and Black renaissance last year was a really nice story, but the team was extremely fortunate to go 8-1 SU in games decided by seven points or less while finishing tied (w/ KC) for the league's best turnover margin (+16). Carr is not as good as his fans would like you to believe. Of course, we shouldn't expect to see much of Carr tonight anyway. While Raiders' fans will be happy that their franchise signal caller is not in harm's way, they can also tell you how severe the drop off is beyond Carr at the position. Look no further than LY's Wild Card game at Houston where they were forced to start Connor Cook. Cook is still in the fold this year and figures to get the majority of the snaps tonight before giving way to the disaster that is EJ Manuel.
Raiders HC Jack Del Rio (one of the game's best) is already on the record as saying he "isn't concerned" w/ seeing his front line players take the field tonight. That happens to include new RB Marshawn Lynch, who I believe will prove to be an overrated acquisition. Speaking of good coaches, Arizona's Bruce Arians is going to cede control of the playcalling in this game to QB coach Byron Leftwich, who is actually younger than starting QB Carson Palmer. People forget that at this time last season, Arizona was being talked about as a possible Super Bowl contender. They had a very disappointing 7-8-1 SU season, but I expect them to bounce back into playoff contention here in 2017. 8* Arizona
|08-10-17||Jaguars +3.5 v. Patriots||Top||31-24||Win||100||20 h 20 m||Show|
8* Jacksonville (7:35 ET): Expectations are through the roof for the Patriots this year (when aren't they?) as oddsmakers have installed their season win total at a lofty 12.5 w/ some even going so far as to call for another perfect regular season (did so back in '07). To me, the idea of them running the table again seems unlikely, but regardless, the majority of the key components that make this team so good won't be a factor in Thursday night's preseason opener against Jacksonville. These teams have been practicing against one another the last couple days, so they should be somewhat familiar w/ one another at this point. There's been a sharp line move in the direction of the underdog here and that's a big reason why I'm taking the points.
Jacksonville was a "chic" breakout pick for 2016, but they wound up being favored in only three games and finished 3-13 SU (wouldn't you know it?). Believe it or not, I believe they'll improve markedly this season under Doug Marrone, who has shed the interim tag. Predecessor Gus Bradley could never win here, but he quietly built a pretty decent defense, one that I feel will outperform expectations this season. The ceiling for this team though remains tied to QB Blake Bortles, who took a major step BACK last season. I loved the drafting of RB Leonard Fournette (LSU), which will take pressure off the mistake prone Bortles. Veteran QB Chad Henne figures to get a bulk of the snaps tonight.
The Pats did go 3-1 in the preseason last year (while the Jags were 1-3), but there is no denying which team should view the game as more important. Hint: It's not the perennial Super Bowl contender. The spread obviously opened too high and sharps jumped all over it. While I wish I would have acted quicker than I did, the bottom line is taking more than a field goal seems like a good value with what should be the more motivated side. 8* Jacksonville
|08-10-17||Vikings v. Bills +2||Top||17-10||Loss||-110||20 h 50 m||Show|
10* Buffalo (7:00 ET): The "vaunted" preseason reputation of the Vikings appears to have preceded itself here as the betting public - likely aware of the team's 12-1 SU record this time of year - has moved them to the role of favorite. But that's in spite of one my own personal favorite preseason angles, that being taking a 1st year HC in his home debut. This is our first shot at seeing Sean McDermott's Buffalo Bills, a team I will likely be much higher on than most in 2017. The Bills were a better team than they showed throughout the failed tenure of predecessor Rex Ryan and w/ this being McDermott's initial shot at being able to impress the fanbase, I expect him to go for the win. Not a fan of road favorites in the preseason.
Minnesota started out last year 5-0 SU/ATS and did so despite being w/o their starting QB, Teddy Bridgewater. Sam Bradford would go on to set a NFL record for completion percentage in 2016, but don't put much stock into that as completion percentage is way up across the board in the modern NFL plus Bradford is a checkdown machine who too often fails to get the ball downfield. The Vikings would close the season by winning only 3 of their final 11 games. Most unfortunate for them is the severity of the Bridgewater injury as he's unlikely to play much, if at all, this season. That means the underwhelming Bradford will again the run the show on offense, but for tonight's purposes, that will be for only a few snaps. The Vikings' backups at the QB position are Case Keenum and Taylor Heinicke, neither of whom I'd want to put my money on. I know HC Mike Zimmer has shown a propensity to take these games seriously, but we've reached the point in his tenure where that is likely to lessen.
Meanwhile, McDermott is inheriting a Bills team that went 7-9 SU last year and hasn't made the playoffs since 1999 (longest active streak in the league!). But they have a great shot at finishing in second in the AFC East this year as both the Dolphins and Jets figure to be among the worst teams in the league and that could result in four wins right there. (Note: Buffalo was 0-4 against the Dolphins & Jets LY). The team just signed veteran WR Anquan Boldin to bolster the offense, but the player to keep an eye on both here and moving forward is Zay Jones, who set a NCAA record for receptions at East Carolina. Offensive starters are expected to play about a quarter tonight, which is a fair amt of time for the 1st preseason game, a signal to me that McDermott really wants to win his 1st try as a pro coach. 10* Buffalo
|08-09-17||Texans v. Panthers -1||Top||17-27||Win||100||12 h 41 m||Show|
8* Carolina (7:30 ET): Houston was very fortunate to not only win the AFC South last year, but even finish at 9-7 SU. They were outscored by 49 points, a differential indicative of a 6.5 win team. Their average loss came by an average of nearly two touchdowns per game (three by 18+ pts) and their lone win that came by more than a TD was by nine points over a bad Bears team. Now the return of JJ Watt to the fold as well as the drafting of QB DeShaun Watson may lead you to believe that the team's overall level of play may improve in 2017. That may be true, but expect them to win fewer games.
Carolina went from 15-1 SU and a Super Bowl appearance in '15 all the way down to 6-10 SU and out of the playoffs last year. But despite that record, they actually owned a slightly better point differential (-33) than the Texans. The Panthers are all but assured of improving in the win column this year and don't be surprised if they challenge Atlanta for the NFC South title. I liked the drafting of RB Christian McCaffery, which gives QB Cam Newton a new weapon to work with, plus the team will likely perform better in close games than last year's ugly 2-6 record in games decided by a field goal or less.
Houston won all four of its preseason games last year, but I don't think for a second that they'll be matching that record here in 2017. All three of their QB's - Tom Savage, Watson and Brandon Weeden - are expected to play tonight w/ Savage starting. Savage and Weeden are both lost causes at this stage of their respective careers and I think it would be foolish to expect much from Watson in his first NFL game. As for Carolina, Cam Newton won't play at all, but McCaffery and many other offensive regulars will. Coming off a season like the Panthers had last year, I think it's important to win the first one in front of the home crowd and I can't understand why this line has moved in the direction it has. 8* Carolina
|08-03-17||Cowboys -1 v. Cardinals||Top||20-18||Win||100||13 h 42 m||Show|
8* Dallas (8:00 ET): The Cowboys were a lock to improve last year, no matter who the QB was. Now the initial thought is that a returning Tony Romo (missed most of '15) would be an obvious improvement over the terrible play the team got under center from Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel. However, enthusiam quickly had to be tempered when Romo was lost (again) in the preseason. But what no one foresaw was rookie Dak Prescott coming in and leading the team to a 13-3 SU record (top record in NFC). Now there is no doubt Dallas will win FEWER games in 2017 (what a difference a year makes!), but that doesn't matter here in the preseason. I do like them to win (and cover) tonight's HOF Game in Canton, Ohio.
Arizona is a team that regressed in 2016. Ironically, it was they (and not the Cowboys) that were supposed to be one of the top teams in the NFC last year. They were coming off their own 13-3 SU finish in '15 when they made it to (and got crushed in) the NFC Champ Game. Instead, they slipped down to 7-8-1, even though they actually outscored the opposition by 56 pts over the course of the season. Expect them to win more games this year. Long-term, an heir apparent for Carson Palmer must be found. I'll tell you who is NOT the man for that job - Blaine Gabbert - who will start this HOF Game. Gabbert is expected to play the entirety of the first half here, not a good sign considering he has been one of the worst QB's since coming into the league back in '11.
According to HC Bruce Arians, no starters will even suit up here for the Cardinals. Even backup QB Drew Stanton isn't expected to play. After Gabbert, it will be undrafted rookie Trevor Knight coming in under center. Even against what will likely be a pretty "vanilla" defense, I can't see the Cardinals scoring many points tonight. Reportedly, it was just a few days ago that the Cardinals had an "awful" practice (Arians' words). Now Dallas isn't going to play any of its starters either, but Kellen Moore is probably a more serviceable QB than Gabbert at this point. The Cowboys are also the deeper of these two teams right now. Were this a regular season game, I'd consider the Cardinals, but it's preseason and I'll side w/ "America's Team." 8* Dallas
|09-01-16||Ravens v. Saints -5||Top||23-14||Loss||-112||20 h 12 m||Show|
10* New Orleans (8:00 ET): The Saints are one of just four teams (Browns, Bears, Cardinals) w/o a win this preseason. Still, they are favored tonight at home to beat Baltimore, despite the Ravens coming in at 3-0. That may seem odd to you, but the "sharp money" is definitely on New Orleans here as we've actually seen the line get bet up, which you normally wouldn't think would be the case. Ravens' HC John Harbaugh has been critical of the preseason schedule, specifically the number of games played, after he lost two players to injury last week. One of them, starting TE Benjamin Watson, is now out for the year. Thus, I don't think Harbaugh really cares about winning this game, rather he just wants to get through it. Lay the points.
New Orleans, on the other hand, probably should want to win tonight. No team wants to go winless in the preseason as there actually is a correlation there w/ not making the playoffs. The Saints figure to be not very good in 2016, but this is still a home game. QB Drew Brees has said he isn't sure of what the team's plans are for playing time tonight, but the indication is that he will be on the field. This would be the first time Brees has suited up for a preseason finale in 10 years. The Saints lost here at home to Pittsburgh last week, 27-14, allowing Steelers QB's to complete 31 of 39 pass attempts for 342 yards! I can't see the Ravens being that proficient in the passing game here. Joe Flacco may very well not even play.
While Baltimore is 3-0 so far in the preseason, two of the wins came by three points or less. They were slight underdogs in both and actually outgained (326-251) in a 19-18 upset at Indianapolis, their only other road game. Certainly, they looked good in LW's 30-9 beatdown of Detroit. But that was w/ Flacco leading a scoring drive. All indications are that starters won't even play tonight. Consider that the Ravens are thinking about starting an all-rookie left side of the offensive line this year. That should tell you about the backups. Second year WR Breshad Perriman will make his debut tonight, but that won't mean much. Meanwhile, a win for the Saints in front of their fans would probably go a long way. 10* New Orleans
|09-01-16||Patriots v. Giants -2.5||Top||9-17||Win||100||19 h 13 m||Show|
8* NY Giants (7:00 ET): The Giants host the Patriots in the final week of preseason and suffice to say the stakes won't be nearly as high as the two Super Bowls where these teams faced off. New England is 3-0 entering tonight's game, but it's the next four, not these four games that have Bill Belichick's attention. That's because they open the regular season w/o Tom Brady (suspended) for the first four weeks. If they can win three or more of those games, then you might as well pencil this team in for another AFC East title (they've won 13 of the last 15, including seven straight). As for the Giants, they have a 1st year HC (Ben McAdoo) and are looking to improve upon LY's 6-10 finish. They should be the more motivated side this evening.
The G-Men finally got into the win column last week w/ a 21-20 win in the annual preseason clash vs. the Jets. The ATS result of that game will depend on when you bet and the shop. We do know that the Giants failed to cover each of the first two preseason games, including an embarrassing 21-0 loss at Buffalo in Week 2. They lost the home opener 27-10 to Miami. In each of those first two games, they had four turnovers. This is McAdoo's last shot at impressing the faithful before the start of the regular season. Something tells me he'll make the most of the opportunity. The Giants are also a team w/ several position battles still going on, so players should be motivated as well.
There are some rumblings that Tom Brady may play tonight. Even if he does, it will be limited time and I don't think it will affect the outcome of the game. For the record, Brady has not taken a snap in a preseason finale since 2011. Though the Patriots won last week, 19-17 at Carolina, they were outgained 345-291 and benefited from a +3 turnover margin. If the Giants can protect the ball in this game, I see them winning. Lay the points. 8* NY Giants
|08-28-16||Chargers +6 v. Vikings||Top||10-23||Loss||-105||5 h 25 m||Show|
10* San Diego (1:00 ET): So far this week, I've gone 3-0 in NFLX. While I'm certainly grateful for that, it's not like that's something that hasn't happened before. But somewhat uncharactertistically, I've gone 3-0 while betting all favorites. For Sunday though, I'm back to taking the points as this line is simply way too high for a preseason game. It's not w/o precedent, however, as this reminds me of a play I had in Week 1 w/ Dallas plus the points against the Rams. There, we took advantage of the public fervor surrounding the NFL's return to LA. Here, it's a case of Minnesota playing for the first time in their new stadium. Again, it's just way too many points to be laying in the preseason. Take the points.
The Vikings are 2-0 thus far, winning a pair of low-scoring affairs. In both games, however, they were actually outgained. Week 1 at Cincinnati, they faced a first team defense for only three plays, yet gained only 274 yds total (only 56 yds rushing) while allowing 339. Last week in Seattle, with a total yardage deficit of 327-258, they won the game on an INT return in the final 90 seconds. I realize that Minnesota, coming off an 11-5 season where they won the NFC North, is getting a lot of praise and hype coming into 2016. But I wouldn't be surprised if the team ends up falling a little bit shy of expectations. As for tonight's game, remember, they too have to adjust to the new surroundings.
After being embarrassed by Tennessee in Week 1 (lost 27-10), the Chargers bounced back with a convincing 19-3 win over Arizona last week. Like Minnesota, they've had more than a full week to prepare for this "dress rehearsal" game. Spoiler alert; I have San Diego as a "breakout" team for 2016 as anything that could go wrong, did, in 2015. They should enjoy better fortune this season in both the injury department and as far as record in close games. I'm not sure if it's the Vikings home debut or the negative press surrounding Joey Bosa (still unsigned), but this line has become far too inflated. But the way, Adrian Peterson (as per usual) will not be suiting up for the home team. 10* San Diego
|08-27-16||Rams v. Broncos -4.5||Top||9-17||Win||100||13 h 29 m||Show|
8* Denver (9:00 ET): At this point, almost every team in the league knows who its starting QB will be for the regular season. The Super Bowl Champion Broncos are not among those teams. All of a sudden, Peyton Manning in decline doesn't look so bad as the triumvirate of Mark Sanchez, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch has seen no one step forward. But this being the preseason, all three will continue to get their shot and I feel that works to the team's advantage in these final two games. Theoretically, we should be getting inspired play under center for the full duration of the game tonight against a Rams team that should consider itself fortunate to be 2-0 in preseason play. I'm laying the points in this one.
|08-26-16||Browns v. Bucs -3.5||Top||13-30||Win||100||42 h 50 m||Show|
10* Tampa Bay (8:00 ET): It was not a good start to the preseason for either of these two teams. Cleveland gained only 172 total yards in a 17-11 loss at Green Bay where they actually closed as a slight favorite. Tampa Bay's Week 1 result was a 17-9 loss at Philadelphia where they turned the ball over five times. But while the Browns lost again in Week 2, the Bucs bounced back w/ an outright win at Jacksonville, 27-21 as three-point pups. While the defense allowed two Blake Bortles' TD passes in the first three drives, Tampa had the lead by halftime and wound up outgaining the Jags 377-209. Meanwhile, Cleveland's defense was absolutely lit up by Atlanta for 496 total yds, an astronomical number in the preseason considering who was playing. I'll lay the points here.
The Browns are projected to be one of the worst teams in all of football this year. Certainly, they have the most pessimistic forecast among AFC squads. The big news for them coming into Week 3 is that both WR's - Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman - are expected to play Friday. That makes this a "Baylor reunion" of sorts w/ new QB Robert Griffin III. But considering this will be the first time the trio has all played together, expect a learning curve. I do not anticipate the first team offense to be "firing on all cylinders" here. Even if they were to perform better than expected, there's still the matter of the defense, which has surrendered a horrendous amount of rushing yards (375!) through two games. This is nothing new in Cleveland as LY saw this unit rank 30th against the run (128.4 YPG). So far, the opposition has chosen to run against the Browns a total of 82 times.
Tampa Bay jumped from 2 to 6 wins LY and will be expected to make another jump in their first year under new HC Dirk Koetter, who previously served here as the OC and has second year QB Jameis Winston at his disposal. Given what I discussed with the Browns defense, the Bucs should have no problem running the ball in this game w/ Doug Martin or whomever lines up in the backfield. The Tampa defense has actually been very good in the first two games, allowing an average of just 198 YPG, including 85.5 on the ground. Rookie CB Vernon Hargreaves has been a standout. This is Koetter's first home game, so winning here would mean something to him, especially w/ a fanbase angry over the drafting of a now struggling kicker (Roberto Aguayo) in the second round. 10* Tampa Bay
|08-25-16||Cowboys v. Seahawks -5||Top||17-27||Win||100||20 h 41 m||Show|
10* Seattle (10:00 ET): When it comes to "preseason cache," Seattle's Pete Carroll certainly seems to have it while Dallas' Jason Garrett does not. That said, Garrett's Cowboys are 2-0 ATS this preseason and cashed for me in the opener as they were big six-point underdogs at Los Angeles. Last week in "Jerry World" they rolled to an impressive 41-14 win over Miami. But they're still not getting much respect from the oddsmakers in Week 3 as they face Seattle. While I've twice made the case that teams "should" not be laying this many points in the preseason (and gone 2-0 ATS as a result!), Week 3 is a little different and Garrett still remains just 9-14 ATS all-time in preseason games. Meanwhile, Carroll is 23-15. Lay the points!
While Dallas rolled to 41 points last week, Seattle has scored just 38 pts - total - in two games. But despite losing at home on Thursday, 18-11 to Minnesota, the 'Hawks did outgain the Vikes 327-258. After falling into an 11-0 at halftime, they rallied to tie the game, but then lost as rookie Trevone Boykin (TCU) threw a pick-six in the final two minutes. I don't think you can read too much into that loss. If anything, the team should be motivated by playing another game at home. This is of course the week where we'll see the most of the starters and w/ the Seahawks that's clearly a good thing as I project them to be the top team in the league during the regular season! Judging from the line move, it appears as if "sharp" money is on them.
Dallas figures to be an improved bunch in 2016, but keeping QB Tony Romo healthy remains priority #1. I wouldn't be surprised if Romo plays a little bit less than we're used to seeing in the third week of preseason. Yes, the emerging Dak Prescott may end up providing the team a luxury at backup they have not enjoyed in many years. But the rookie has never seen a defense like Seattle's. I also don't expect much from another Cowboys' rookie, RB Ezekiel Elliot, either as he will be making his pro debut. For the Seahawks, QB Russell Wilson and the first team will apparently play into the second half. I think it's telling that Wilson and co would be favored so prohibitively against a team that just won 41-14. 10* Seattle
|08-20-16||49ers +6 v. Broncos||Top||31-24||Win||100||13 h 9 m||Show|
10* San Francisco (9:00 ET): Needless to say, Chip Kelly's debut w/ the 49ers didn't go according to script. He lost at home, 24-13 to the Texans. However, if you go back and watch the game, you'll find that it actually DID get off to a good start for San Francisco. They led 13-7 at halftime and that was w/o Colin Kaepernick even playing. Blaine Gabbert looked satisfactory as he makes his case to be the starter. He threw a touchdown pass in the first quarter. Kaepernick won't play again here, but that's just fine by me as the Niners outgained the Texans 409-265 w/o him last week and as was the case when I played Dallas LW against the Rams, this is a case of the line being way too high for a preseason game. Take the points.
Denver dominated in its preseason opener, shutting out the Bears 22-0. As was the case for all of last year, the defense led the way in allowing only 126 yards total. But I don't think we'll be seeing that kind of domination again here. Looking ahead to the regular season, I don't see the Broncos matching LY's success or win total. Yes, Peyton Manning wasn't very good in his final season, but I don't see his replacement - whether that's Mark Sanchez or Trevor Siemian - getting the job done. Siemian will get the start tonight, his first time ever being in that role. On the other side of the ball, it will be very difficult for Denver's defense to match last year's numbers. I look for Kelly to push the pace against them tonight, something that no defense wants to see this time of year.
The 49ers are obviously going to be one of the worst teams in football this year. But a new coach always wants to get that first win and that's the key here. Denver has nothing to prove here.I really liked that San Francisco was able to run for 236 yards last week. A -2 turnover differential is what lost them the game. If they can clean that issue up, then I see no reason why the team can't cover this number, which again is far too generous for this time of year. 10* San Francisco
|08-19-16||Jets v. Redskins -3.5||Top||18-22||Win||100||12 h 35 m||Show|
8* Washington (7:30 ET): The Jets won for me last week (beat the Jaguars 17-13) even though they were outgained 415-284 and didn't score a touchdown after halftime. In fact, a Jets field goal accounted for the lone points scored in the second half of that one. With starters again likely to see minimal action, I'm a lot "cooler" on the J-E-T-S this week as they head to the Nation's Capital to face a Washington team looking to rebound from a 23-17 loss at Atlanta in their preseason opener. While the 'Skins gained only 234 yards of total offense themselves, they very nearly pulled off a rally after falling into an early 23-3 hole. I imagine HC Jay Gruden is going to be looking for better play out of his charges this week. Lay the points.
People seem to be forgetting that Washington won its division a year ago. While they did so w/ a worse record than the Jets (who didn't make the playoffs) and regression is probably in store for 2016, I still like the Skins' short-term and long-term prospects more. Their issue last season was a defense that ranked 28th in yards per game. That was addressed by bringing in CB Josh Norman via free agency. Another Josh, rookie WR Doctson, should become a favorite of QB Kirk Cousins, who had a breakout season in 2015. After Cousins comes out tonight, we have Colt McCoy and Nate Sudfeld at QB. McCoy has been a starter in this league and Sudfeld was pretty effective last week in completing 67% of his passes in "mop-up" duty.
There's a reason why Jets fans were so desperate to re-sign Ryan Fitzpatrick. The alternative at starter would have been Geno Smith and on his first two drives last week, Smith showed what a dicey proposition he is w/ a pair of three and outs. I don't expect much out of Bryce Petty. Behind him is a rookie, Christian Hackenberg. Had they not allowed a kick return at the start of the second half, Washington would have won last week. Being called for 14 penalties was an issue as well and I expect that to be rectified. Redskins starters are expected to play the first quarter. Of note from LW's Jets game is that the defense allowed a 68.6 completion percentage at 9.1 yards per attempt. 8* Washington