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What bettors need to know: Thursday's NFL preseason action
NFL betting got underway this past weekend with the Hall of Fame Game. Now, football bettors get their first night of preseason profits with six games on the go Thursday.
Here’s a quick look at each of those matchups and their odds and trends:
Washington Redskins at Buffalo Bills (+2.5, 35)
The Redskins debut rookie QB Robert Griffin III, who will get between 12 and 20 snaps in Week 1. Washington head coach Mike Shanahan is notorious for putting weight into these tune-up tilts and owns a career 42-32-2 ATS mark in the preseason, including a 5-2 ATS record in his first two preseasons with the Skins.
Buffalo head coach Chan Gailey says his starters will only get a few series Thursday, turning things over to backup QB Vince Young. Starter Ryan Fitzpatrick said the offense will be focused on improving the rushing game, which could eat up clock and favor the under 35 points.
New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots (-3, 38)
These teams held a joint practice this week, so expect both sides to have notes. Bill Belichick sat Tom Brady in Week 1 of the preseason last year and will limit his star QB Thursday. Not only does Belichick want a better look at backups Ryan Mallet and Brian Hoyer, but he’s working with scraps on the offensive line.
The Saints won the Hall of Fame Game and will likely give Drew Brees and the starters a longer leash in Week 1. Receiver Devery Henderson and RB Mark Ingram sat out the practice with the Pats but are expected to see more action Thursday.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles (pick, 34)
Eagles head coach Andy Reid is expected to be on sidelines for Thursday's game following the funeral for his son this week. Philadelphia has dedicated this season to Garrett Reid and will likely come out strong for their coach Thursday.
Pittsburgh has been one of the better preseason bets under Mike Tomlin, posting a 16-5 SU and 13-8 ATS record in the exhibition schedule. The Steelers will give starts to two rookie offensive linemen Thursday, throwing David DeCastro and Mike Adams into the fire. Tomlin will play his starting units no more than two series.
Baltimore Ravens at Atlanta Falcons (-1.5, 34)
The Ravens are one of the best under bets in Week 1 of the preseason, posting a 3-12 over/under count in the exhibition opener since 1995. Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh will use his starters, namely QB Joe Flacco, sparingly and will not risk putting injured players into action.
The Falcons could give their starters a full quarter’s worth of work and more Thursday. Head coach Mike Smith hadn’t decided on a snap count or anything but told the media his starters could play into the second quarter versus the Ravens.
Green Bay Packers at San Diego Chargers (-1, 37.5)
The Packers will only let QB Aaron Rodgers roll out one series or less before turning the offense over to the backups. A big part of that decision is the uncertainty surrounding Herb Taylor at left tackle. Backups Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman could be in for a long night if Taylor fails on the line.
The Chargers are one of the better over plays during Week 1 of the preseason, boasting an 11-5 over/under count in Week 1 since 1995. The Bolts won’t have backup QB Charlie Whitehurst for Thursday, leaving the bulk of the passing duties behind Philip Rivers to Kevin O'Connell and undrafted rookie Jarrett Lee.
Denver Broncos at Chicago Bears (-3, 34.5)
Denver happens to be one of the best Week 1 preseason plays in the NFL, with a stellar 11-4-1 ATS mark in their exhibition openers since 1995. Peyton Manning makes his debut in Broncos blue and orange, but will only get 10-12 plays Thursday.
The Bears have depth at QB and RB with Jason Campbell an upgrade under center and Michael Bush a threat behind Matt Forte. Chicago will not have veteran LB Brian Urlacher, who is dealing with personal issues.
The Patriots look to open their preseason schedule with a win over the Saints. New England is the pick (-2 1/2) according to Dunkel, which has the Patriots favored by 4 1/2. Dunkel Pick: New England (-2 1/2). Here are all of this week's picks.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 9
Time Posted: 6:00 a.m. EST (8/7)
Game 251-252: Washington at Buffalo (7:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Washington 125.206; Buffalo 121.193
Dunkel Line: Washington by 4; 32
Vegas Line: Washington by 2; 35
Dunkel Pick: Washington (-2); Under
Game 253-254: New Orleans at New England (7:30 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: New Orleans 120.604; New England 124.922
Dunkel Line: New England by 4 1/2; 44
Vegas Line: New England by 2 1/2; 40
Dunkel Pick: New England (-2 1/2); Over
Game 255-256: Pittsburgh at Philadelphia (7:30 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Pittsburgh 126.748; Philadelphia 123.603
Dunkel Line: Pittsburgh by 3; 37
Vegas Line: Pittsburgh by 1 1/2; 33 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Pittsburgh (-1 1/2); Over
Game 257-258: Baltimore at Atlanta (7:30 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Baltimore 119.302; Atlanta 122.674
Dunkel Line: Atlanta by 3 1/2; 38
Vegas Line: Atlanta by 2 1/2; 34
Dunkel Pick: Atlanta (-2 1/2); Over
Game 259-260: Green Bay at San Diego (8:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Green Bay 124.503; San Diego 124.698
Dunkel Line: Even; 35
Vegas Line: San Diego by 2 1/2; 37
Dunkel Pick: Green Bay (+2 1/2); Under
Game 261-262: Denver at Chicago (8:30 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Denver 119.203; Chicago 124.312
Dunkel Line: Chicago by 5; 30
Vegas Line: Chicago by 3; 33
Dunkel Pick: Chicago (-3); Under
Thursday's Betting Notes
By Antony Dinero
Washington at Buffalo
Even though he's a rookie, Robert Griffin III won't be handled any differently in his debut, Mike Shanahan has assured D.C. media. In fact, expect fellow draftee Kirk Cousins (Michigan State) to play more, taking the field with third-stringers in the second half. RG III will play the first 15-20 plays, while Rex Grossman will finish the half and play with the second-string. The Bills aren't going to make it easy on Buffalo, as DC Dave Wannstedt is eager to see how much his revamped defense has grasped from the early part of camp.
The Bills have their own QB curiosity, having taken up the Vince Young cause in the offseason. He'll follow up Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is set to see about the same amount of action as Griffin. Considering how much of a timing-based offense Buffalo's passing game is, don't expect a lot of continuity. Tyler Thigpen should finish out the second half.
Although all eyes will be on the quarterbacks, the Redskins are desperate to set a foundation that leads to a stronger running game than had last year. Evan Royster will get first crack, but Roy Helu, Tim Hightower and rookies Alfred Morris and Lennon Creer are all hoping to make a dent.
Shanahan (47-29 SU, 42-32-2 ATS) is noted for his success in preseason games, as the discipline he instills starts from the moment players report. We'll see if that success continues with two rookie quarterbacks to bring along. Shanahan is also a noted for higher-scoring games in August (48-28 O/U). Meanwhile, Chan Gailey has been a disaster (4-14 SU, 5-13-1 ATS) with his teams, placing little importance in results of games.
New Orleans at New England
The Saints will be playing their second preseason game before most teams play their first. They also scrimmaged with the Patriots on Tuesday and Wednesday, so this game might feel a little anti-climactic come Thursday night. According to reports from both the Boston Globe and the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Saints got the better of the Patriots in Tuesday's competition, taking advantage up front.
New England's major concerns are on that offensive line, since Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer remain 'out' and there are multiple reserve tackles already ruled 'out' for this contest. Considering how strong the Saints pass rush looked against Arizona, Tom Brady will likely be doing plenty of handing off before giving way to capable backups Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett.
For what it's worth, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were the two standouts in Tuesday's practice, so they'll certainly aid the passing game for however long they participate. The Saints' Jimmy Graham adds to the embarrassment of riches at tight end in this matchup, though after coming up with his back hurting on Wednesday, may not participate. New Orleans' primary red zone threat was held without a catch in limited action against Arizona.
Running back Mark Ingram scored the first touchdown of the NFL preseason but New Orleans is exercising caution as he comes back from knee and toe injuries, so look for limited participation from the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner. Chris Ivory ran hard and will get the bulk of the carries after Pierre Thomas. Rookies Travaris Cadet and Joe Banyard had nice moments on Sunday night and will be counted on heavily in the second half. New England's best back in camp thus far has been rookie Brandon Bolden of Ole Miss, so expect him to factor in substantially.
Bill Belichick and Saints interim coach Joe Vitt both attended the funeral of Reid's son, Garrett, as owner Tom Benson flew a contingent on a private plane on Tuesday afternoon, so it's been a weird week given the circumstances, both in terms of fraternization and New Orleans participating in its second live game in five days. Belichick (38-31 SU, 35-28 ATS) has seen his teams be a prolific 'over' team in preseason action, surpassing the posted total in 43 of 68 games (63 pct.). Vitt is (1-0 SU/ATS, O-1, O/U).
Pittsburgh at Philadelphia
Unfortunately, the tragic death of Andy Reid's eldest son, Garrett, plays a huge role in this first preseason contest. The team took it hard, as he'd been around many of the veterans for so long and everyone feels for their head coach. Reid surprised many by returning to practice on Wednesday and taking questions, hoping to put the matter behind him, in part, because "I know my son wouldn't want it any other way." This has the makings of an emotional game for Philadelphia, a polar opposite of what's normal for a first preseason game. Michael Vick has already stated "our entire season will be dedicated to Garrett." Vick will start and likely lead multiple drives.
Ben Roethlisberger has been dealing with an ankle injury, but Steelers coach Mike Tomlin plans on starting him and giving him a drive or two so he and new coordinator to have some film to review. Usual suspects Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich have shown what they can do, so the plan is to see what former Texas A&M standout Jarrod Johnson can bring to the table.
With a replacement for Rashard Mendenahll sought, Pittsburgh is interested in getting a feel for its stable of running backs. Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer are known commodities, so the key is to look at Baron Batch and super-fast rookie Chris Rainey out of Florida. Batch tore an ACL around this time last year and missed the season. All Pittsburgh backs will be working behind an offensive line starting rookie draft picks Mike Adams and David DeCastro.
Due in part to his longevity, Reid (21-31 SU, 22-28 ATS) is even with Belichick for most preseason losses among active coaches. Tomlin (16-5 SU, 13-8 ATS) has the second-highest winning percentage (76.2) of any active NFL coach.
Baltimore at Atlanta
Falcons season ticket-holders are going to have to wait an week to see a lot of their team's goodies. It sounds like Mike Smith's plan is to give both first-team units a shorter stint than usual, subscribing to the theory that he wants to see the younger guys out of the gate.
The Ravens appear willing to let their players participate a little longer, as John Harbaugh has told reporters he'll likely even allow the younger starters to play into the second quarter. Still, proceed with caution, since multiple top offensive linemen could miss the contest and QB Joe Flacco has already demonstrated enough growth in camp that he won't be risked. Baltimore will follow up his appearance with top backup Tyrod Taylor, followed by newcomers Curtis Painter and rookie Chester Stewart (Temple). Atlanta will follow up Matt Ryan with incumbent backups Chris Redman and John Parker Wilson, likely followed by the prolifically inconsistent Dominique Davis, who is hoping to open eyes...
Baltimore has had a host of bodies at multiple positions miss large portions of camp, so don't be fooled by the fact many finally started shaking off some rust this week. Their lack of preparation likely means Harbaugh is set to ride with guys who have virtually no chance of making the roster in the final 30 minutes.
Harbaugh (11-5 SU, 9-7 ATS) has had a lot of success in the preseason thus far in his young career, while Mike Smith (6-10 SU, 7-7-1 ATS) hasn't had as much luck. Both of them have seen the 'under' come in more often than not, a combined 21 of 32 times (66%).
Green Bay at San Diego
Aaron Rodgers against Philip Rivers on ESPN! Can't wait to see how little they actually play, but odds are decent neither get more than a series. Rodgers is a gamer, but with tackles Derek Sherrod and Marshall Newhouse 'out' and Andrew Datko playing human turnstile early, it's hard to imagine Mike McCarthy gambling with the franchise. Rivers has seen his offensive line restructured after all of last year's attrition, but haven't had Brandyn Dombrowski or rookie Johnnie Troutman all camp, have seen LT Jared Gaither miss significant time with back spasms and already see saw Rivers come up lame with a groin injury on Monday. Expect to see a heavy dose of Graham Harrell vs. rookie Jarrett Lee out of LSU, since top backup Charlie Whitehurst is out with a sore MCL and longshot Kevin O'Connell was a late arrival.
The fourth quarter is expected to be closed out by Green Bay rookie B.J. Coleman, a seventh-round pick out of Chattanooga hoping to stick as the No. 3. It's definitely a big night for him, since a subpar performance could lead to the Packers seeking a veteran alternative.
Greg Jennings and Tory Gurley are receivers who have also been ruled 'out,' which means that return weapons Randall Cobb and Shaky Smithson will get to showcase their hands with Green Bay's backups. The Chargers have seen their receiving corps overhauled, adding Robert Meachem, Roscoe Parrish and Eddie Royal, so they'll get a crack at making Lee's job easier in his first game significant action in 10 months. Since starting the regular-season win against Alabama and being demoted in favor of Jordan Jefferson, Lee played sparingly, standing on the sideline as LSU was blanked by the Tide in the National Championship game.
Can't get more .500 than what San Diego's Norv Turner (28-28 SU, 24-26 ATS) and Green Bay's McCarthy (12-12 SU, 12-11 ATS) have accomplished in their preseason careers. They'll look to keep their All-Pro quarterbacks healthy above all else.
Denver at Chicago
All eyes are going to be on Peyton Manning, but it's worth stating the obvious that you better not blink or you may miss him, especially since projected right tackle Orlando Franklin has sat early with concussion issues and Ryan Harris won't play. When Manning is out there (10-12 plays, reports the Denver Post), word is that his cohesion with former Colts Brandon Stokley and Jacob Tamme is further ahead of everyone else. There's hope Demariyus Thomas can be the big-play threat, so don't be surprised if that's who they take a shot with.
Behind Manning, John Fox and OC Mike McCoy have to pick a backup from Adam Weber and newcomers Caleb Hanie and rookie Brock Osweiler. Hanie, formerly with Chicago, gets first crack. Hanie is likely to see the bulk of the first-half option, so be aware that the Bears are quite capable of playing against his tendencies. The Broncos are sure to feature the tight end as much as anyone this season, so even though Manning won't play much, Tamme and new acquisition Joel Dreesen could be showcased. There isn't much depth beyond them...
Running back Knowshon Moreno is now a fourth-stringer and fighting for a job, so if you're looking to hinge your wagon to someone who could be motivated, that's your guy. He'll be essential to Denver's cause late, especially since promising rookie Ronnie Hillman (San Diego State) has been dealing with a hamstring issue the team is sure to be careful with.
John Fox is a defensive mastermind and now collaborating with Jack Del Rio, so look for the Broncos to be a force on that side of the ball. It may not happen right out of the gate, as numerous would-be regulars have already missed time, preventing much continuity. Projected starters Justin Bannan and Quinton Carter won't play, while newcomers Keith Brooking and Jim Leonhard are also 'out.'
The headlines on Chicago's end lie in the reunion between QB Jay Cutler and WR Brandon Marshall, especially with Champ Bailey on the other side of the ball. That will provide short-term fun. Rookie Alshon Jeffery is also set for a big debut with Devin Hester, Eric Weems and Earl Bennett having been so limited thus far. Dane Zanzenbacher has impressed and is also a WR to watch. Like Matt Forte and potentially Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher is likely to play sparingly, if at all.
Lovie Smith (16-17 SU, 15-17 ATS) and Fox (21-19 SU, 18-21 ATS) are veterans who are looking primarily at their third and fourth-stringers here, unlikely to be consumed by the curiosity of playing with some their fancier toys, especially given the lack of preparation.
Best and worst NFL preseason Week 1 bets
By JASON LOGAN
The NFL preseason can make about as much sense as an episode of Lost. Things that should be never are. And players you’ve never heard of can quickly become your all-time faves.
Preseason trends are just as volatile. The tune-up rosters are different, not only year-to-year, but week-to-week as players are cut and added. However, there are some trends and records that jump out during Week 1 of the preseason and can’t be ignored.
Here’s a look at the best and worst teams against the spread in Week 1 of the NFL preseason.
Records from Week 1 of the preseason since 1995.
Best preseason Week 1 bets
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-6 SU, 11-5 ATS)
The Bucs are straight cash in their preseason opener, including covering in Week 1 of the preseason the past two summers. Tampa Bay opens the 2012 preseason slate at Miami as a 2.5-point underdog Friday.
Denver Broncos (9-7 SU, 11-4-1 ATS)
The Broncos are a much different beast than 2011, especially with Peyton Manning under center. Thursday’s game against the Bears (-3) is his first action since playing in the Pro Bowl on Jan. 30, 2011. Head coach John Fox says his starters will play the majority of the first quarter.
Tennessee Titans (10-6 SU, 10-6 ATS)
The Titans have a nice QB battle on their hands heading into Week 1 of the preseason with second-year arm Jake Locker fighting veteran Matt Hasselbeck for the starting job. That motivation should provide good value in Tennessee, which is 3-point underdog visiting Hasselbeck’s former team, the Seattle Seahawks, Saturday.
Worst preseason Week 1 bets
Dallas Cowboys (4-12 SU, 3-13 ATS)
It’s tough to find value in the Cowboys during the regular season, but damn near impossible during the exhibition slate. Dallas has been ravaged by injuries this offseason with 17 different players missing practice. America’s Team is a 1.5-point underdog visiting the Raiders Monday.
Detroit Lions (9-7 SU, 4-9-3 ATS)
For anyone who has loyally bet the NFL preseason, this one should catch you off guard. Detroit has provided preseason profits over the past four years, going a combined 12-3-1 ATS in the preseason since 2008. But getting the motor started in Week 1 is an issue. The Lions face the Browns as 3-point home faves Friday.
Philadelphia Eagles (5-10 SU, 4-10-1 ATS)
Eagles head coach Andy Reid never cared about the team’s preseason success in the past and understandably won’t be too concerned about it in 2012 after the death of his son last week. Reid returned to camp following the funeral and is expected to be on the sidelines when Philadelphia hosts the Steelers as a pick’em Thursday. "It will be therapy for Andy,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie told reporters.