Saturday’s NFL preseason slate is the busiest of Week 1 with eight games and no team is favored by more than 3.5 points at DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, or PointsBet. Let’s look at odds and picks for the NFL preseason betting card.
Other numbers that pro football bettors have surely noticed are the low over/under totals, with no game this week listed at more than 37 points. That was to be expected, since in last year’s Week 1 exhibitions, no game resulted in more than 40 points with backup QBs and backups to the backups getting the majority of the snaps. By contrast, in last year’s regular season and playoffs, there were only three games listed at 37 or under at kickoff.
NFL PRESEASON · Sat (8/13) @ 9:00 pm ET
|Empower Field at Mile High, Denver, CO|
Four of the five rookie head coaches this season make their sideline debuts Saturday and surely want to make a good first impression. That is especially true for Denver’s Nathaniel Hackett and Chicago’s Matt Eberflus, who open at home.
Curiously, though rookie bosses were 11-3 straight up in the preseason from 2016-19 when starting their careers at home, in 2021 first-year coaches were 0-4. No preseason games were played in 2020 because of the pandemic.
Now for a look at Saturday’s games. Odds listed are from FanDuel, but always shop around the sports betting marketplace for the best odds for your wagers, as well as the various promos and bonuses offered by sportsbooks.
Also read: NFL Preseason Betting Strategies
Chiefs +3.5 (35) at Bears
Moneyline: Bears -175/Chiefs +145
Time: 1 p.m. ET
TV: NFL Network
Quick look: The Bears’ Eberflus, who was Indianapolis’ defensive coordinator from 2018-21, has said he plans to give his starters extended playing time, while what remains of the depleted defense (Khalil Mack’s gone to the Chargers among the departures) adjusts to the new 4-3 alignment under new coordinator Alan Williams, and the offense deals with a new offensive coordinator in Luke Getsy, who was Green Bay’s QB coach from 2019-21.
And it won’t hurt to give second-year QB Justin Fields a good number of snaps all summer after his troubles last year reading defenses and avoiding the rush. He’ll need to get acquainted with a receiving corps that has been ravaged by offseason departures and injuries.
On the other sideline is Kansas City and coach Andy Reid, who won a ring with the Chiefs in 2019 and guided KC to a perfect summer mark last season (3-0). For sure, though, his veteran stars, such as QB Patrick Mahomes and TE Travis Kelce, will have a sideline seat Saturday. But guys involved in the pass rush, including Purdue rookie first-rounder George Karlaftis, could have a busy day.
Super Bowl-winning coaches in exhibition openers have gone 12-4 SU since 2018.
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Panthers +1.5 (37) at Redskins
Moneyline: Commanders -120/Panthers +100
Time: 1 p.m. ET
Quick look: The Panthers won’t let injury-prone standout RB Christian McCaffrey anywhere near the field, but there’s a lively QB battle ongoing between incumbent Sam Darnold, who has 49 career starts, and newly acquired Baker Mayfield, who had 59 starts with Cleveland before being jettisoned in the wake of the trade for Deshaun Watson.
Also, rookie Matt Corral reportedly could see lots of second-half action.
New Washington QB Carson Wentz, who was dumped by Indianapolis after last season’s late collapse, probably needs to play a lot, considering there has been grumbling he hasn’t been able to hit receivers during drills despite no pass rush.
On the coaching front, it’s too early to say the hot seat temperature is rising at this stage for third-year Panthers coach Matt Rhule, whose teams have gone 5-11 and 5-12 the past two seasons, but he likely will put a greater value on winning than veteran Commanders coach Ron Rivera, Rhule’s predecessor in Carolina.
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Colts -1.5 (34) at Bills
Moneyline: Colts -120/Bills +100
Time: 4 p.m. ET
TV: NFL Network
Quick look: The Bills are one of two teams, along with Baltimore, that have won all of their exhibitions the past two summers in which practice games were played, going 4-0 in 2019 and 3-0 last year.
But with the Bills being the preseason betting favorite to win the Super Bowl (+650 FanDuel; check all Super Bowl 57 odds here), coach Sean McDermott would be wise to keep his stars clear of danger until the games matter — such as their regular-season opener in LA against the defending Super Bowl champion Rams.
The Colts will be breaking in yet another new veteran quarterback to open the season, on the heels of Jacoby Brissett, Philip Rivers, and Wentz. Now it’s former Atlanta star Matt Ryan.
Coach Frank Reich said Ryan and star RB Jonathan Taylor might see minimal playing time early, but otherwise many others are fair game.
Seahawks +3 (36) at Steelers
Moneyline: Steelers -165/Seahawks +145
Time: 7 p.m. ET
TV: NFL Network
Quick look: This summer has been unlike any other in the past decade for each team, as both need to find a new QB to take over for departed Super Bowl-winning veterans.
The Seahawks plan to give Geno Smith the start Saturday in their quest to find a replacement for Russell Wilson, who was traded to Denver. Also figuring to get his fair share of play is Drew Lock, a former Bronco who struggled in his handful of starts in recent years.
In Pittsburgh, it’s more of a three-way battle between newly acquired Mitch Trubisky, who twice guided Chicago to the playoffs; backup Mason Rudolph; and this year’s first-round draft pick Kenny Pickett, the first QB off the board in the spring. Trubisky, who reportedly hasn’t had the best of camps, is expected to start on Saturday.
With an accent on giving these QBs a chance to show their stuff, taking the over seems like the way to go.
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Dolphins -1.5 (31.5) at Bucs
Moneyline: Dolphins -120/Bucs +100
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Quick look: Miami coach Mike McDaniel, who was San Francisco’s offensive coordinator last season, takes over for fired Brian Flores and will be looking to generate some positive vibes against the Dolphins’ more successful state rivals.
Last year, these teams didn’t meet in the preseason, but the Dolphins did travel to Tampa in the regular sesaon and lost 45-17. If not for that rout, Miami would have had the fifth-best scoring defense in the league.
McDaniel, the only rookie coach the past four years to take over a team that had a winning record the year before (9-8), will be working with third-year QB Tua Tagovailoa, who has had issues and needs the work. But at least now he’ll have a beefed-up offensive line to help out and a bevy of new RBs to share the huddle with. Tampa Bay will pay a lot of attention to its new WR talent.
As for Tampa Bay’s braintrust, new coach Todd Bowles, the team’s defensive coordinator the past three seasons, takes his second stab at head coaching after struggling with the Jets from 2015-18. With Tom Brady sitting out for a couple of weeks (excused absence), expect a lot of Blaine Gabbert and more of ex-Florida Gator Kyle Trask, a second-year man who didn’t throw a pass last year.
Saints -1.5 (33.5) at Texans
Moneyline: Saints -125/Texans +105
Time: 8 p.m.
Quick look: The Saints and new coach Dennis Allen, who was Sean Payton’s defensive coordinator the past seven years after coaching the Raiders for three sesaons, will be short-handed at QB with starter Jameis Winston out with a foot injury and former starter Taysom Hill now a full-time tight end.
Thus, veteran backup Andy Dalton could get lots of reps Saturday, along with second-year QB Ian Book, who had one (miserable) start last year for New Orleans.
No matter who is throwing the ball, they’ll no doubt be looking to make connections with WR Chris Olave, the team’s first-round pick out of Ohio State.
Another guy with head coaching experience elevated from a defensive coordinator role is Houston’s Lovie Smith, whose teams have specialized in winning turnover battles.
Cowboys +3 (30.5) at Broncos
Moneyline: Broncos -160/Cowboys+135
Time: 9 p.m.
TV: NFL Network
Quick look: These teams are good examples of how exhibition game success or failure doesn’t necessarily translate to the regular season. The Cowboys went winless in four games last summer, and the Broncos were 3-0. Dallas went on to win the NFC East, while Denver was last in the AFC West.
In fact, that was the third division title coming off a winless summer season for the Cowboys the past eight years, a feat achieved by the other league teams three times in total.
The news out of Cowboy-ville this week is that the key starters will take the day off after scrimmaging with the Broncos and will let the younger guys have the stage on TV.
Since Dallas plans to give its stars a breather, and since the Broncos and their rookie coach are out to show their fans they will matter this year, this seems like the best bet of the day, Denver giving the points — even if QB Wilson just hangs out on the sideline the entire game.
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Rams +3.5 (29.5) at Chargers
Moneyline: Chargers -170/Rams +145
Time: 10 p.m.
Quick look: The Rams also were winless in last summer’s exhibitions, including an opening 13-6 loss to the Chargers at SoFi Stadium, but went on to win the league title while the Bolts suffered a crushing OT loss in last year’s season finale and sat out the playoffs.
Of major concern for the Rams is the status of QB Matt Stafford, who has an “abnormal” elbow injury that’s had him sitting out drills this summer. As for the Chargers, star QB Justin Herbert probably will sit out summer games again, just as he has the past two seasons.
About that tiny over/under total …
Over the past 65 years of regular-season play, according to Gold Sheet posts, there’s been only one O/U number as low as 29.5, when Philadelphia played host to New Orleans in December 1993. The Eagles wound up beating the Saints 37-26 at the Vet.