NFL Preseason Odds, Picks, Preview: 4 Bets For Broncos vs. Vikings, Chiefs vs. 49ers & More (August 14)
David Eulitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Patrick Mahomes
Week 1 of the 2021 NFL preseason rolls on with a full slate of 10 games this Saturday.
There’s a much heavier dose of uncertainty when it comes to betting on preseason games, so we would encourage you to be judicious when making any decisions — but our analysts are still here to identify the best values on the board.
NFL Preseason Odds & Picks
Dolphins at Bears
Raheem Palmer: Although all the hype for this game is surrounding Justin Fields making his NFL debut, have you seen the injury report for the Bears? It reads like a team tying to build a hospital as opposed to play an NFL game.
There’s concern on the offensive line with injuries to Teven Jenkins, Larry Borom, Lachavious Simmons (concussion), Elijah Wilkinson (reserve/COVID-19 list), Germain Ifedi (hip-flexor) and James Daniels (quad). With more injuries elsewhere on offense and defense, I’m not sure how one could lay points with this Bears team — even if Fields is making his debut behind the recently-signed Andy Dalton.
With the Dolphins having two good quarterbacks of their own in Tua Tagovailoa and Jacoby Brissett, there’s not much of a weak link here. You factor in Dolphins head coach Brian Flores being 3-0 in preseason, and it looks like the ideal spot to grab the 3.5 points with the road team.
Broncos at Vikings
Raheem Palmer: Betting preseason football is about two things: Information and depth.
No complex models are necessary — or even an emphasis on matchups and advanced game plans. It’s all information based, and fortunately for us, head coaches tend to let us know their plan for playing their starters.
The NFL’s introduction of COVID-19 protocols has thrown an even bigger monkey wrench into things as the league has made it more punitive for players to not be vaccinated. The Vikings found themselves in the precarious position of going without all three of their top quarterbacks for a week and a half during camp when Kirk Cousins, Nate Stanley and Kellen Mond were placed on the COVID-19 list.
Cousins and Stanley had to isolate for five days, forcing third-year vet Jake Browning to take all fo the available quarterback snaps during the team’s practice. Mond was just activated off the COVID-19 list on Tuesday and it’s hard to imagine he’ll be available for Saturday’s game.
Nevertheless, there’s a reason this line has jumped substantially, with sharp money taking this line from the opener of Vikings -1.5 to where it sits now at Broncos -2.5.
If you’ve been betting for a while, you don’t need me to tell you that a move through the 0 is significant but it certainly speaks to the position the Vikings are in. Add in injuries to Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Anthony Barr and Christian Darrisaw, and you have a Vikings team that more than likely just wants to get through preseason healthy.
With a quarterback competition between Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater taking place in Denver, they certainly have the motivational edge in this matchup. And in a preseason game, I expect that to be the difference.
While I’m not in favor of laying the worst of the number, the Broncos should get the job done here.
Broncos at Vikings
Brandon Anderson: If you want to bet preseason football, you’ve got to isolate the things you know.
Here’s what we know about this matchup: This is the first preseason game for Denver and Minnesota, though both teams look a lot like they did when we last saw them. Still, we don’t know how deep all the starters will go, and we certainly don’t know what the competition will look like late in — or how much either team cares to close out with a win.
We also have no idea if either of these teams will bring any offense. The Broncos have reportedly chosen to start Lock for this game, then Bridgewater in their second game.
Bridgewater is the safe, steady option. He has a high floor, and the Broncos knows what they have in him, even if he hasn’t played yet in blue and orange. But Lock is the much more volatile option, and it’s been mostly bad so far. Lock has graded out as one of the worst quarterbacks in football.
As for the Vikings, they are a COVID-protocol mess.
The defenses are another matter entirely. There’s no question that defense is the strength for both of these teams, and they might both end up as top-five units by season’s end. That’s how Vic Fangio and Mike Zimmer like things as coaches anyway, and that’s where the talent is stocked on these rosters.
I always trust defenses this early in preseason over offenses, especially when the matchup is this lopsided. I’ll play the first-half under with expectations for a lot of punts and bad-looking quarterbacks.
Chiefs at 49ers
Travis Reed: Unlike many teams, the Chiefs are planning on getting their starters extended playing time in their first preseason game. Patrick Mahomes and the starters are expected to play the entire first quarter, which should lead to some early points on the scoreboard.
On the other side of the ball, the 49ers are expected to let “starter” Jimmy Garoppolo go only one series, then Kyle Shanahan will unleash his brand new quarterback in Trey Lance. I expect the 49ers to give Lance every opportunity to shine in this game, and extended playing time for him should translate to lots of scoring opportunities.
To get to the finish line, we’ll probably need to see some scoring from the third-stringers late in the game, but that’s the nature of betting preseason football.
As of writing on Friday afternoon, the first-half line isn’t available, but I’ll also be looking to bet that over — especially if books simply cut the full-game total in half.
I would bet the full-game over up to 40.5 points.