NFL Preseason Week 1 Betting: Insights on Vikings-Broncos, Chargers-Cardinals

NFL Preseason Week 1 Betting: Insights on Vikings-Broncos, Chargers-Cardinals article feature image

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Case Keenum

  • Saturday's preseason slate features the Vikings-Bronocs and Chargers-Cardinals games.
  • The Vikings-Broncos total has moved from 34.5 points to 36 with 31% of the tickets but 69% of the money on the over.
  • The Chargers have 76% of the tickets but just 18% of the money on their +118 moneyline.

Thursday night gave us a glorious 12-game slate of preseason football, whereas Friday and Saturday night have only two games apiece. That’s OK; it’s football, and you can bet on it.

No complaints here.

While the preseason isn’t quite “real” football, the usage and production of players reveals the potential they and their units might have in the regular season. For preseason player projections and daily fantasy analysis, see the FantasyLabs Models as well as our evergreen and slate-specific DFS content.

Let’s take a look at key storylines for each team playing Saturday.

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Betting Odds: Minnesota Vikings at Denver Broncos (PK)

  • Minnesota Vikings Moneyline: -110
  • Denver Broncos Moneyline: -110
  • Over/Under: 36
  • Kickoff: Aug. 11, 2018 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Minnesota Vikings

The new-look offense will feature a healthy Dalvin Cook in the backfield as well as $90-million quarterback Kirk Cousins. Preseason usage might give us an idea of which talented receiver Cousins prefers, although the most important story to track might be the health of the offensive line. The Vikings’ 19th-ranked unit in adjusted line yards per rush is expected to return four of its five starters, but right guard Mike Remmers (ankle), left guard Nick Easton (neck, IR) and center Pat Elflein (shoulder, ankle) are already banged up. Despite the team’s depleted front, the line has moved from Vikings +1 to a pick’em.

Denver Broncos

The unofficial depth chart lists Devontae Booker as the starting running back with fourth-round pick Royce Freeman as the backup. Freeman joins Leonard Fournette and Le’Veon Bell as the only top-100 picks to weigh at least 230 pounds and have a college season of 250 yards receiving. Considering offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave’s lead running back has averaged 240.3 fantasy points per season (No. 8 in 2017), the starter could be a valuable fantasy asset. Freeman is presently the RB27 in The Action Network RB Rankings. The total has moved from 34.5 points to 36, with 31% of the tickets but 69% of the money betting on the over.

Betting Odds: Los Angeles Chargers at Arizona Cardinals (-2.5)

  • Los Angeles Chargers Moneyline: +118
  • Arizona Cardinals Moneyline: -138
  • Over/Under: 36.5
  • Kickoff: Aug. 11, 2018 – 10:00 p.m. ET

Los Angeles Chargers

Per our Live NFL Odds Page, 76% of the public is on the Chargers moneyline, but 82% of the money is on the Cardinals at -138. The sharps apparently are betting against the Chargers, who have already lost tight end Hunter Henry (ACL) and cornerback Jason Verrett (Achilles) for the season. Assuming journeyman Virgil Green fails to break out, much of Henry’s former target share will likely go to wide receivers Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams and maybe even last season’s No. 7 overall pick Mike Williams, who could capitalize on extra red-zone targets with his size (6-feet-4, 218 pounds).

Arizona Cardinals

Captain checkdown Sam Bradford is unlikely to see much action, so No. 10 overall pick Josh Rosen could play at least a half. Rosen was lauded as the draft’s most pro-ready quarterback, but he’ll have to make do with a group of unproven wide receivers aside from Larry Fitzgerald. Perhaps he’ll target Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 tight end in yards per route run (min. 25 targets) in Ricky Seals-Jones, who has a chance to seize the starting job from Jermaine Gresham (PUP). Second-round receiver Christian Kirk as well as fourth-round back Chase Edmonds should each have opportunities in the preseason to establish themselves as fantasy handcuffs behind Fitzgerald and running back David Johnson.

My Bets

Vikings-Broncos OVER 35.5
Cardinals-Chargers OVER 36.5

It’d be surprising to see the Vikings and Broncos play their defensive starters for long, and the sharps seem to be backing the overs, which have gotten 66% and 69% of the money compared to 50% and 46% of the bets.

Also, both games present an opportunity to capitalize on what might be a new trend. It’s possible the theoretically score-inflating impact of the new helmet rules hasn’t been accounted for in the totals: On Thursday, over bettors went a sterling 9-3.

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