- The NFL preseason slate on Saturday Aug. 25 features seven games including Chiefs-Bears, Titans-Steelers and Falcons-Jaguars.
- Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers have won the public over, moving them from +1 underdogs to a pick 'em in Indianapolis.
- Sharp money has driven the Texans-Rams total down to 40.5 since opening at 43.5 with 99% of money on the under.
We get a seven-game slate of preseason football on Saturday. And since it’s Week 3, many starters will play for up to a half and even three quarters in some cases. Still, offenses and defenses alike will continue to rely on simplified schemes.
Now let’s take a look at key storylines for all 14 teams playing on Saturday.
- Kansas City Chiefs Moneyline: +112
- Chicago Bears Moneyline: -132
- Over/Under: 46.5
- Kickoff: Aug. 25, 2018 – 1 p.m. ET
Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes’ limitless arm strength has overshadowed his more-accomplished teammate from the 2017 draft: Kareem Hunt. Last season’s rushing champion is truly coming off one of the better rookie seasons the league has ever seen.
Andy Reid said at the NFL combine in February that the Chiefs need to “expand on (Hunt’s) role in the pass game.” Early indications are that Reid will do just that, as Hunt has caught three passes in fewer than 30 minutes of preseason action, and the Chiefs released incumbent change-of-pace back Charcandrick West.
Mitchell Trubisky has averaged only five yards per attempt with a modest 61.1% completion rate after 18 preseason pass attempts in the Bears’ new-look offense. He’s been a popular offseason breakout candidate thanks to his improved weaponry and coaching staff, but he’ll still need to prove that last season’s debacle was a fluke. Overall, the 2017 No. 2 overall pick threw the fewest touchdowns (7) among 38 rookie quarterbacks to start at least 12 games since 1992.
The public seems to be counting on a revenge-fueled shootout between Reid and Matt Nagy, as 59% of tickets and 85% of the money have backed the over (per our Live NFL Odds page).
- Tennessee Titans Moneyline: +168
- Pittsburgh Steelers Moneyline: -197
- Over/Under: 45
- Kickoff: Aug. 25, 2018 – 4 p.m. ET
Marcus Mariota has had no issues with the Titans’ new-look offense, completing 6-of-10 passes for 122 yards with a 2-0 TD-INT ratio in just three preseason drives. He was seldom asked to throw much in Mike Mularkey’s run-heavy exotic-smashmouth scheme, but Mariota could flourish if new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur plays to the former No. 2 overall pick’s strengths.
The under has dropped since opening at 45.5 behind 60% of public tickets, but Mike Tomlin confirmed that Ben Roethlisberger and the team’s healthy starters will suit up and reportedly play at least a few series on Saturday.
Big Ben’s infamous home/away splits have been well documented, and the Steelers have accordingly scored at least 24 points in 16 of their past 18 games at Heinz Field. The Steelers join the Saints as the only offenses to average at least six points more at home vs. on the road since 2015.
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- Houston Texans Moneyline: -136
- Los Angeles Rams Moneyline: +115
- Over/Under: 40.5
- Kickoff: Aug. 25, 2018 – 4 p.m. ET
The Texans averaged 34.7 points per game in Deshaun Watson’s six starts last season, and Watson’s dual-threat ability briefly made him the Michael Jordan of fantasy football. Things were even smoother with electric field-stretcher Will Fuller in the fold, as the Texans averaged an absurd 40.5 points per game in four games with a fully healthy offense last season.
Watson has picked up where he left off as a rookie, completing 6-of-9 passes for 77 yards (8.6 yards per attempt) and a touchdown during his brief time on the field this preseason. And yet sharp money has driven the total down since opening at 43.5, with 33% of public tickets backing the over but 99% of the money on the under.
Los Angeles Rams
Our No. 1 fantasy football option, Todd Gurley won’t suit up on Saturday, and Jared Goff is fully expected to join his running back on the bench. Offensive line stalwarts Rob Havenstein (ankle) and Andrew Whitworth (rest) have also been ruled out.
The Rams have moved from -2 favorites to +2.5 underdogs as a result.
The team could choose to unveil its new-look starting defense for an extended test run. All-world defensive tackle Aaron Donald is still holding out, but Ndamukong Suh is just about the next-best thing at the position. The additions of Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib make the Rams one of only four defenses with multiple cornerbacks to finish among Pro Football Focus’ top 20 last season.
- San Francisco 49ers Moneyline: -110
- Indianapolis Colts Moneyline: -110
- Over/Under: 43.5
- Kickoff: Aug. 25, 2018 – 4:30 p.m. ET
San Francisco 49ers
Kyle Shanahan has announced that Jimmy Garoppolo and Co. are expected to play the entire first half on Saturday. The Shanahan family has historically been applauded for its ability to generate 1,000-yard rushers out of thin air, but Kyle has also made a habit of bettering his quarterbacks.
Jimmy GQ has averaged a pristine 9.4 yards per attempt this preseason and has seemingly won over the public: 86% of the tickets and 71% of the money have moved the 49ers from a +1 underdog.
Quarterback Andrew Luck hasn’t looked great through two preseason games, although a road trip to Seattle and date with the Ravens’ blitz-happy defense wasn’t exactly a recipe for success.
The first-team offense should have every chance to right the ship against a 49ers defense that ranked among the league’s bottom-eight units in DraftKings points per game, Plus/Minus and Consistency Rating allowed to quarterbacks in 2017 (per our NFL Trends tool).
The only problem is that Luck likely won’t have his top weapons available, as T.Y. Hilton (shoulder, questionable) and Marlon Mack (hamstring, doubtful) are both dealing with lingering injuries.
- Baltimore Ravens Moneyline: -110
- Miami Dolphins Moneyline: -110
- Over/Under: 41.5
- Kickoff: Aug. 25, 2018 – 7 p.m. ET
Quarterback Alex Smith put together a career-best year in 2017 after the Chiefs lit a fire under him with the first-round selection of Patrick Mahomes — and it looks like the same could be true for Joe Flacco this year with Lamar Jackson on the sidelines.
Overall, Flacco’s average of 8.9 yards per attempt far surpasses his previous preseason career-high set in 2013 (8.2), and he’s managed to throw two touchdowns on only four drives. The Ravens quietly led the NFL with 31.8 points per game over the final five weeks of the 2017 season, during which time Flacco finished as the league’s QB8 in fantasy.
The public seems to be all aboard the Flacco-Jackson train, with 83% of the tickets and 98% of the money backing the Ravens in a pick’em.
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The Miami Herald’s Armando Salguero sent a shiver of fear down the spine of Kenyan Drake fantasy investors this past Monday when discussing the team’s likely depth chart.
The Dolphins may start Frank Gore at running back and give Drake a lot of carries as the backup. Or vice versa. The point is both will play a lot and factor.
Drake has theoretical three-down ability, and his average of 4.96 yards per rush is the second-highest mark among all backs with at least 150 carries over the past two seasons. Still, the Dolphins have a crowded backfield, and all signs indicate that they won’t start the season featuring any one back.
- Atlanta Falcons Moneyline: +160
- Jacksonville Jaguars Moneyline: -185
- Over/Under: 40
- Kickoff: Aug. 25, 2018 – 7 p.m. ET
The Falcons will rest wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Devonta Freeman again on Saturday. As a result, the line has move even more toward the Jaguars, with 81% of tickets and 83% of the money backing the home squad.
Jones’ continued absence could trigger additional opportunities for 2018 first-rounder Calvin Ridley, who flashed last week against the Chiefs on both offense and special teams. Targets won’t be plentiful behind Jones, Mohamed Sanu and the offense’s pair of capable running backs, but Ridley figures to make an impact at some point thanks to his speed and play-making ability.
The Jaguars don’t have a clear-cut No. 1 WR, but they do have five players worthy of consideration for a starting role.
- Marqise Lee: The Jaguars’ leader in receptions (56) and yards per route run (1.67) in 2017 landed a four-year, $34 million contract this offseason.
- Keelan Cole: He led the Jaguars with 748 receiving yards last year and ranked third among all rookies behind only Cooper Kupp and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
- Dede Westbrook: He had at least six targets in six of seven regular season games and averaged a big-time 18.0 yards per reception at Oklahoma.
- Donte Moncrief: He landed a fully guaranteed $9.6 million deal and has the most size and proven scoring ability in an offense lacking both.
- D.J. Chark: The team’s second-round pick has reportedly shown contested-catch ability in practice to complement his 4.34-second 40-yard dash.
- New Orleans Saints Moneyline: +118
- Los Angeles Chargers Moneyline: -138
- Over/Under: 44
- Kickoff: Aug. 25, 2018 – 8 p.m. ET
New Orleans Saints
The Saints released journeyman running back Terrance West this week, meaning Jonathan Williams has seemingly won the competition to work alongside Alvin Kamara during Mark Ingram’s four-game suspension.
Coach Sean Payton told media this past May that “the mistake would be that Alvin gets 15 more carries.” Of course, it’s hard to keep Kamara off the field for too long because he’s usually the best player on it.
Eighty-six percent of public tickets are currently betting on Kamara and the Saints to cover on the road.
Los Angeles Chargers
The first-string offense is expected to play the entire first half, but Tyrell Williams (foot) and Austin Ekeler (calf) could remain sidelined. Those two along with Hunter Henry (torn ACL) and Antonio Gates (still unsigned) combined for 218 targets last season. There will be plenty of opportunity to go around for people not named Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon.
Last year’s No. 7 overall pick Mike Williams has been the talk of training camp and appears positioned to start in the offense’s three-receiver sets. Williams offers unparalleled size and contested-catch ability in the red zone.