NorthJersey.com-USA TODAY NETWORK. Pictured: New York Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley during training camp.
- Week 1 of the NFL preseason kicks off with 12 games Thursday.
- Our panel of experts picks out their favorite bets of the week, including over/unders in the Browns-Giants and Bucs-Dolphins games.
- All the preseason buzz around the 49ers isn't scaring Matthew Freedman away from picking them against the preseason-hating Cowboys.
Starting on Thursday, we will have NFL-filled weekends from now until Championship Sunday on Jan. 20, 2019. That’s 165 days and 24 consecutive weekends covering 65 preseason games, 256 regular-season games and 10 postseason games — at which point two teams will be left standing to battle it out in Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Feb. 3, 2019.
That’s a lot of potential wagers between now and then. And if you didn’t already know, you can now share your action with friends and follow their bets in the latest update of The Action Network app.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves: It’s time to focus on this upcoming weekend — the first full slate of preseason NFL games. These games are important for bettors everywhere. Some think they have an edge in preseason, and others are just itching to have action on football after an endless summer of baseball bad beats. And then you have bettors (like myself) who won’t make a single preseason bet, but will watch intently to pick up certain tidbits of information that will certainly impact wagers during the season.
Luckily for you, others on our staff do wager on the preseason and have some solid angles for the 16 games on tap this weekend (12 on Thursday, two Friday and two Saturday).
Happy football season, y’all. — Stuckey
Geoff Schwartz: Bucs-Dolphins Under 34
TB @ MIA (-1.5) | Over/Under: 34
Thursday, 7 p.m. ET
I’m taking the under in this all-Florida matchup of two teams with shaky quarterback situations and poor offensive lines. Tampa Bay ranked 32nd in preseason scoring last season, failing to score more than 12 points in any game. And if you go back to preseason Weeks 1 and 4 in 2016 (when the backups take most of the reps), the Bucs scored 13 and 9.
Lastly, my colleague Evan Abrams pointed out this tremendous trend: Since 2014, when two nonplayoff teams have met in the preseason, the under is 67-31-4 (68.4%).
>> Follow Geoff Schwartz in the free Action Network app for all of his preseason bets.
BlackJack Fletcher: Steelers +3
PIT @ PHI (-3) | Over/Under: 33
Thursday, 7 p.m. ET
With quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Nick Foles not playing for Philly, we’re going to get a healthy dose of Nate Sudfeld and some Joe Callahan mixed in for good measure. On the other side of the equation, the Steelers have a legitimate QB battle for the second and third spots on the depth chart among rookie Mason Rudolph, Landry Jones and Josh Dobbs. I expect those guys to play hard throughout. Give me the points and the Steelers, brother.
>> Follow BlackJack Fletcher in the free Action Network app for all of his preseason bets.
Chad Millman: Browns-Giants Under 35
CLE @ NYG (+1) | Over/Under: 35
Thursday, 7 p.m. ET
I like the under here, and it comes down to one phrase: Offensive installs. Our friend Geoff Schwartz told me how challenging it is for offensive coordinators to figure out what their best options are in a new system. And we have two new systems going head-to-head in this game. In addition to the new Browns quarterbacks, the Giants have a new running back, and Eli and Odell are still looking to get back their chemistry.
>> Follow Chad Millman in the free Action Network app for all of his preseason bets.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Cleveland Browns quarterbacks Baker Mayfield (6) and Tyrod Taylor (5) during minicamp
John Ewing: Rams +3
LAR @ BAL (-3) | Over/Under: 36
Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET
In the preseason, playoff teams from the previous year, underdogs and road teams are all undervalued by bettors. According to Bet Labs, combining those filters creates a winning betting system. Playoff teams that are road underdogs have gone 134-112-11 (55%) ATS since 2004. And if the playoff team (Rams) faces a nonplayoff opponent (Ravens), the system improves to 92-63-9 (59%) ATS. LA plus the points, please!
>> Follow John Ewing in the free Action Network app for all of his preseason bets.
Matthew Freedman: 49ers -3.5
DAL @ SF (-3.5) | Over/Under: 35
Thursday, 10 p.m. ET
It’s totally a fish move to back the popular 49ers, who are at home and the slate’s biggest favorites, but as any longtime Cowboys fan can tell you — and my mother of all people pointed this out to me years ago — Jason Garrett’s boys suck during the preseason.
Since becoming the full-time head coach in 2011, Garrett has allowed preseason opponents to go 17-10-2 against the spread, good for a 21.8% return on investment. The sample is small, but Garrett has never had a winning ATS record in any single preseason. Call it an informed emotional hedge, but I’m going to bet against my Cowboys all preseason.
>> Follow Matthew Freedman in the free Action Network app for all of his preseason bets.
Chris Raybon: Falcons +3.5
ATL @ NYJ (-3.5) | Over/Under: 34.5
Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Here we have a situation between two unfamiliar teams in unfamiliar circumstances, which creates value on the underdog: According to BetLabs, nonconference road underdogs are 69-52-5 ATS (57%) in the preseason since 2011. The preseason is unpredictable for oddsmakers, too. The Jets are essentially favored because they’re at home, not because of any distinct advantage in this game. Give me the Dirty Birds with the hook.
>> Follow Chris Raybon in the free Action Network app for all of his preseason bets.
PJ Walsh: Colts 1H (+0.5)
IND @ SEA (-1) | Over/Under: 35.5
Thursday, 10 p.m. ET
This bet is simply based on the expected playing time for both franchise quarterbacks. Andrew Luck, who hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since Barack Obama was in office, should play “about a quarter” according to head coach Frank Reich.
On the other hand, Russell Wilson hasn’t thrown more than six total passes in a preseason opener since winning the starting job his rookie year. There are still plenty of questions regarding Luck’s effectiveness, but there’s no reason to think the team would throw him out there if he wasn’t 100% healthy and ready to play, especially with three more opportunities to play in the preseason.
While Pete Carroll wants to protect Wilson, Reich is going to give Luck every opportunity to get in a rhythm and make real NFL throws. With that in mind, I’m grabbing the Colts +0.5 on the first-half line.
>> Follow PJ Walsh in the free Action Network app for all of his preseason bets.