We have a seven-game slate of preseason football on Saturday. Week 2 means we should see plenty of teams play their starters for up to a half, but offenses and defenses alike will continue to rely on simplified schemes.
The good news: It’s football, and you can bet on it.
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 the 14 teams playing on Saturday.
- Jacksonville Jaguars Moneyline: +170
- Minnesota Vikings Moneyline: -200
- Over/Under: 40
- Kickoff: Aug. 18, 2018 — 1 p.m. ET
Sixty-eight percent of tickets and 85% of money have come in on last season’s AFC runners-up.
The Jaguars have quickly integrated offseason addition Austin Seferian-Jenkins into the offense, as the tight end played on 13 of 15 first-team snaps in Week 1 (per DraftKings’ Adam Levitan). The 6-foot-5, 262-pound Seferian-Jenkins is bigger and arguably a better receiver than Marcedes Lewis, who had a team-high 10 red-zone targets last season.
Dalvin Cook’s usage in Weeks 1-4 last season seemed to indicate that 20-plus carries and three to five targets per game would be the norm. Still, Latavius Murray dealt with an ankle injury over that stretch and would proceed to rip off 15-plus carries in 10 of the 12 games without Cook.
It remains to be seen whether new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo will utilize a committee backfield like he did in Philadelphia, which would feature Cook as the lightning to Murray’s thunder.
- Oakland Raiders Moneyline: +100
- Los Angeles Rams Moneyline: -120
- Over/Under: 38.5
- Kickoff: Aug. 18, 2018 — 4 p.m. ET
The Raiders have moved from +3 to +2 thanks to 55% of public tickets and 85% of the money.
Jon Gruden didn’t run a prehistoric offense in his debut, but he did give ancient Doug Martin plenty of snaps with the first-team offense. It’d be unfortunate for Martin to steal reps from incumbent starter Marshawn Lynch, who ended last season on a tear following a slow start.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams’ offense failed to get much going last week, highlighting the notion that perhaps Jared Goff deserves more credit for the team’s No. 1 offense in 2017. Stud Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey seems to agree, as Ramsey noted Goff is “average to above average” during his quarterback take tirade with GQ.
Alas, 81% of public tickets and 89% of the money have helped nose-dive the over/under since it opened at 42.5.
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- Cincinnati Bengals Moneyline: +148
- Dallas Cowboys Moneyline: -170
- Over/Under: 41.5
- Kickoff: Aug. 18, 2018 — 7 p.m. ET
The Bengals’ longtime two-back committee featuring Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard has seemingly been replaced by the one-man Joe Mixon show. Bernard won’t be a complete afterthought thanks to his strong receiving ability, but Mixon has the makings of a fantasy-friendly workhorse.
It’d be in the Bengals’ best interest to find a way to keep Mixon on the field as much as possible, as his unique ability out of the backfield makes him a matchup nightmare.
The starting defense features plenty of early-round picks at defensive end, linebacker and cornerback. Still, who knows whether the unit can survive for any length of time without its real MVP, Sean Lee.
Since 2015, the Cowboys have gone 1-9 while allowing 27.3 points and 382 total yards per game when Lee has sat out or played fewer than 15 total snaps. By contrast, they’ve gone 25-13 while allowing 19.5 points and 325 total yards per game with their stud linebacker healthy. The under has received just 23% of public tickets but 72% of the money.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers Moneyline: +140
- Tennessee Titans Moneyline: -164
- Over/Under: 41
- Kickoff: Aug. 18, 2018 — 8 p.m. ET
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mike Evans joins A.J. Green and Randy Moss as the only NFL receivers to gain at least 1,000 yards in each of their first four seasons. The 6-foot-5, 231-pound Evans went for 3-95-1, 5-92-0 and 6-78-0 in three games with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center last season.
Evans has been even better on the road, averaging 17.4 DraftKings points per game with a 51% Consistency Rating since 2014 (per our NFL Trends tool).
Perhaps Jameis Winston will feed his No. 1 option an extra target or two against draft-year rival Marcus Mariota. (#NarrativeStreet.)
Rishard Matthews hasn’t done much in training camp due to an undisclosed injury, paving the way for Corey Davis to take over No. 1 WR duties. The fifth pick of last year’s draft battled injuries and general ineffectiveness over the first half of his rookie campaign, but he still out-targeted Matthews 72-63 in their 11 games together (including the playoffs).
The total hasn’t budged since open, but 83% of public tickets have come in on the under.
- San Francisco 49ers Moneyline: +121
- Houston Texans Moneyline: -142
- Over/Under: 41
- Kickoff: Aug. 18, 2018 — 8 p.m. ET
San Francisco 49ers
Jerick McKinnon (knee) and Matt Breida (shoulder) are both sidelined, leaving plenty of preseason opportunities available in Kyle Shanahan’s notoriously fantasy-friendly offense. Neither running back’s injury is expected to carry into Week 1, but Alfred Morris and Joe Williams have a non-0% chance of leading the 49ers in carries (per the Oddsmaker).
Shanahan’s No. 1 back has scored seven-plus touchdowns in six straight seasons.
Coach Bill O’Brien has already revealed the starters won’t play much Saturday night. Still, Deshaun Watson didn’t need many snaps to make an impact with a healthy supporting cast in 2017, as the Texans averaged a preposterous 40.5 points per game with Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller each healthy.
The public surely hasn’t forgotten, as 65% of tickets and 84% of the money have come in on the Texans spread.
- Chicago Bears Moneyline: +150
- Denver Broncos Moneyline: -170
- Over/Under: 40.5
- Kickoff: Aug. 18, 2018 — 9:05 p.m. ET
When asked why Mitchell Trubisky continues to throw the ball deep instead of checking down, coach Matt Nagy said, “That’s never going to stop. Not in this offense.” Last season the Chiefs were tied for third in 40-plus yards passes; the Bears were tied for 30th.
Trubisky was at least efficient when asked to throw deep, ranking third among all quarterbacks (min. five starts) in QB rating on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield last season (per PFF).
The Broncos have promoted Chad “Swag” Kelly to No. 2 following his electric debut last week. There are more questions than answers along the offensive line and in the backfield, but Case Keenum and Kelly have a legit group of receivers at their disposal with Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and second-round pick Courtland Sutton.
Perhaps the increased optimism for both offenses is responsible for 59% of public tickets and 96% of the money on the over.
- Seattle Seahawks Moneyline: +144
- Los Angeles Chargers Moneyline: -165
- Over/Under: 39.5
- Kickoff: Aug. 18, 2018 — 10 p.m. ET
First-round pick Rashaad Penny is expected to miss the remainder of the preseason with a broken finger. Chris Carson, a seventh-round pick last year, is set to start, and he flashed potential last season by finishing 12th among all running backs (min. 45 carries) in Elusive Rating (PFF). Still, a committee is possible between Carson and web-back C.J. Prosise, and the offensive line is repulsive.
The public is seeing the glass half empty, as 86% of tickets and 66% of the money have come in on the under.
Los Angeles Chargers
Philip Rivers will make his preseason debut Saturday night. This could potentially clear up the Chargers’ No. 3 receiver situation, as the pecking order is still fairly unknown behind Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams.
Field-stretcher Travis Benjamin brings an added dimension to the offense, but the team didn’t spend the seventh pick in last year’s draft on Mike Williams to bench him.