NFL Preseason Week 3 Betting Guide: How to Bet Browns-Bucs, Bills-Lions

NFL Preseason Week 3 Betting Guide: How to Bet Browns-Bucs, Bills-Lions article feature image

USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6), Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17).

  • Ian Hartitz breaks down the betting odds for Friday's NFL Preseason Week 3 matchups.
  • See his analysis and picks for Browns-Bucs and Bills-Lions.

We’ve get a two-game slate of preseason football on Friday night. It’s finally Week 3, so expect to see plenty of key starters play for more than a quarter or two in most cases. Either way, offenses and defenses will largely rely on simplified schemes.

Let’s start with a look at key storylines and actionable betting takeaways for all four teams playing on Friday.

All odds as of late Thursday.

Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Spread: Browns -3
  • Over/Under: 42.5
  • Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET

Cleveland Browns

Baker Mayfield said Wednesday that he’s hopeful to play at least one half of football Friday night.

It remains unlikely that we’ll see Odell Beckham Jr., but an extended look at Nick Chubb would still be one helluva treat. The Browns’ 2018 second-round pick quickly proved to be one of the league’s toughest players to get to the ground as a rookie.

Most yards after contact per touch in a season among all RBs since 2010 (PFF, min. 100 carries):

1. 2018 Nick Chubb (4.47) 👀
2. 2017 Kenyan Drake (4.29)
3. 2018 Derrick Henry (4.21)
4. 2012 Adrian Peterson (3.93)
5. 2017 Alvin Kamara (3.83)

— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) March 30, 2019

It’d be silly for the Browns not to feed Kareem Hunt some touches and snaps once his suspension is over. I’m not as convinced that current backup Dontrell Hilliard will receive the same type of role, particularly due to Chubb’s underrated talents as a receiver.

The key question in Cleveland is whether or not they have a good enough offensive line to support an elite offense. They ranked 18th in adjusted line yards per rush as well as 16th in adjusted sack rate in 2018 and have their hands full with replacing former starting guard Kevin Zeitler.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A tired narrative this offseason has been the idea that Bruce Arians hasn’t historically featured tight ends, so third-year stud OJ Howard could be in for a rough season.

This is unfair to assume because Arians has never has a tight end as talented as the Buccaneers’ 2017 first-round pick.

Only seven TEs have averaged at least two yards per route run among 100 tight ends with at least 100 routes over the past two seasons (PFF):

George Kittle (2.22)
Travis Kelce (2.2)
Rob Gronkowski (2.1)
OJ Howard (2.06) 👀
Hunter Henry (2.05)
Zach Ertz (2.02)
Mark Andrews (2.01)

— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) May 13, 2019

He largely functioned as one of the league’s best tight ends in 2018 before suffering a season-ending sprained foot and ankle:

  • Targets: 48 (12th among all tight ends in Weeks 1-11)
  • Receptions: 34 (T-10th)
  • Yards: 565 (fifth)
  • Yards per target: 11.8 (second)
  • Touchdowns: 5 (tied for third)
  • PPR: 120.5 (sixth)

Howard has been in on 21 of Jameis Winston’s 22 snaps this preseason (per Adam Levitan). This season is shaping up to be a breakout year for one of the league’s most-physically gifted tight ends.

Unfortunately for the Bucs, their secondary and defense in general remain more-or-less a train wreck. I’ll take the visitors in hopes of Mayfield playing up to 30 minutes of action.

PICK: Browns -3

Buffalo Bills at Detroit Lions

  • Spread: Bills -2
  • Over/Under: 42
  • Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET

Buffalo Bills

The Bills might just have the single-most underrated defense in the entire league.

  • The Bills ranked second in both overall and pass DVOA last season behind only the Bears. They were a top-five unit in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers (No. 4), quarterbacks (No. 1) and tight ends (No. 1).
  • They replaced longtime defensive tackle Kyle Williams with stud No. 9 overall pick Ed Oliver, who was reportedly one of the most-impressive performers at Bills training camp.
  • Buffalo added former Texans starting cornerback/2015 first-round pick Kevin Johnson to an already-solid secondary.

Overall, the Bills allowed the third-fewest yards per play in the league. They boast plenty of speed and talent at all three levels of the defense, with the shining star being No. 1 cornerback Tre’Davious White.

Expected improvement on offense from the team’s offseason moves gives the Bills some dark horse potential to claim the No. 2 spot in the AFC East and perhaps stay in the Wild Card race in 2019.

Detroit Lions

The Lions are expected to embrace the running game more in 2019 under new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. This, combined with the team’s decision to release long-time third-down back, seemed to indicate a workhorse role could be on the horizon for stud second-year back Kerryon Johnson.

Alas, the Lions pulled Johnson on third down on each of his three series in Week 2 of the preseason, twice for C.J. Anderson and once for Ty Johnson (per Jared Smola).

There’s little doubt that Kerryon deserves to be fed as many touches as he can handle…

Most yards per carry among all RBs in 2018 (min. 100 carries)

1. Aaron Jones (5.47)
2. Kerryon Johnson (5.43) 👀
3. Phillip Lindsay (5.4)

— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) February 22, 2019

… but that might not be a reality on an offense that is seemingly adamant on utilizing a committee backfield.

I don’t have a great feel on this game’s spread, but I’m inclined to bet the under in a matchup between two defenses that are expected to improve in 2019.

PICK: Under 42

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