NFL Aug 20, 2021

The NFL preseason is well underway.  

Last week included the first full slate of exhibition games with all teams in action.  Note that preseason games will take place over five days -- Thursday through Monday.  Last night, in the only game played, New England destroyed Philadelphia 35-0.

So, let's continue with Preseason Week 2 analysis.  Last week, I went 1-2 on the picks.  I have more plays than usual this week.  This is Part 1 of 2, which includes analysis of Friday night's two games.  

Here are the current pointspreads according to SPREADS.CA:

This week's picks (Friday):

First Half Moneyline:  Kansas City -160 vs. Arizona

Friday 8 pm EST – This might seem like a strange pick for a preseason game.  Given the unpredictability of these matchups, laying a heavy price with a favourite typically wouldn't be something to consider.  However, there are special circumstances here, I'm confident we still have value taking the risk.  Both teams won last week by identical scores (19-16) so there's no sense of urgency in either camp.  Neither head coach makes winning in preseason a priority, so that angle offers no edge to either side.  However, the key factor here is Andy Reid's announcement that he plans to play his starters most, of not all of the first half.  Kansas City might be the best team in the NFL, and coming off a Super Bowl loss, one expects they'll be eager to take the field again and play together, even if it's preseason.  Meanwhile, Kliff Kingsbury says he won't be playing starters much in this game, perhaps a quarter, at most.  QB Kyler Murray is also uncertain and might not play, though one expects him to play a series or two.  Given this clear difference in intent from both coaches, I think we can lay -160 on the favourite with some confidence. Kansas City is clearly the superior team, and is far better if it comes to a first unit playing against backups.  Note the game line is -3, but the first half line is -3.5, which is highly unusual for any game.  This tells us the Chiefs are expected to have the lead at halftime, but confidence in them winning the game isn't quite as high.

THE PICK:  First Half Moneyline: Kansas City Chiefs -160

Game Spread:  Washington -5 vs. Cincinnati

Friday 8 pm EST – The other game on Friday night features the Washington Football Team hosting the Cincinnati Bengals.  There's a powerful angle attached to this game which has moved the line up to -5, but I don't think the number has moved quite enough.  It's uncommon to think laying lots of points in preseason have value, especially since these contests are often low-scoring.  But the angle is so strong it's probably justified.  The angle is betting the team that lost its first preseason game when playing versus a team that won its first preseason game, especially when the favourite is playing at home.  That's been a solid moneymaker for years, though odds are now catching up with the trend.  However, the quarterback disparity between the two teams and different motivations also come into play here.  The Bengals won't play starter Joe Burrow, and the Washington defense (one of the NFL's best) appears to be a major mismatch against that offensive unit, which is weak anyway even with the starters.  With the Bengals secure in knowing that Burrow is their starter, the backups will play the full 60 minutes.  Meanwhile, there's a QB battle in Washington, though veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick is expected to be under center when the season starts.  Playing with his ninth NFL team (9!) and beginning his 17th season, Fitzpatrick must now learn a new offensive system.  Reportedly, he's been tasked with adding far more long passes in training camp (Washington ranked dead last in passing yardage, last season).  This sets up a situation for the Washington offense to be more aggressive than usual, and perhaps score some points.  Ron Rivera is 20-17 in preseason, slightly profitable as a coach.  Zac Taylor went 1-3 in preseason his last time out, although the Bengals did win their first game last week.

THE PICK:  Washington Football Team -5

Note:  On Saturday, we will continue with more picks which will be posted here.