This is the first of three articles with analysis and picks for the final week of NFL preseason. Check back on Saturday and Sunday for more information for games played on those days.
I'm always up front about my win-loss results. Through the first two weeks of preseason, my recommended plays have gone 8-8. The key angle I played last week was a blanket recommendation of UNDER wagers. Those picks ended up 7-6.
As for the motivation for each team heading into Week 3, it's simple. NFL teams have a looming deadline to make deep roster cuts. This won't be the typical minor trimming that the NFL's rules on roster reduction mandated after Weeks 1 and 2 of the preseason. Rather, this will be a slashing – from 80 players down to 53. So, performances this last game will go a long way in determining who makes the near-final cut.
Tonight features four games. Here are the current lines according to SPREADS.CA:
This Week's Picks (Friday Games Only):
Detroit at Indianapolis
It appears both teams will rest most starters in their final preseason warmup. For the Lions, we knew this already. Last week, new head coach Dan Campbell said he was considering resting some of his veteran starters not only for last week’s preseason game but for the remainder of the exhibition season. He followed through with that consideration by resting Jared Goff, Kalif Raymond, Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, D’Andre Swift, Trey Flowers, T.J. Hockenson, and Romeo Okwara among many others. In turn, Colts head coach Frank Reich confirmed Jacob Eason will start the preseason finale and will play only a small portion of the first unit. Presumed starter Carson Wentz didn't play at all in August and missed all but five training camp practices. At 33.5, this is one of the lowest totals of the week, and that appears to be for a good reason based on the QB rotations and few starters on the field. Let's play this one to go UNDER the total in a preseason that's gone an incredible 27-9 to the UNDER overall up to this point. Recommendation: UNDER 33.5
NY Jets at Philadelphia
Jets are favoured by -4 because they're 2-0 and playing an 0-2 opponent that doesn't look to be taking preseason games seriously. The Eagles are coming off a 35-0 loss. With the NFL’s final cut deadline looming, the Eagles will probably work with a very limited roster on Friday during their preseason finale. There should be some worried fans in Philadelphia based on the dreadful camp this team has endured, but the Eagles don't seem to think there's any urgency to putting on a good show in their preseason finale. Meanwhile, the Jets have spent the past month getting rookie quarterback Zach Wilson up to speed, and he's answering the call. Wilson is expected to play against the Eagles. Head coach Robert Saleh did not say how much Wilson would play, but this would be Wilson’s last dress rehearsal before Sept. 12, when the Jets open the regular season at Carolina. It has been an interesting four weeks for Wilson who had a few rough moments early, but has settled in and looks extremely comfortable after two preseason games. Typically, I don't like laying points in exhibition games, especially more than a FG. But here, it looks justified. Recommendation: NY Jets -4
Carolina at Pittsburgh
The Steelers are 3-0 and face the winless Panthers, but are still getting +4 points. This seems like a strange line. QB Dwayne Hoskins will get the start in Pittsburgh, who has showed slow but steady progress in his effort to make the roster after playing with Washington last season. Hoskins will take most of the snaps. He'll face a decent defense, at least for the first half. Reportedly, the Panthers intend to play most of their starters for that much time, while Pittsburgh will deploy their second-string to begin the game. The talent disparity makes for a possible mismatch, even though the W-L records seem to say otherwise. Look for the Panthers to try and roll up some points and build confidence here. Recommendation: First Half--Carolina -3.5
Kansas City at Minnesota
Here's the 4th of four games where an undefeated team (in preseason) is facing a winless opponent. The Chiefs shouldn't care about this preseason game given the meaningless situation, but head coach Andy Reid insists that he's going to play his starters for the entire first half. Those starters are going face a seemingly out-of-synch Vikings team that lost by 27 points to Denver in Week 1, and then by 2 points to Indianapolis. The Chiefs have won their two preseason games and the defense looked solid against dangerous Kyler Murray in Arizona. Murray went three-and-out on his three drives against Kansas City last week. No doubt, even in the preseason, the Chiefs love to throw the ball. Whether Patrick Mahomes plays or not, Reid’s scheme should produce good passing numbers. In the last game, Chiefs quarterbacks combined for 317 yards and they should roll up similar numbers in this finale. I see the tempo playing to an OVER. This total is a little higher for a reason, as I expect Minnesota to show a bit more on offense this week. Mike Zimmer was visibly upset with his unit last week, so that usually translates into more concentration on that side of the ball, and perhaps more aggressive play-calling. Recommendation: OVER 38
Note: I'll be back Saturday with more predictions and picks.