This is the second of three articles with analysis and picks for the final week of NFL preseason. Check back again on 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. Including a 2-2 split on Friday, that's 10-10. The key angle I played last week was a blanket recommendation of UNDER wagers. Those picks ended up 7-6.
I'll be deviating strongly from that betting trend the remainder of games played in Week 3.
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.
Today and tonight features seven games. Here are the current lines according to SPREADS.CA:
This Week's Picks (Saturday):
Based on yesterday's results, it appears that coaches are turning their offenses loose. Note that after UNDERs hammered the totals board going 27-9 in the first few weeks, ALL FOUR GAMES FLEW OVER THE TOTAL ON FRIDAY NIGHT.
I think this tells us something. Eight teams – and seven played aggressively on offense, except for Pittsburgh which was expected to be the outlier. I think we can learn from this tendency. Yeah, it's only four games. But the totals remain low and the market has not adjusted. This is pure speculation we will see more points scored in games than is reflected in the totals. Since this is the first season we've experienced three games in preseason followed by a week off, we must make some best-guesses. I'm willing to adjust my perceptions of O/U numbers based on an admittedly small sample of games.
So, I'm betting EVERY GAME OVER THE TOTAL.
Note that games begin as early at 10 am PST.
Green Bay at Buffalo (10 am PST start)
One reason to watch is QB Josh Allen will be making his 2021 debut after missing the first two games. But that might not be a reason to bet it. The Packers will reportedly sleepwalk through this game, which is why the line is an absurd -9 in favour of Buffalo. However, Allen likely won’t get a bunch of playing time. Even Bills' backup Mitchell Trubisky (yuck!) reportedly isn't going to get many snaps. If that’s the case, that could mean plenty of playing time for rabbit quarterbacks Jake Fromm and Davis Webb. Both of them had promising moments in Buffalo’s first preseason game, but last week didn’t go well for them. Meanwhile, Green Bay has lost two games by an average of 14 points while primarily playing against backups. The Packers could have a tough time turning things around in their final game of the preseason, especially since they'll be up against the best team they've seen so far. It's very tempting to play Green Bay plus the points. That's the right side if you have to bet the game. Instead, I'll stick with just the total at OVER 36.5. Recommendation: OVER 36.5
Baltimore at Washington
The big news here is – if the Ravens beat Washington, they'll set an NFL record with their 20th straight preseason win, breaking the old record set at the start of the Lombardi era, more than 60 years ago. So, given this added motivation, it's either take the Ravens at -3.5 or nothing here. Also, given how badly Washington QB Fitzpatrick looked last week with the first unit and how lackluster this team looks at the moment, I can't blame anyone for taking the record-chasing Ravens. So, that's my pick. Recommendation: Baltimore -3.5 and OVER 32.5
Chicago at Tennessee
Bears QB Justin Fields will finally be playing with the first team unit, which might be interesting. Bears head coach Matt Nagy said this week that Andy Dalton remains his Week 1 regular season starter against the Rams, but he won't play here in the finale. So instead, Fields will get about two quarters of work Saturday to show his progress before taking a back seat to Dalton in the weeks to come. In his first two games, the first-round pick looked pretty good both passing and running. Meanwhile, the Titans are 2-o and getting +3 at home here. Tennessee pounded a pair of NFC South teams in the preseason, including dismantling Tampa Bay on the road last week. The Titans have done the job on both sides of the ball, outscoring the Falcons and Buccaneers by a combined 57-6 in the two victories. However, of note his week, Tennessee will be without head coach Mike Vrabel, who has tested positive for COVID-19. In fact, the outbreak has reportedly sent nine players -- including QB Ryan Tannehill off the team for now, so it's hard to imagine the Titans putting forth their best efforts in a meaningless preseason game. Normally, I'm not sure what bettors are seeing in making the Bears a field goal favourite since the Bears are an unproven team to lay points anywhere. But given the Titans' questions about health, I'm sticking with the OVER. and nothing else. Recommendation: OVER 35.5
Arizona at New Orleans
Recommendation: GAME CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER
Tampa Bay at Houston
After rolling to an easy 26-7 win over the Packers in the preseason opener, the Texans had to fight a little harder last Saturday at Dallas but still came away with another win. This team obviously wants to instill some confidence after a torrid offseason. Given Tampa Bay is the opponent and the Texans are back at home, it's way too tempting to pass up the +4 with this underdog. New Houston head coach David Culley has stressed the importance of establishing a winning culture for a Houston roster that looks like the absolute worst in the NFL and that focus has shown this preseason. Meanwhile, the defending Super Bowl champs understandably aren't pressing too hard. With Bruce Arians owning a sub-.500 record in his preseason career, the Texans are worth a shot here getting points. Recommendation: Houston +4 and OVER 36.5
LA Rams at Denver
Here's a tale of two teams with totally different objectives. The Rams could not care less in preseason while the Broncos are playing all out to win. Rams coach Sean McVay has made it clear over his career with the Rams that he prefers to rest players rather than risk injury. Earlier, he again announced that the Rams would not play starters this preseason. That means we will have to continue to wait to see former Lions QB Matthew Stafford in a Rams uniform for the first time. Through the preseason, it's also been clear Denver coach Vic Fangio has taken a much different approach to the preseason than McVay. So far, starters have played well, outscoring opponents 63-9 in two games. And, it's expected that starters will again head out there on Saturday, which will instantly give them a huge advantage against the Rams. I see this as a great spot to tease the Broncos down to -2.5 but the play is solid enough to go ahead and lay the full -8.5 Recommendation: Denver -8.5 and OVER 33.5
LA Chargers at Seattle
Seattle head coach Pete Carroll has usually been a good preseason bet on his teams in preseason, but not this year. He's really taken things slowly in game situations, getting hammered in two games by a combined score of 50-10. This week, Seattle's starters, including QB Russell Wilson, are expected to get more time. So, that's why the Seahawks are now laying -5.5. Plus, rookie of the year last season Justin Herbert won't play for the Chargers. Still, I think that's a big overreaction. LA Chargers are 1-1 and haven't shown much spark, but this is a lot of points in a preseason game where the star player probably plays a quarter, at most. Give me the dog plus 5.5, and OVER 35. Recommendation: LA Chargers +5.5 and OVER 35
Note: I'll be back on Sunday for a review and picks for those games, which is the final slate of games before heading into the regular season.