How to cash in on this weekend’s NFL games

If you’ve been waiting all offseason to bet football — any football at all — you finally have plenty of games on the schedule.

A few games kicked off the first week of the preseason Thursday and Friday, and that sets up 10 more games on Saturday and an extra one Sunday if you haven’t had enough. We’ll get to see many rookies in a game situation for the first time, including first overall pick Trevor Lawrence of the Jacksonville Jaguars

Here are the BetMGM odds for each of the 11 weekend games, with a quick overview of what to expect: 

Dolphins coach Brian Flores said starters will play, but didn’t specify how much. Bears coach Matt Nagy sat all of his starters in the 2019 preseason but NBC Sports Chicago said he has expressed regret over that. The Bears need to play their starters some, to get a good look at Andy Dalton and Justin Fields at quarterback. There doesn’t seem to be a difference between how the teams will handle it, but the Bears are presumably favored because the Dalton/Fields combo will play a reasonable amount (“The only way we can evaluate is by seeing him play,” Nagy said about Fields). 

Two competing theories will be against each other. Preseason bettors like to look at quarterbacks and coaches. The Broncos have a quarterback battle, so Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater will likely play a lot. But the Vikings have a coach who likes to win in the preseason. Mike Zimmer is 20-5 in the preseason and has never posted a losing preseason. The Broncos still seem like the right side but it’s tough to go against Zimmer given his record. 

New Orleans Saints at Baltimore Ravens (-2.5)

The same situation to the previous game applies here. The Saints need to get a look at quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill. Ravens coach John Harbaugh is 37-12 in the preseason. The Ravens have some injuries and maybe this is the right year to play it safe, so perhaps the Saints are the better bet. 

Cleveland Browns at Jacksonville Jaguars (-2.5)

Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence will be making their debuts. Meyer has done some baffling things, like trying to convince everyone he’s still considering starting Gardner Minshew II over Lawrence, and while there has been no definitive word from Meyer on who will play Saturday, Jaguars team reporter Ashlyn Sullivan wrote: “I would not be surprised if we see star players play more than they ever had in the preseason.” Meanwhile, the Browns are laying way off on starters in the preseason game. The Jaguars are the easy pick. 

Jacksonville Jaguars Quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) will see his first NFL game action on Saturday (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Jacksonville Jaguars Quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) will see his first NFL game action on Saturday (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Cincinnati Bengals at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-6)

Bucs coach Bruce Arians said “Everybody will play” on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Bengals are being cautious with quarterback Joe Burrow and keeping him out. I’m not sure any team should be favored by 6 in a preseason game, but it’s also hard to take the Bengals not knowing which starters will play and how much. Weather could also affect this game

New York Jets (-2) at New York Giants

In this crosstown meeting, two coaches are making their preseason debuts. Giants coach Joe Judge didn’t get to coach in the preseason and Robert Saleh is new to the Jets. Judge said he plans to use Saturday’s game like the fourth preseason game in years past, which means starters won’t play at all. We will see the Jets’ starters, Saleh said. 

“We’re a very young football team,” Saleh said, according to the Jets’ site. “They’ve got to be able to go through the process of pregame and prepping themselves mentally, getting in their own space, getting ready to play a football game and then going out there and playing a couple of drives.”

Based on the differences in philosophies, the Jets seem like the right side. 

Houston Texans at Green Bay Packers (-3)

Given how many new faces the Texans have, in their coaching staff and roster, assume we’ll get a reasonable effort from them although rookie Houston coach David Culley didn’t say what his playing time plans are. The Packers sat 28 players in the 2019 preseason opener via Zach Kruse of Packers Wire, and that seems like a good indicator for Saturday. The Texans are bad, but remember, the 2008 Lions and 2017 Browns (the two 0-16 teams in NFL history) both went 4-0 in the preseason. Take the Texans. Those three words will not be repeated during the regular season. 

Kansas City Chiefs at San Francisco 49ers (-1.5)

Andy Reid takes an old-school approach to preseason, and his starters will play about a quarter against the 49ers. 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said his starters will get about a series, then Trey Lance will get the rest of the first half. If you’re high on Lance, the third pick of the draft, that might influence your bet. The 49ers have quarterbacks Josh Rosen and Nate Sudfeld to play in the second half, and both have NFL experience. 

Seattle Seahawks at Las Vegas Raiders (-2.5)

You search for any edge in a preseason game, and this might be one: This will be the Raiders’ first game inside Allegiant Stadium. Prices are high for the game, as Raiders fans can’t wait to finally see their team in person at the elegant new stadium. This will not feel like a preseason game, and the Raiders have to be the right side because of it. 

Los Angeles Chargers (-3.5) at Los Angeles Rams

Sean McVay was the first coach to completely blow off the preseason. He sees no value in getting starters snaps, preferring to keep everyone healthy instead. McVay has done just fine with this approach. New Chargers coach Brandon Staley was with the Rams last season, and he won’t play key starters either. Neither coach will care about winning this game, so if you need to bet it perhaps just take the points. 

Sunday: Carolina Panthers at Indianapolis Colts (-1) 

The Colts are going to need to get long looks at quarterbacks Jacob Eason and Sam Ehlinger, to figure out who will start the regular season if Carson Wentz isn’t available. Darin Gantt of Panthers.com said starters are unlikely to play much, if at all, because “the joint practices (in Indianapolis) and next week against the Ravens would effectively replace their game action.” The Colts will probably be taking it a little more seriously. 

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