NFL PRESEASON WEEK 2: SATURDAY, SUNDAY & MONDAY PREVIEWS & PICKS
We conclude our four solid days of NFL preseason action with a marathon weekend. Of course, college football will take command on our Saturdays soon enough, but for now, it’s the NFL exhibition show and we’ve got the odds and totals available to make some money from it.
DETROIT LIONS AT INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (+1.5, O/U: 39)
I’m not sure what’s happened to HBO’s Hard Knocks over the last few seasons, but I think spending half a summer back in 2020 with the Sean McVay Los Angeles Rams broke the show. Before then, every Hard Knocks was filled with useless stories about bottom of the roster guys who pretty much all got cut, while the actual NFL stars on the team were all but ignored.
The first LA Rams season, back in 2016 with Jeff Fisher is emblematic of it. Very little Todd Gurley, Aaron Donald or Robert Quinn. A whole lot of Eric Kush, the third string center who loved stringer tees. It was always frustrating. Then, the 2020 COVID year happened and Hard Knocks had to follow a good team (at least half the time. The Rams split billing with the Anthony Lynn LA Chargers) and, I’m assuming because access was tough and they were being careful around everyone’s kids (God, the kid features on previous Hard Knocks seasons were absolutely egregious), NFL Films accidentally figured out what the show should be. A legitimate behind the scenes look at the real football team, the coaches that mattered and the actual players that would suit up in the regular season.
So last year, with the Dallas Cowboys, that’s what we got. The real team and its stars. In the in-season Hard Knocks (which remains a piece of insanity that any team would agree to do it), they did the same. And now, with a crappy but scrappy team like the Detroit Lions, we’re actually getting the show we were originally promised so many years ago. Anyway, Indianapolis has nothing at all to prove and the sooner they can sim to the regular season, the better. Detroit, on the other hand, has some work to do. Lions 24, Colts 20
DENVER BRONCOS AT BUFFALO BILLS (-4.5, O/U: 41.5)
Both these teams have high hopes and, if you’re an old school coach, this is probably your week to play starters about a half. But these two squads have far too much to lose being stupid with their players’ health to do that. I would not let Russell Wilson out of the owner’s box if I was the Broncos. Josh Allen, considering how psycho the Bills fanbase is and the chances of him being talked into diving through a table at any moment, I’d probably just lock him in his basement. Either way, Buffalo has a ton of depth and a winning QB room. Bills 31, Broncos 13
WASHINGTON COMMANDERS AT KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (-4, O/U: 43.5)
How brave is Andy Reid going to be? While the urge to sit starters has infiltrated other teams, Reid usually lets his ones go for a little bit in the preseason. It’s never ruined a year for him yet, but there’s always a first. The wideouts do need some serious work. As for Washington, I’m not sure how playing Carson Wentz in the exhibition season will help at this point, but I’m guessing if we see him in more than a couple of series, it means there have been some real issues in camp. The Commanders do have the deeper QB room, so I’m going with them. Commanders 23, Chiefs 20
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS AT MIAMI DOLPHINS (+1, O/U: 42)
Both these teams are coming off preseason wins, so, if anything, that makes this game even more meaningless. Back in the olden days, you didn’t want to care too much about the preseason, but it was a bad omen to go winless in August. I expect each of these teams to contend for the playoffs this season and keeping your starters healthy enough to make that happen is a big part of it. Teddy Bridgewater, of the Dolphins, is the best back up on either roster. Miami is also four starters deep at running back. That’s good enough for me. Dolphins 21, Raiders 20
PITTSBURGH STEELERS AT JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (-3.5, O/U: 43)
I just so happened to be in Pittsburgh when the Steelers, led by rookie Kenny Pickett, experienced their legendary late game victory over the Seahawks and, let me tell you, that town is in for some serious disappointment this season. Not just in how the team finishes, but in the fact that, if they have any chance at all at making the postseason, Pickett will never have the opportunity to lay down his Microsoft Surface tablet. I do like Jacksonville in this one too. They’re going to have to win one, but I don’t care for the spread. Jaguars 20, Steelers 17
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS AT TENNESSEE TITANS (-2.5, O/U: 38.5)
Tom Brady remains AWOL from the Buccaneers for reasons that no one knows and while the GOAT probably doesn’t need to take a snap in the preseason, this does seem pretty weird. Tampa is still banged up, but so is Tennessee. This will be the Blaine Gabbert vs Malik Willis show and Willis didn’t look too bad a week ago. Titans 24, Bucs 16
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS AT MINNESOTA VIKINGS (-4.5, O/U: 39)
Trey Lance got a solid quarter of work in the Niners’ win over the Green Bay Packers last week, so this one will probably be more of the same. It was mostly Kellen Mond for the Vikings a week ago and Kevin O’Connell, being a Sean McVay disciple, will probably keep it that way, though we could see some Sean Mannion too. Vikings 16, 49ers 14
DALLAS COWBOYS AT LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-3, O/U: 37.5)
Somewhere out there a person is laying a futures bet on this as their potential Super Bowl match up and, let me just say, you should value your hard earned money more than that, sir or madam. Either way, this is another one where I can’t see the value at all of putting a starter, especially Dak Prescott or Justin Herbert, in harm’s way for even a series. If that is the case, and it should be, LA has the back up QB advantage with Chase Daniel before they even get to Easton Stick, who I still have trouble believing is a real person. Chargers 23, Cowboys 19
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES AT CLEVELAND BROWNS (+1.5, O/U: 36.5)
Regardless of how much fun the Jaguars fans had at Deshaun Watson’s expense last week, he’d probably like to put that memory in the rearview. For a guy that hadn’t played football in more than a year, Watson looked tight. Knotted up. Never could get really loose and relaxed and his release, shall we say, was off. He finished 1 of 5 for seven yards passing. Considering he’ll be sitting at least six (more like 8-10) games, he should be out there a while. Philadelphia, on the other hand, needs to be in “sim to the regular season” mode and already looking past this one. Browns 31, Eagles 14
CINCINNATI BENGALS AT NEW YORK GIANTS (-5.5, O/U: 38)
The Giants need to create some good news because no NFL team in the state has done that this offseason. New York outlasted the Patriots a week ago and will probably do the same again since Cincinnati has learned all too well how much it depends on its key players to risk any of them here. Frankly, I’d hold off on any bone-in meats in the pregame meal if I’m the Bengals at this point. Take no chances. Giants 26, Bengals 20
BALTIMORE RAVENS AT ARIZONA CARDINALS (+7, O/U: 39)
Uh oh. Is this it? Could this be the game in which the Ravens’ ridiculous record preseason win streak comes to an end? It’s at 21 right now, blowing past the Packers’ 19-game preseason streak set from 1959-1962. If any team could do it, it’s the Cardinals who are in the weird position of being a contending team which no one feels too confident about heading into the season. Lamar Jackson isn’t playing. Kyler Murray likely won’t play much, that means its Tyler Huntley vs Colt McCoy. That’s not a bad match up as those two guys are in the running for best back up QBs in the league. I’m calling it now. The streak dies in the desert. Cardinals 27, Ravens 24
ATLANTA FALCONS AT NEW YORK JETS (+1, O/U: 39.5)
Here it is, your annual example as to why playing starters in the preseason is stupid. Last week, on a scramble, Jets QB Zach Wilson hurt his knee on a non contact play. After a night of being sure it was an ACL or MCL, New York at least got the info that it was “just” a torn meniscus. The good news is, Wilson will just miss a month. The bad news is, Wilson was one of the worst quarterbacks in football last year and can’t afford to miss a month of practice. It was a stupid and avoidable injury and, when Robert Saleh is unemployed this offseason, he can point to that as being one of the factors.
Desmond Ridder looked good in relief for Marcus Mariota last week and that’s all I need to pick Atlanta here. Falcons 23, Jets 10
Straight up: 9-7
Against the spread: 8-8
Straight up: 10-7
Against the spread: 9-8
Follow Adam Greene on Twitter @TheFirstMan.