After the long wait, another football season is almost upon us. Times were tense in the over 4 month lockout that had many fans and bettors alike wondering if the NFL would be back. After reaching a deal, the NFL and its players are back in training camp and the pre-season gets underway this week. Many players switched teams in a flurry of free agent signings and trades once the NFL was open for business again. The players and coaches have only spent a couple of weeks in training camps getting used to the playbook. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for teams to catch up, especially those with new players, key rookies and new coaches installing different schemes. The prevailing thought is that the defenses will be ahead of the offenses when the season starts and that may be even more in play during the pre-season. This could present an opportunity for bettors who like to play the under as teams work out the kinks on offense.
This articles preview highlights my 4 best games to bet on in Week One of the NFL pre-season. Enjoy the return to the NFL!
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Baltimore Eagles @ Philadelphia Eagles (Thursday 08/11)
Point Spread: Philadelphia -3
Over/Under: 34 points
No team in the NFL loaded up quite like the Philadelphia Eagles once free agency finally began. The team came out of nowhere to sign Nnamdi Asomugha, who was considered the best free agent on the market. They didn’t stop there and added veterans Cullen Jenkins, Vince Young and Ronnie Brown, among others. This will be a definite contender for the Super Bowl this season but this is the first week of the pre-season. The Ravens are a team that always plays strong defense and have a ton of depth. Going with the argument that it may take weeks for the offenses to catch up to the defenses, this seems like a low scoring game. Both teams have strong defenses and strong depth and are not going to risk their starting quarterbacks in this meaningless game.
My Pick: UNDER 34 points
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Kansas City Chiefs (Friday 8/12)
Point spread: Tampa Bay -3
This Friday matchup pits two of the surprise teams from a season ago. The Chiefs won the AFC West and lost in the first round to the Ravens but were not expected to have a great season. The very young Bucs were able to play at a high level in a tough NFC South and finished just outside of the playoffs on the final week of the season. Both teams are expecting bigger and better things this season. The Chiefs were active in free agency and added wide receiver Steve Breaston to a stable of playmakers including Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe and Dexter McCluster. Tampa Bay, on the other hand, stood pat for the most part in free agency and just kept a few pieces of their team. They are hinging their success on the young stars they have on offense in Josh Freeman, LeGarrette Blount and Mike Williams. In the pre-season, I like to take the points, especially for a team at home. Consider that the Chiefs have one of the biggest home field advantages at Arrowhead and they are the pick.
My Pick: Kansas City Chiefs +3
Green Bay Packers @ Cleveland Browns (Saturday 8/13)
Point Spread: Pick ‘em
Over/Under: 35 points
This is a game that would see the defending Super Bowl champion Packers as heavy double-digit favorites if it were the regular season. However, pre-season is a great neutralizer as starters play very little and depth is tested. Coaches want to get a feeling for the depth on their team and the rookies they have. With that being said, the Packers are among the deepest teams in all of the NFL and the Browns are as shallow as a kiddy pool. Green Bay features a very solid backup at mostly every position, including quarterback Matt Flynn, who should get extended action. The team boasts a receiving corps that also goes quite deep with Jordy Nelson 4th on the depth chart, even after a 140 yard Super Bowl performance. Cleveland, on the other hand, is coming off a terrible season and will no doubt be looking to see what they have in their rookies.
My Pick: Green Bay Packers Pick’em
Indianapolis Colts @ St. Louis Rams (Saturday 8/13)
Point Spread: St. Louis -7
Over/Under: 34 points
Saturday night will feature a matchup of the old guard versus an up and coming young team as the Rams play host to the Colts. St. Louis found their franchise quarterback in the draft last year in Sam Bradford and had their best season in years. They lost to the Seahawks in the final week of the season to miss the playoffs but the season had to be considered a success for the team. Meanwhile, Indianapolis’ franchise quarterback, Peyton Manning, is nursing a neck injury and will not be playing. The line movement on the spread from the injury to Manning and the Colts coaching philosophy for preseason is an overreaction in my opinion. Starters generally play a series or two and after that it comes down to depth. The Colts have built depth through years of smart drafting and I will take a touchdown against the Rams any day.
My Pick: Indianapolis Colts +7