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Top 5 NFL Preseason Week 1 Odds & Picks: Thursday (8/11)

by August 11, 2022
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I know the Hall of Fame Game is technically the return of football. But it feels like the preseason truly gets underway tonight, with two games kicking off Thursday night.

Betting the preseason can be tricky, as the starters likely won’t play more than a couple of series. That requires us to do some digging on the second, third and sometimes fourth-strings for each team.

Here’s a betting guide for Thursday’s preseason action.

Matthew Freedman’s Guide to Betting the Preseason >>

New York Giants -3 vs. New England Patriots, Total 34.5, 7 p.m. ET 

Preseason means wild line movement, and that’s exactly what happened in this game. The Giants originally opened as 2-point underdogs but now sit as a field goal favorite against the Pats.

In most situations, I’d back Bill Belichick as a home underdog. However, news has emerged that most of New England’s starters, including QB Mac Jones, won’t play tonight.

Meanwhile, Giants head coach Brian Daboll has already made it clear that his starters will play in his unofficial head coaching debut.

“I anticipate all of our guys playing on Thursday,” Daboll said per the New York Post. 

It makes sense as Daboll looks to implement new systems on both sides of the ball. Although it’s unclear how long New York’s starters will play.

Because of that uncertainty, I’d rather make a play on the first half than the full game. New York should have the advantage on at least the first series on both sides, and the hope is they put at least a field goal up on the board before turning the game to the backups. If you want to isolate this game even more, take the first quarter spread assuming New York’s starters don’t play more than a series or two.

The pick: Giants -2 first half, Giants -1 first quarter

Bet: Under 34.5 points

Baltimore Ravens -3.5 vs. Tennessee Titans, Total 32.5, 7:30 ET 

The preseason clearly means more to the Ravens, who are riding a 20-game preseason winning streak. Even crazier is John Harbaugh’s group is 17-2-1 ATS during that streak. While it’s preseason, this is still an awfully impressive run.

Despite this streak, the Ravens are not expected to play many starters. And it makes sense after Baltimore was ravaged by injuries last season. Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews, Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Williams, and more won’t see action Thursday night. Tyler Huntley will start for Baltimore and will be followed by Brett Hundley and perhaps rookie Anthony Brown.

For Tennessee, it’s uncertain whether starters like Ryan Tannehill will see any action, and workhorse running back Derrick Henry isn’t expected to play through the entire preseason. If they do, it’ll likely be for a series max. What will be intriguing is how much high-profile rookies Malik Willis and Treylon Burks play. Coach Mike Vrabel has kept it close to the vest.

Even without their normal starters, Baltimore could have an edge over a thinner Titans roster. My guess is Willis sees a good amount of action even if he doesn’t start Thursday night. But Willis is raw and could struggle in his preseason debut.

I’d lean with Baltimore getting the job done once again, although it’s not a play I love.

The pick: Lean Baltimore moneyline (-140)

Bet: Ravens -3.5

Matthew Freedman’s NFL Win Total Projections & Bets >>

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