By Greg Frank
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Before we dive into three sides we’re eyeing up from a situational standpoint this weekend, understand that betting the NFL Preseason is just that - betting on exhibition games means sometimes your guess is as good as anyone else’s as to how much time regulars are going to play. That also makes some of our situational angles weaker because, in reality, how much do teams care about revenge, or how frequently are teams looking ahead to a future preseason game when the goal is to learn more about your own roster heading into the regular season? Now that that’s out of the way, here are a trio of spots we like for NFL Preseason Week 2, including fading some popular rookies as we inch closer and closer to NFL 2021.
Revenge Spot: Bills (+5) @ Bears – Saturday 1 PM ET
Analysis: For starters, it’s easy to see why the Bears would be laying over a field goal here against Buffalo. Bills quarterback Josh Allen did not play at all in their preseason opener last week in Detroit and as of this writing, his status is still uncertain for Saturday afternoon in the windy city. The Bears, on the other hand, have a veteran in Andy Dalton who they insist will be their Week 1 starter, a rookie garnering a ton of hype in Justin Fields and a quarterback who won a Super Bowl and can heat up at any moment in Nick Foles. Also, being the home team has to be worth something, right?
With all of that said, I do think this sets up for a big Mitch Trubisky game for the Bills, regardless of how much Allen plays. The fifth-year quarterback was drafted No. 2 overall by Chicago in 2017 and signed a one-year deal with Buffalo in the offseason after four up-and-down seasons with the Bears. With Allen fully entrenched as the Bills starting quarterback, and recently inked to a big contract extension, Buffalo is certainly hoping to make another run at the Super Bowl this season which would mean Trubisky spends an awful lot of time holding a clipboard in the fall and winter. While he only threw two passes last week in Detroit, my guess is the coaching staff throws him a bone and Trubisky is much more active this week against his former team.
Lastly, after a strong preseason debut against Miami, Justin Fields is one of the most talked about players in the NFL right now. I do think that hype right now surrounding the rookie is built into this line a little bit. I like the idea of fading him and expecting a bit of a reality check in his second dose of NFL action. Buffalo, a team that went to the AFC Championship last season, seems like a team that would love to give Fields a rude welcoming to the league.
Pick: Bills +5
Get Right Spot: Vikings (-2.5) vs Colts – Saturday 8 PM ET
Analysis: Perhaps our favorite piece of actionable data for the preseason is the against the spread records of coaches in these games. As we mentioned in our intro, you would think most coaches would use these games as evaluations of their rosters and not so much coach to win them. However, those that coach to win them can be very profitable, and we just saw the Baltimore Ravens win their 18th consecutive preseason game last week. We’ll look to another team that wears purple for a get-right spot and focus on Minnesota laying a short number at home on Saturday night against Indianapolis.
Vikings Coach Mike Zimmer is 17-9 ATS in the preseason and Minnesota just got clobbered by Denver in its preseason opener, losing 33-6 at home. Zimmer was none too pleased with the performance. Granted, the Vikings didn’t play any of their starters, but that’s actually why we like this spot a lot. Not only will the Vikings roll out the regulars at least a little bit on Saturday, but all the players that played last week will likely have chips on their shoulders, especially those on the roster bubble. Group those factors together with a coach that has a good history of covering in preseason games, and we’ll gladly lay less than three to back the Purple People Eaters on their home turf.
Pick: Vikings -2.5
Letdown Spot: Seahawks (+5) vs Broncos – Saturday 10 PM ET
Analysis: For our final side of the weekend, we’re going to take a look at the team that was on the winning side of that lopsided score in Minneapolis last week. Fresh off their blowout against the Vikings, the Denver Broncos now visit the Pacific Northwest to square off with the Seattle Seahawks. If you thought Chicago having a mix of established signal callers and a rookie in its quarterback room was enough to drive up the point spread in its game against Buffalo, how about the Broncos being a five-point road favorite in this game?! Quarterback battles are always hot talking points in the preseason and both Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater played well against the Vikings. I’d expect those two quarterbacks to chew up about three quarters of action in Denver’s second preseason game, and wouldn’t be surprised if the second of the two played into the fourth.
Having said that, just about everything went right for the Broncos against the Vikings. Minnesota rested its starters, the Broncos did not turn the ball over and scored a defensive touchdown and they got some chunk gains from players that figure to be integral skill position contributors this season in Javonte Williams, Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler. While we expect the Vikings to come with a point to prove this week, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see the Broncos take their foot off the gas a bit and scale things back.
Much like Minnesota, Seattle did not play its regulars in its preseason opener, and lost by double digits in a road contest against the Raiders. Also in a similar vein to the Vikings, the Seahawks have a coach in Pete Carroll that has been money in the bank in the preseason. Despite the loss against the Raiders, Carroll is still 35-19 ATS in the preseason. When you consider this and the fact that the Broncos are not going to have a perfect game script again, the home team is a live underdog in this one.
Pick: Seahawks +5