Here are 3 plays for this weekend if you’re bold enough for preseason football

An island game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns kicks off Week 2 of the preseason Thursday. As grateful as I am that football is back on TV, the three-week dress rehearsal can lose its luster pretty quickly. For bettors, there are angles in every sporting event, and picking off a few while we await September isn’t a bad way to close out the summer.

Before you start loading up your sportsbook account to get a head start on the season, there are a few things to keep in mind. It’s a completely different game than the regular season.

One of the keys to success is understanding a team’s approach. You have to know your coaches. Two teams could enter the game with different intentions, throwing the competitive balance off-track. It’s not the regular season when both coaches are burning through film all hours of the night to develop a gameplan. It’s about getting guys reps and staying healthy. Understanding historical trends, depth charts and camp battles that might influence competitive play from certain position groups are all important edges that could shape your wager.

Ultimately, it’s preseason football. It’s wildly unpredictable, so the most important rule is to take a measured approach. Out of 16 games, I have bets in three games. There is no reason to force action this time of year, but I do see value in the plays below. Best of luck!

If this preseason was your first time watching football, you would think Dorian Thompson-Robinson is the Cleveland QB with the record contract. The Browns’ fifth-round selection has looked like a steal through two games, completing over 80% of his passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns. He gets the start against an Eagles defense who lost some linebacker depth when Shaun Bradley went down for the season last week.

After winning outright as a short dog in the Hall of Fame Game, Cleveland followed it up with a loss to Washington as a small favorite. Now they are back in the dog role with a defense that has held opponents to 16 and 17 points in its previous two games. I can’t pass up 3.5 with DTR and a stingy defense. Back the Browns +3.5.

We are going back to the Bills after they covered for us against the Colts last week. This is the perfect example of how I like to find patterns that might be predictive despite the small sample size. It’s all about the coach’s approach. Over the last two years (since preseason returned after being canceled in 2020), McDermott is 6-1 straight-up in the preseason. During the first two weeks, he is 4-0 with his teams averaging 29.8 points per game. It gets even better when you isolate the second week of the preseason, when his Bills beat the Chicago Bears, 41-15, in 2021, and the Denver Broncos, 42-15, last year.

Bills backup QB Matt Barkley completed 14 of 15 passes last week while torching the Colts defense for 172 yards and two touchdowns. The Steelers defense made Tampa Bay QB Baker Mayfield look like he was back playing in the Big 12. I will have two bets on Buffalo. One will be on the Bills team total over when it opens at BetMGM (especially if it’s under 21), but for now let’s lock in the moneyline at plus money. Bills +120.

Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh take the NFL preseason seriously, as evidenced by his team's 24-game winning streak. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh take the NFL preseason seriously, as evidenced by his team’s 24-game winning streak. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

ML Parlay: Las Vegas Raiders and Baltimore Ravens +158

Are you really betting if you aren’t using the Ravens moneyline as a parlay leg? Preseason football has become part of John Harbaugh’s legacy with Baltimore. The Ravens’ 24-game winning streak is getting more attention now than ever, making it even more of a point of emphasis for the team. I chose to pair them with Las Vegas, another team that sees the preseason as serious business.

Since taking over the Raiders last year, Josh McDaniels has won all five preseason games (5-0 ATS), and showed no mercy in last week’s 34-7 throttling of the San Francisco 49ers. The Raiders face the Rams, who are 1-6 in the preseason under McVay since 2020. I will take Aidan O’Connell over Stenson Bennett IV all day. Getting the Ravens and Raiders on a moneyline parlay at +158 odds feels like a cheat code. Maybe it’s too good to be true, but I am willing to pay to find out. Ravens and Rams ML parlay +158