We have officially passed the midpoint of preseason. Tonight, the second week of preseason wraps up when the Ravens put their 24-game winning streak on the line in Washington. That leaves us with one final week before it’s time to focus our attention on the regular season opener.
Week 2 allowed us to see some familiar faces on the field with select starters getting more work. What should bettors take away from this weekend’s action? Here are five quick-hitters that caught my eye, and whether they should move the needle from a betting perspective.
The preseason is too short to bet the under
The first thing we think of when it comes to preseason is low scores and substandard quality of play. The sportsbooks are fully aware. So if you think you are getting over by betting the under in preseason, think again. Instead of your average NFL total of 44, preseason totals typically come in between 35-39.
The result is overs hitting at a very profitable rate. After 12 of the first 17 preseason games went over the total, the run continued in Week 2 with 9 of 15 games landing over as well. Are we going to blind bet overs in the final week? Absolutely not. The market is always adjusting, so the totals should continue to tick upward. Pick your spots based on the team’s approach for the final week.
Jimmy Garappolo’s debut in silver and black went as well as you could expect. However, the real buzz coming out of Las Vegas is being generated by his potential backup. Aidan O’Connell continues to be the story of the preseason after another impressive performance. O’Connell bolstered his preseason stat line to an eye-popping 26 of 36 for 304 passing yards, along with three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
The lack of depth behind Garappolo was a factor in why I bet the Raiders under 5.5 wins, so seeing the rookie from Purdue have success is a positive sign for the future. However, this season will be determined by whether McDaniels has success early, and that’s going to be a significant challenge considering the schedule. If we see O’Connell this year, it probably means I will be happy that I’m on the under.
The Greatest Show … in Pittsburgh?
Okay, maybe it doesn’t look the same as Kurt Warner throwing lasers to a wide-open Isaac Bruce or Torry Holt, but Kenny Pickett has this Pittsburgh offense humming. The Steelers scored touchdowns on all three of his preseason drives, with two of them covering 80+ yards and explosive plays capping off each one.
The stacked AFC North remains an obstacle in Pittsburgh making progress. Although, I’m much more comfortable they have the firepower to take advantage if injuries end up compromising a divisional opponent. I will pass on the futures and target them as an in-season bet, maybe as early as Week 1. Catching 3 points against the 49ers, and over 40.5, looks even more appealing by the day.
Bijan Robinson is going to be a problem for NFL defenses
I jumped on Atlanta to win the AFC South immediately after the draft, and I feel even better about it after watching Robinson on the field this weekend.
Atlanta’s rookie running back played only one drive, as Arthur Smith remains coy on how he will deploy his new weapon. He finished with four carries for 20 yards on the ground, and made a one-handed reception for six yards. He showcased a blend of the burst and agility that made him the eighth overall pick and has him entrenched as the betting favorite for offensive rookie of the year at +300.
If you are reluctant to join me on season-long futures with the Falcons, they are also in an interesting matchup Week 1 against Carolina. The Panthers had their share of struggles defending explosive plays, and there is no film on how Smith will utilize Robinson. Atlanta is currently -3 at -115 odds at BetMGM, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up crossing the three by kickoff.
Is it too early to be concerned in Carolina?
Speaking of the Carolina Panthers, QB Bryce Young struggled in his second straight preseason game in a 21-19 loss to the Giants. After leading the Panthers offense to only 16 offensive yards in his debut, the new face of the Panthers was only able to muster up a field goal drive in his follow-up performance.
Head coach Frank Reich said they would open up the playbook, but the results were equally ineffective in their second game. I am not an advocate of pressing the panic button in preseason, but I do think there are some takeaways from what we have seen so far.
The Panthers’ inability to protect its prize quarterback looks very problematic. The two biggest drive-killers are penalties and sacks. It appears like Carolina could be in store for more than their fair share of both. That’s not only going to deter the offense, but it can really impact the development of a young passer in his rookie season. A switch in play-callers could also be detrimental as Reich seems eager to hand over the headset to OC Thomas Brown at some point this season.
Bryce Young is far too talented to count out, but I think you are going to see the Panthers struggle out of the gate. I bet the under on Bryce Young’s passing yards (3,299.5), and I would definitely caution against backing the Panthers early in the season while these adjustments get worked out.