NFL Preseason Week 1: Patriots, Broncos Matchups Highlight Odds Slate

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After months of speculation about how big-name players would fare with new teams, the NFL preseason begins this week.

Thursday’s slate includes two matchups involving powerhouses with quarterback questions. With Jimmy Garoppolo getting some work in anticipation of replacing Tom Brady to start the season, the New England Patriots are listed as 3.5-point favorites at home against the New Orleans Saints at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Patriots are 6-3 straight-up and 5-4 against the spread as a home favorite in the preseason since 2009, according to the OddsShark NFL Database.

Early this week, the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos released a depth chart that had Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian listed as co-starters. The competition to replace Peyton Manning will probably play out for a few weeks yet, beginning with the Broncos’ opener against the Chicago Bears on Thursday.

The Bears are a 1.5-point favorite, but Denver is 7-3 SU and 8-2 ATS in its last 10 preseason road games.

The Cleveland Browns, at least for now, are going with Robert Griffin III as their starting quarterback. The first look at RGIII in a Browns uniform will arrive Friday against the Green Bay Packers, who were scheduled to play in Sunday’s canceled Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.

Cleveland is 4-6 SU and 4-5-1 ATS over its last 10 preseason road games. The Packers, who typically don’t play their starters very deep into preseason games, are 5-5 both SU and ATS in their last 10 home games in August.

The reconstituted Los Angeles Rams have Case Keenum listed as their No. 1 QB with top draft pick Jared Goff second on the depth chart for their game against the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday. Los Angeles (formerly St. Louis) is listed as a three-point favorite against Dallas.

The Rams were 3-7 ATS in home preseason games in their last five seasons in St. Louis. The Cowboys have an identical 3-7 ATS mark in their last 10 preseason road matchups.

In the lone Sunday game, Brock Osweiler will make his debut for the Houston Texans, who are three-point road underdogs against the San Francisco 49ers. Osweiler joined Houston after taking a backseat to Manning in Denver for their playoff run.

San Francisco is listed as a favorite ahead of their first game under new coach Chip Kelly. While the 49ers are unlikely to show much of Kelly’s high-tempo offense, the game will offer some indication about the battle for the starting QB job between Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert. The 49ers are 7-3 SU and 6-4 ATS over their last 10 preseason home games.

Patriots favored against Falcons in Super Bowl rematch

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It’s rare that the New England Patriots and Tom Brady are laying so few points at home, but then again, it’s been even longer since the Pats were dead last in the NFL in defense.

In a rematch of last season’s Super Bowl, if not necessarily a preview of this season’s, the Patriots are three-point favorites for Sunday night against the Atlanta Falcons with a 56.5-point total at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

There have been only four games dating to 2009 when the Patriots were favored by 3.0 or fewer points in a regular-season home game, and they are 4-0 straight-up and 3-0-1 against the spread in that small sample. Counting Super Bowl LI, the Falcons are 0-5 SU and ATS in their last five games against the Patriots according to the OddsShark NFL Database.

The Patriots are 14-3 SU in their last 17 night games, but only 2-2 in the last four.

The Falcons, who are 3-2 SU and 2-3 ATS, are still a top-5 offense with QB Matt Ryan at the controls but have not shown the same dynamism they did while winning the NFC in 2016. New England has been dismal in coverage, ranking last in the NFL in yards per game (440.7) and yards per pass (8.6) allowed. Two of its top three cornerbacks, Stephen Gilmore (concussion) and Eric Rowe (groin), are iffy to play.

The Patriots might be stretched too thin to cover three-wideout looks with WRs Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel; after all, this is a unit that was last seen allowing 354 yards to the New York Jets’ Josh McCown.

One reason why Atlanta is 9-2 SU and ATS in its last 11 road games is due to the stability of the 1-2 punch of RB Devonta Freeman and RB Tevin Coleman. One way to beat the Patriots is to outscore them, and Atlanta would seem to be capable of such if it curbs its turnover problems.

The Patriots, who are 4-2 SU and 2-4 ATS, are No. 1 in the NFL in total offense and passing yards thanks to Brady, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Brandin Cooks and slot WRs Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan. The Falcons defense is allowing just 6.1 yards per pass, but it has not been making many disruption plays (12 sacks and only three takeaways), which teams need a few of against the Patriots in order to get Brady out of rhythm.

New England is 5-0 SU and ATS in its last five games against Atlanta but, of course, that required an epic combination of collapse and comeback during the Super Bowl. In the present, the Patriots offense is a little pass-heavy, ranking 21st in the NFL in yards per rush while relying mostly on RB Mike Gillislee. That’s unlikely to strike much fear into the hearts of Atlanta.

The game has the highest total of the week, but the total has gone over in 19 of the Falcons’ last 24 games and has also gone over in all three of the Patriots’ home games this season. The total has gone over in the Patriots’ last five games at home against teams with winning records.

For more info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the new OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Texans set to host Chiefs in a pick’em betting matchup on Sunday night

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The prospect of untested linemen trying to block the likes of J.J. Watt has the sharps projecting the Kansas City Chiefs for their first loss of the season. The Houston Texans and the Chiefs, the NFL’s last unbeaten team, meet in a Sunday Night Football matchup that has moved to a pick’em on the betting lines at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Chiefs were initially laying 3.5 points against the Texans, who they are a 3-1 straight-up against in their last four meetings, but QB Alex Smith (ankle) might have to be careful with an injury, while various ailments will mean backups will step in for RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and C Mitch Morse.

Each team takes an extreme against-the-spread trend into this rematch. The Chiefs are 8-0 SU and ATS in their last eight road games. The Texans are 3-21-1 ATS in their last 25 games at night.

The Chiefs, who are 4-0 SU and ATS, have endless ways to attack a defense and get linebackers to take themselves out of the play. That could mean some big opportunities for RB Kareem Hunt in both the rushing and passing phases. Smith, who has the NFL’s highest passer rating, will need to be somewhat nimble to avoid the Texans’ fierce pass rush of Watt, OLB Jadeveon Clowney and OLB Whitney Mercilus.

Houston is allowing 7.6 yards per pass, 23rd in the NFL, so there’s questions of whether the Texans will be able to keep WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce completely contained.

The Texans are 2-2 SU and 3-1 ATS. Three starts into his NFL career, QB Deshaun Watson has shown that his mobility and vision can flummox even legendary defensive minds such as New England coach Bill Belichick and Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau.

Against a pass rush that will once again not have OLB Dee Ford (back) to pair with OLB Justin Houston, Watson might be able to buy some time with his legs. That could give an extra advantage to the WR combo of Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins, who have a tough matchup on the outside against the CB tandem of Marcus Peters and Terrance Mitchell for some long-yardage strikes.

Houston is 1-8 SU in its last nine Week 5 games, but seem to finally have a balanced offense, with RB Lamar Miller churning out yards between the tackles and also catching short-range passes. The total has gone under in three of the Chiefs’ last four games against the Texans, according to the OddsShark NFL Database. The total has gone over in 11 of the Texans’ last 13 games in October.

For more info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the new OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.