Romo, Cowboys underdogs in preseason test against Seahawks

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Week 3 of the NFL preseason is as close as it gets to the real thing, since teams will test their units for at least a full half.

Among the week’s more notable matchups is Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys visiting the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday. Seattle is listed as a 5-point betting favorite at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com, with a total of 44.5 points.

For Dallas, it’s a chance to see whether Romo, rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott and their offense can have sustained success against an above-average NFL defense. Likewise, Seahawks QB Russell Wilson will try to get in better rhythm with his supporting cast after being shut out in the first half against Minnesota in Week 2.

Each team is breaking in a rookie backup QB, and the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott and Seahawks’ Trevone Boykin are each scramblers who can make big plays.

Dallas is 1-9 against the spread and 3-7 straight-up in their last 10 preseason games as a road underdog according to the OddsShark NFL Database. As a home favorite, Seattle is 8-2 both SU and ATS in its last 10 preseason games.

Jimmy Garoppolo, understudy to suspended Tom Brady, leads the 3.5-point underdog New England Patriots into a road game against the Cam Newton-led Carolina Panthers on Friday. The total is 45 points.

New England, which held TE Rob Gronkowski out of practice on Monday, is 5-5 SU and 5-3-2 ATS as a road underdog in its last 10 preseason games, while Carolina is 7-3 SU and 6-4 ATS as a home favorite. Seven of those 10 Carolina matchups went over the posted total.

Two former No. 1 overall picks are under a microscope in the Cleveland Browns-Tampa Bay Buccaneers matchup. Robert Griffin III has showed flashes of his 2012 rookie of the year form thus far for Cleveland, which is a four-point underdog. Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston was only 3-of-9 in his first preseason game but should be more settled into the Bucs’ system.  The total is 41.5.

Tampa Bay is 3-7 SU and ATS in its last 10 preseason games as a home favorite, including a loss to Cleveland in 2015.

Saturday, the New York Giants are one-point underdogs against the New York Jets in their annual preseason game, with a total of 42.5 points. Giants QB Eli Manning had scarcely little pass protection in his first preseason outing, and the Jets possess a strong defensive line, although stuffing the run is their strength. Over the last 10 years, the Jets have the edge in this exhibition matchup at 6-4 SU and 5-4-1 ATS.

In spite of some turnover issues last week, QB Trevor Siemian will get the whole first half when the Denver Broncos host the Los Angeles Rams on Friday. Denver is a five-point favorite, with a total of 42.

The Rams are 6-4 ATS in their last 10 preseason outings as a road underdog, and eight of those matchups went over. The Broncos are on a run of just 2-8 ATS when favored at home in August, and seven of those games went over the posted total.

The Houston Texans are a one-point favorite against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday in a matchup of teams with Super Bowl aspirations. Texans OLB Jadeveon Clowney showed his potential as a pass rusher last week against New Orleans, and the former top draft pick will get a taste against the Cardinals’ strong line.

The Cardinals are 6-4 SU 5-4-1 ATS in their last 10 preseason road games, while Houston is 7-3 both SU and ATS at home.

Drew Brees, Le’Veon Bell Favorites in NFL Season Leader Props

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When it comes to betting props on NFL individual leaders, the tried-and-true works for picking a passing yards leader while rushing and receiving leaders are a little more random.

With training camps set to open in a matter of days, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a +300 favorite to lead the NFL in passing yards at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Brees has led (or co-led) the NFL in aerial yards five times in the last six seasons, with the lone exception coming in 2013 when Peyton Manning complied a NFL-record 5,477.

Brees will still have Willie Snead and Michael Thomas as outlets for his passes and, assuming the Saints’ defense stays near the bottom of the league, will have the opportunity to get into a few offensive shootouts.

The Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan (+400) and New England Patriots’ Tom Brady (+500) are the next two on the board. Ryan and the Falcons are likely to face a tougher schedule than what it turned out they had in 2016. Brady has only led the NFL in yards once, in 2007, and would be the oldest player to do so if he succeeds this season.

Based on 2016 won-loss records, the Indianapolis Colts and QB Andrew Luck (+1400) have the easiest schedule in the league, which could lead to Luck putting up some big numbers against softer competition. Another valid darkhorse play is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Jameis Winston (+1600), since he will have a 1-2 punch at receiver with Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson and a team that still relies on being pass-heavy.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell (+300) and Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott (+350) are tightly bunched atop the NFL rushing champion futures board. Bell will no doubt be among the leaders in yards from scrimmage per game, but he’s only played 16 games once in four seasons. While there hasn’t been a back-to-back rushing leader in 10 years, Elliott will be running behind an excellent Dallas offensive line.

The Los Angeles Rams’ third-year workhorse Todd Gurley (+2000) will be in a new offensive system and, hopefully for the Rams, will be better complemented by second-year QB Jared Goff in the passing phase. That would give Gurley a fairer shot at breaking big runs on the regular.

Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown (+400) and Atlanta’s Julio Jones (+400) are co-favorites on the odds to tally the most receiving yards, with the New York Giants’ Odell Beckham (+500) also coming in highly touted. Brown had two fewer targets per game in 2016 than in ’15, meaning he might be a less high-volume receiver now that he is 29. Jones has a receiving title from 2015, but last season the Falcons were most efficient when they spread the ball around.

Last year, the Indianapolis Colts’ T.Y. Hilton (+1200 this year) led the league in yards after being listed at +3300 in the preseason. Among the potential 2017 replicants are New England’s Brandin Cooks (+3300), who is expected to be the field-stretching target the Patriots have managed to do without since the Randy Moss days a decade ago. The aforementioned Mike Evans (+1200) is also close to a sure thing to get 11-12 targets per game in Tampa Bay and the continued development of Winston could make him a 1,500-yard receiver.

The last 12 league leaders in receiving yardage have been less than 30 years old at the start of the season. That trend has been consistent dating to the mid-1990s, with 19 of the last 21 receiving leaders being players who were no older than 29 at the start of the season.

Internet reacts to O.J. Simpson’s parole hearing

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In case you weren’t aware, O.J. Simpson was granted parole and the internet went crazy.

Cue hilarious tweets.