Betting the NFL preseason games takes a bit more time in the handicapping department and much more patience when it comes to pulling the trigger on an actual bet. There are quite a few unknowns heading into every game as to which starters will be in the lineup and how long they will play.
Week 1 of this year’s NFL preseason is in the books. Over the past few seasons, this opener has taken on the characteristics of the Week 4 round of games where most of the top players in the league take a seat on the bench. Staying healthy is still the primary goal of every NFL head coach and they are not about to expose their best players to the risk of a serious injury in a game that is meaningless on the scoreboard. The results on the total line for Week 1 of the 2018 NFL preseason had 11 of the 16 games going OVER on the closing number.
Moving on to Week 2, most of the starters should see some limited playing time. Quarterbacks such as Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger might get to run the offense for a series or two and many of the team’s starters on defense will probably play most of the first half. This tilts the edge towards the UNDER if you are betting first half total lines.
Another factor helping this play is a slight increase in the total lines for Week 2 as opposed to generally lower totals in Week 1. A quick glance at the opening total line odds at one of the top online sportsbooks taking action on the games reveals total lines of 37.5 points to 39.5 points for the entire game as opposed to the 34 to 35-point total lines that were prevalent in Week 1. The total line for the Super Bowl LII rematch on Thursday night between Philadelphia and New England has been set at 40.5 points as the highest total on the board.
Taking a closer look at that game, Carson Wentz is likely to remain on the bench and Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles has been hampered with neck and back issues. This means that third- string quarterback Nate Sudfeld should once again see some substantial playing time in that game. He led the Eagles to 14 points in the first half of last Thursday’s loss to Pittsburgh before Philly went scoreless in the second half. New England scored three points in the first half of its 26-17 victory against Washington in Week 1. Even if Brady does see some playing time this week, it is likely to be very limited against Philadelphia first-string defense.
Line movements on the total in the preseason can also trigger a bet on the UNDER. If you happen to notice the total line going up as you get closer to kickoff, this could open up a great opportunity to cash in on the sportsbook’s generosity with a play on the UNDER in that game. Once again, a team’s defensive starters tend to get more playing time in any preseason game than the top skill players do on the other side of the ball.
Another factor to look for in a NFL preseason matchup is a team’s depth at quarterback. Going back to the Eagles first preseason game, Joe Callahan took over for Sudfeld in the second half against Pittsburgh and he completed eight of his 18 passing attempts for 91 yards and no scores. Brian Hoyer is Brady’s backup in New England followed by rookie Danny Etling. In his NFL debut, Etling completed two of five passes for 21 yards while also turning the ball over on a fumble.