If you bet NFL preseason games, there will inevitably be a moment in which you realize that the team you bet on has exactly zero players on the field that you recognize, as the game comes down to the final minutes.
Maybe there’s some strange thrill in that.
Betting preseason is different than practically anything else. There are edges to be had, with trends and news on playing time patterns that are reported during the week (or a deep, deep dive into the third- and fourth-string players on every roster), but there’s always an unknown involved with betting games in which the outcome doesn’t matter.
The preseason officially started with the Hall of Fame Game last week, but really gets going this week. There are two games Thursday, six on Friday, six on Saturday and two more on Sunday. And there are point spreads at BetMGM for all of them.
The most obvious angle to mine for preseason games is figuring out which coaches will take the games more seriously than others. When Sean McVay started sitting his key players through the entire preseason, many other coaches started doing the same. But great coaches like John Harbaugh and Andy Reid still value getting starters some time in the preseason. And since the games don’t count, coaches often will share what their plans are for playing time.
We know that the Texans will start rookie C.J. Stroud at quarterback on Thursday against New England. For the rest of the starters, coach DeMeco Ryans said which starters play in the preseason “will be on an individual basis,” which indicates that starters could play if they’re healthy. Usually coaches won’t put a first-round rookie quarterback on the field without other starters around him.
The Patriots’ starters took most reps in practice on Tuesday and that’s an indication the starters won’t play Thursday, according to the Boston Herald. The differences in approach is a reason the Texans are 3.5-point road favorites at the Patriots. However, Bill Belichick does have a solid 50-38 preseason record, via WalterFootball.com.
There’s more uncertainty in the other game on Thursday. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll hasn’t revealed his plan for starters on Thursday but don’t expect to see starters for much, if at all, of Thursday’s opener. He has cut back on starters playing in the preseason as his career has gone on. The Vikings haven’t divulged much either. Coach Kevin O’Connell said the team was “still determining what that looks like, timeline for some guys,” via Vikings Wire. The Seahawks are 3.5-point favorites (it came down from -4.5 since Wednesday), but good luck figuring out the best angle.
Betting preseason football isn’t for the weak of heart, but it’s relatively popular. Fans and bettors are dying for football (as we can see from the Hall of Fame Game’s TV ratings doing better than an average NBA playoff game). Just know that if you take a side, you’re probably going to end up rooting for some players you’ve never heard of.
Here’s the rest of the sports betting slate for Thursday:
MLB has 8 games
The Philadelphia Phillies, coming off Michael Lorenzen’s no-hitter on Wednesday, face the Washington Nationals again on Thursday. The Phillies are a -250 favorite.
Among the other gams on the slate, the Houston Astros and Baltimore Orioles wrap up a series. The Astros took the first two games of the series to pull within two games of the Texas Rangers in the AL West. Houston was an underdog on Wednesday, but are -120 favorites for Thursday’s finale.
Best of the rest
The PGA Tour’s FedEx St. Jude Championship starts on Thursday. Scottie Scheffler is the favorite at +650, with Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy behind him at +900. The WNBA has three games, with three road favorites. We also have a Women’s World Cup quarterfinal between Spain and Netherlands. Spain is a -120 favorite on the three-way line.
What’s the best bet?
I’ll skip betting on NFL preseason on Thursday night, but do like the Orioles to take the last game of the three-game slate against the Astros. Baltimore is a +100 underdog.