Which teams will play starters? A look at each game this week

If you’re betting on NFL preseason games, the first thing to know is how coaches approach their playing time rotations.

Some coaches take the preseason seriously, playing starters, while others just want to get out of August with no injuries. There are two preseason games in the books this week, with 14 to go, and here’s a look at each game and what the coaches have said about whether they’ll use starters (all odds from BetMGM):

Giants coach Brian Daboll wouldn’t say whether the starters would play against the Lions, but the guess from beat writers is that key players will not see the field. That’s fairly typical after joint practices, which the Lions and Giants held this week. Lions coach Dan Campbell held out most starters after joint practices against the Colts last preseason, and he’s expected to sit many starters against the Giants.

Baker Mayfield will start the first preseason game for the Buccaneers and Kyle Trask will start the second. Often teams play starters more than usual during a quarterback competition, but it’s unclear how much the Bucs’ starters will play Friday. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin’s philosophy is to play starters in preseason, so you can expect to see some of Pittsburgh’s starters against Tampa Bay.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor said few of his team’s starters will play Friday. Cincinnati didn’t play starters much last preseason. The Packers also don’t like to play starters in preseason, but with Jordan Love taking over the starting quarterback job, the starting offense could play some to get extra reps. “I would say it’s a pretty good chance they’re going to be out there in some capacity,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said, via AP.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love will get some playing time this preseason. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love will get some playing time this preseason. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Falcons coach Arthur Smith made it clear his starters will play in the preseason, but how much they play “will depend.” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel held out starters in the preseason opener last year. That could be the case again, but the Miami Herald thinks that starters could play some this week as the team tries to figure out its offensive line and work on a new defensive scheme.

Deshaun Watson said he’ll play against Washington, which makes sense after he hasn’t played much over the last two seasons. A “majority” of Browns starters will play, for one or two series according to coach Kevin Stefanski. Commanders coach Ron Rivera didn’t say how much starters will play, but with inexperienced QB Sam Howell it’s a good bet that starters will play some, and the starting offensive line will be out there as long as Howell is.

In the spirit of doing everything the opposite of last year’s coaching staff, Broncos coach Sean Payton (who says he regrets blasting Nathaniel Hackett and last year’s staff … totally believe you, Sean) will play starters in the preseason. He said it’ll be about 15-18 snaps. Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon is in his first season, and many first-time head coaches put an emphasis on the preseason. “Every time you strap it up and go in between the white lines, you want to win the game, so that’s always the No. 1 goal,” Gannon said, via Cards Wire. The problem is the Cardinals’ roster might be the worst in the NFL, and the difference between starters and backups won’t be that obvious. Which Cardinals starters play will be on a “case by case basis,” Gannon said.

Justin Fields will start for the Bears in the preseason opener, and other starters will play too. Bears coach Matt Eberflus said how many snaps for the starters will be determined for each individual, not necessarily position groups. Titans coach Mike Vrabel was oddly secretive about his plans for starters, saying “There will be some that play, some that won’t.” Vrabel would not say which quarterback would start, but it could be Malik Willis and rookie Will Levis playing most of the game.

Indianapolis Colts (-3.5) at Buffalo Bills

Rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson will start for the Colts, which means other starters will as well. The first-team offense will play about a quarter, coach Shane Steichen said. Bills quarterback Josh Allen and receiver Stefon Diggs won’t play, but Bills coach Sean McDermott said most of the team’s starters will play.

Carolina will start quarterback Bryce Young, the first pick of the draft. The Panthers will definitely play starters in the preseason, new coach Frank Reich said. The Jets were in the Hall of Fame Game, and like last week, Zach Wilson will start at quarterback. When Jets coach Robert Saleh was asked if starters will play, he said “We’ll see.”

Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars will play one or two series against Dallas. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott hasn’t played in the preseason since 2019 and that’s likely to continue this preseason. That’s a good indication the rest of the starters won’t play much, if at all.

The Ravens have won 23 preseason games in a row, an NFL record. So you know they’ll be taking the game seriously. That doesn’t mean starters will play. Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic says he believes “very few starters” will play this week and for the entire preseason. Eagles coach Nick Sirianni won’t say if his starters will play but Martin Frank of the Delaware News Journal pointed out that with joint practices coming up against the Browns, that likely means starters will sit.

Rams coach Sean McVay started the trend of sitting starters for the entire preseason, but with an inexperienced roster this season he said he’d have a different approach. “It’s going to be very different than what you guys are accustomed to,” McVay said, via Rams Wire. “We haven’t decided exactly, but we’ve got to get guys ready to go.” Matthew Stafford won’t start at QB, however. Chargers coach Brandon Staley usually doesn’t play starters in the preseason, and that is likely to continue.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid usually uses starters in the preseason and it doesn’t sound like this year will be any different. Expect his starters to get about a quarter against New Orleans. The Saints, with new quarterback Derek Carr, will use starters against the Chiefs.

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said he doubts the team’s starters, including quarterback Brock Purdy, play against the Raiders. There hasn’t been much news out of Las Vegas on the Raiders’ plan for starters, but don’t expect to see much of them, if at all.

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