NFL: Preseason Week 1 Handicapping Preview

Some see the NFL preseason as bad football but I see it as great opportunities to find point spread value. Unlike the regular season, coaches usually open up about their game plan. If you read articles and tweets from beat writers, you will find out how many snaps the starters will play and how the team will approach the game.

It’s too early in the week to know about how teams will approach these games but I have found three contests in Week 1 of preseason where I think I have a strong angle.

One thing I look for when picking preseason games is quarterback competitions. There are several teams with two of more quarterbacks that still think they will win the job and will be giving their maximum effort when they get an opportunity. I also looked at teams with new coaches. The best way to win over a fan base and impress the local media is to win in your home debut. There a several of those cases right off the bat.

Buccaneers at Eagles (-3) 

The Eagles haven’t played a game under Doug Pederson but the pressure is already on the first-time head coach. It started when the team re-signed Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel followed Pederson from Kansas City to Philadelphia. It looked like those two would battle for the starting quarterback job until a third player entered the picture. The Eagles traded a package of draft picks for FCS star Carson Wentz. It looks like Bradford is the favorite to start in Week 1 of the regular season but it can’t help his confidence that his coach wanted a player from North Dakota State so desperately that they traded valuable assets for him.

Philadelphia is a market that wants to win now and the media isn’t shy to share their honest opinions about the team. Because of that I think Pederson will want to make a statement in his first home game in charge, even if it doesn’t count in the standings. Quieting the media and satisfying the fans early should be motivation for the Eagles to want to win the game.

As mentioned before, the quarterback competition for the Eagles is still up for grabs so we should see four quarters of play from three motivated players who think they can win the job. Chase Daniel is familiar preseason situations from his days with the Saints and Chiefs so this pick is partly on him to play well. The motivation for the new coach and quarterback competition leads me to taking the Eagles.

Pick: Eagles (-3) over Buccaneers

Cowboys at Rams (-3.5)

The NFL is back in Los Angeles and the Rams open their preseason schedule at home against the Cowboys. A few factors have me favoring the Rams against the spread in this game even though they are giving more than a field goal. Motivation is the first reason as the Rams will want to put on a show for their new fan base and collect a win.

The Rams are another team with a quarterback competition. Case Keenum is listed as the starter for now but rookie Jared Goff has to believe he can win the job, and St. Louis might leave the first team offense out so the first overall pick gets a fair shot.

This pick is also a play against the Cowboys. Dallas was plagued by injuries last season and it’s already beginning in training camp. Backup quarterback Kellen Moore broke his ankle and running back Ezekiel Elliott has been banged up. The Cowboys main priority is to get out of the preseason without anymore injuries, so I’m guessing Tony Romo and the starters will only see one series if they suit up.

The Moore injury really hampers the Cowboys in this game as rookie Dak Prescott is now the backup. Jameill Showers is Dallas’ other option. I’ll take the Rams here as they have a huge edge when it comes to the quarterback position and the motivation angle.

Pick: Rams (-3.5) over Cowboys

Texans at 49ers (-3)

The biggest takeaway from the 2015 preseason was that Chip Kelly wants to win and isn’t afraid to run up the score. Philadelphia finished the month 3-1 with a point differential of +56. Kelly showed off his hand-picked offensive offensive weapons and the buzz was so great that the Eagles became a Super Bowl favorite because of their exhibition game play.

Things didn’t work out in Philly and now Kelly is back on the west coast with the 49ers. He faces a huge challenge as he tries to resurrect the career of Colin Kaepernick and attempts to get the most out of Blaine Gabbert. It doesn’t look pretty but these two players will be looking to impress their new coach and win the starting job. Kelly will let both play and he’s a coach you want to back in preseason based off his track record.

The Texans have a new quarterback and running back this season but here’s another team that just needs to get out of the preseason without anymore injuries. Most notably, J.J. Watt is in danger of missing the start of the regular season after undergoing back surgery. Houston will want Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller to get used to the new offense but I’m going to predict Houston will wait until the second or third game of preseason to put them on display. The 49ers are a bad team but I feel comfortable in supporting Chip Kelly in this spot.

Pick: 49ers (-3) over Texans

Football Picks: December 5 and 6

Stanford (-4.5) over USC: A lot has changed since these two teams met on September 19 in Week 3. Stanford entered the game 1-1 and beat USC straight up as a 10-point underdog. Since then Stanford flirted with a spot in the College Football Playoff but a loss to Oregon gives the Cardinal a slim chance to get a top four spot. USC has fired a coach and just permanently hired one since the Week 3 contest against Stanford. After beating UCLA, the Trojans took the interim label off Clay Helton’s title and he signed a five-year deal to be the school’s head coach. With Stanford having more to play for, I think they cover this number. Helton and USC will have one eye looking towards recruiting and might not be well prepared for this game.

Saints (+7) over Panthers: I made the point spread for this game Panthers -4. So I think there is some value in this line. New Orleans is a much better team at home and their defense has to be slightly better since Rob Ryan got fired. The Saints played the Panthers tough when the two teams met earlier this season and I think this will be another close one.

Rams (+6) over Cardinals: This is the classic take the Jeff Fisher team as an underdog in a division game. The Cardinals might be looking ahead to a Thursday night game at home against the Vikings. I think the Rams will be able to have success on the ground with Todd Gurley and cover this spread at home.

Giants (+2.5) over Jets: The Giants are technically the home team but you can throw out home field advantage here since the Jets play in the same stadium. I still don’t think the Jets are a better team than the Giants and not sure why they are favorites especially without Darrelle Revis.  I think the Giants win straight up and put themselves in a strong position to win the NFC East.

Chiefs (-3) over Raiders: I usually don’t like taking away favorites but I think the red-hot Chiefs aren’t getting the respect they deserve in this line. Oakland has won five game but I don’t spot an impressive win on their schedule. The Chiefs are on a great winning and covering streak, and I’m going to take a shot at them doing it again.

NFL: Week 4 Picks

There are a lot games to stay away from this week but I found three underdogs that I predict will cover and possibly win straight up.

Texans (+6) over Falcons: The line for this game was Falcons -3.5 before Week 3 action. The Falcons improved to 3-0 with a win over Brandon Weeden and the Cowboys. The Texans picked up their first win of the season at home against the Buccaneers. I don’t see why there was a 2.5-point line move in favor of Atlanta. A lot of people are impressed with the Falcons but they have won all there games as small underdogs. Now they have a different role as a big favorite and I think they struggle trying to cover this number. The Texans have a solid defense and will keep this game close.

Giants (+5) over Bills: The Bills are another team that the public is in love with after a 2-1 start. I was on the Bills last week and they dominated against the Dolphins. Now injuries have caught up with Buffalo as running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver Sammy Watkins are out for this game. The Giants have an extra three days to prepare for this one and are a few plays away from being 3-0. This is a pretty big number for quarterback Tyrod Taylor and the Bills to cover. I think Buffalo has a letdown after three grueling games against the Colts, Patriots and Dolphins.

Rams (+7) over Cardinals: The Rams burned me last week but they I’m going back to them this week. The lookahead line going into Week 3 was Cardinals -4 for this game. The Rams falling to the Steelers 12-6, and the Cardinals routing the 49ers by 40 points is the reason the line has reached a full touchdown. The Cardinals played a great game against the 49ers but that was set up by two interception returns for touchdowns in the first six minutes. The 49ers were only a 6-point underdog in that game and the Rams are a better team than the 49ers this season. Along with the line value, Jeff Fisher teams do great in an underdog role against division teams. Last year the Rams led the Cardinals going into the fourth quarter in Arizona. The Cardinals scored 21 fourth quarter points, including two defensive touchdowns to get the 17-point win. But the Rams played the Cardinals close and the score was misleading. Arizona is 3-0 but they beat the Saints, Bears and 49ers who are a combined 1-8 this season. My strongest pick of the week is to take the Rams against the spread.

NFL: Week 3 Picks

Rams (+1) over Steelers: I think the wrong team is the favorite in this game. The Steelers are coming off a blowout victory against the 49ers but the result is misleading. The 49ers were coming off a Monday night game and had to make the long trip to Pittsburgh on a short week. The Rams had a letdown against the Redskins after beating the Seahawks in Week 1. I think the Rams bounce back and we are getting some value after their poor performance against the Redskins. The Steelers play the Ravens on Thursday night in Week 4 so this is a lookahead game for them.

Eagles (+1.5) over Jets: Another game where we can take advantage of overreaction. The Eagles are 0-2 and their offense is struggling. The Jets are coming off a big Monday win at the Colts. Coming back on a short week is a tough spot for New York. The Eagles would the favorite in this game if they won one of their first two games and I think now is the perfect time to buy low on Chip Kelly’s team.

Ravens (-2.5) over Bengals: This game is the season for the Ravens. They started 0-2 after falling to two AFC West opponents. Despite the two road defeats I think Baltimore still has a great chance of making the playoffs but they have to win this game. The Bengals might be a little better than the Ravens but considering home field and the situation, I think the Ravens cover.

Bills (+3) over Dolphins: The Bills were getting too much respect last week and closed as a favorite against the Patriots. They got in a shootout with the Patriots, and this Bills team won’t win games playing high-scoring games. They need to run the ball and play well on defense, which is what they did against the Colts in Week 1. There was a lot of preseason hype surrounding the Dolphins this preseason but they have not been impressive in games over the Redskins and Jaguars. I see this being a low-scoring game and the Bills winning straight up.

Lions (+3) over Broncos: Another situation where I will back a 0-2 team that needs to win. The Lions are a much better team at home and the building will be rocking on a Sunday night. Despite winning and covering in the first two games, I have not been impressed with Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense. If Denver loses to Kansas City then this line is probably closer to a pick ’em. I’ll take my chances with the Lions.

Cardinals vs Rams Preview

There isn’t a hotter team in the NFC, other than Green Bay and Seattle, than the St. Louis Rams. They have had a roller coaster season and it continued by outscoring the Raiders and Redskins a combined 76-0 in the last two games. Because of their strong play and the road struggles of Drew Stanton, the 6-7 Rams will be over a field goal favorite against the 10-3 Cardinals on Thursday night. It seems trendy to pick the Rams here but they just beat two of the worst teams in the NFL so those results might be a little misleading. The Cardinals are still a well-coached team and I think they will keep this game within the four-point spread.

Pick: Pass (Contest: Cardinals)

NFL: Week 12 Picks

Here are my Week 12 NFL picks and the rest of the contest picks:

Under 49 in Eagles vs Titans

Lions (+7.5) over Patriots

Vikings (+9) over Packers

Bengals (+2) over Texans

Buccaneers (+6) over Bears

Chargers (-5) over Rams

Giants (+3.5) over Cowboys

Contest Picks  Continue reading

NFL: Week 10 Picks

Here are my Week 10 NFL picks and the rest of the contest picks:

Chiefs (-2) over Bills

Under 49 in Saints vs 49ers

Under 46 in Buccaneers vs Falcons

Under 43 in Cardinals vs Rams

Contest Picks 

Cowboys (-7) over Jaguars

Dolphins (+3) over Lions

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