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What bettors need to know: Thursday's NFL preseason action

NFL betting got underway this past weekend with the Hall of Fame Game. Now, football bettors get their first night of preseason profits with six games on the go Thursday.

Here’s a quick look at each of those matchups and their odds and trends:

Washington Redskins at Buffalo Bills (+2.5, 35)

The Redskins debut rookie QB Robert Griffin III, who will get between 12 and 20 snaps in Week 1. Washington head coach Mike Shanahan is notorious for putting weight into these tune-up tilts and owns a career 42-32-2 ATS mark in the preseason, including a 5-2 ATS record in his first two preseasons with the Skins.

Buffalo head coach Chan Gailey says his starters will only get a few series Thursday, turning things over to backup QB Vince Young. Starter Ryan Fitzpatrick said the offense will be focused on improving the rushing game, which could eat up clock and favor the under 35 points.

New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots (-3, 38)

These teams held a joint practice this week, so expect both sides to have notes. Bill Belichick sat Tom Brady in Week 1 of the preseason last year and will limit his star QB Thursday. Not only does Belichick want a better look at backups Ryan Mallet and Brian Hoyer, but he’s working with scraps on the offensive line.

The Saints won the Hall of Fame Game and will likely give Drew Brees and the starters a longer leash in Week 1. Receiver Devery Henderson and RB Mark Ingram sat out the practice with the Pats but are expected to see more action Thursday.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles (pick, 34)

Eagles head coach Andy Reid is expected to be on sidelines for Thursday's game following the funeral for his son this week. Philadelphia has dedicated this season to Garrett Reid and will likely come out strong for their coach Thursday.

Pittsburgh has been one of the better preseason bets under Mike Tomlin, posting a 16-5 SU and 13-8 ATS record in the exhibition schedule. The Steelers will give starts to two rookie offensive linemen Thursday, throwing David DeCastro and Mike Adams into the fire. Tomlin will play his starting units no more than two series.

Baltimore Ravens at Atlanta Falcons (-1.5, 34)

The Ravens are one of the best under bets in Week 1 of the preseason, posting a 3-12 over/under count in the exhibition opener since 1995. Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh will use his starters, namely QB Joe Flacco, sparingly and will not risk putting injured players into action.

The Falcons could give their starters a full quarter’s worth of work and more Thursday. Head coach Mike Smith hadn’t decided on a snap count or anything but told the media his starters could play into the second quarter versus the Ravens.

Green Bay Packers at San Diego Chargers (-1, 37.5)

The Packers will only let QB Aaron Rodgers roll out one series or less before turning the offense over to the backups. A big part of that decision is the uncertainty surrounding Herb Taylor at left tackle. Backups Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman could be in for a long night if Taylor fails on the line.

The Chargers are one of the better over plays during Week 1 of the preseason, boasting an 11-5 over/under count in Week 1 since 1995. The Bolts won’t have backup QB Charlie Whitehurst for Thursday, leaving the bulk of the passing duties behind Philip Rivers to Kevin O'Connell and undrafted rookie Jarrett Lee.

Denver Broncos at Chicago Bears (-3, 34.5)


Denver happens to be one of the best Week 1 preseason plays in the NFL, with a stellar 11-4-1 ATS mark in their exhibition openers since 1995. Peyton Manning makes his debut in Broncos blue and orange, but will only get 10-12 plays Thursday.

The Bears have depth at QB and RB with Jason Campbell an upgrade under center and Michael Bush a threat behind Matt Forte. Chicago will not have veteran LB Brian Urlacher, who is dealing with personal issues.

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