Rams and Raiders not tipping their hands, and Saturday's NFL preseason odds and analysis

Aug 18, 2018 |

There are seven NFL preseason games on the board Saturday night, giving football fans a chance to cash in on the exhibition NFL odds. We dive into the must-know news and notes for handicapping some of tonight’s tune-up tilts:

Top defensive units meet

The reigning first and second-ranked defenses in yards against per game face off as the Jaguars (286.1) visit the Vikings (275.9). These units looked sharp in a joint practice Wednesday, with both Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles and Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins struggling to move the ball.

The two teams are expected to play their starters for most of the first half Saturday, though Jacksonville will be without suspended defensive regulars Jalen Ramsey and Dante Fowler. Add in the fact that Vikings coach Mike Zimmer comes to play in the preseason (13-5 ATS since 2014) and bettors should take a good look at Minnesota to cover in the first half. 

Week 1 preview

A bit of a preseason oddity as the Raiders and Rams do battle Saturday, something they’ll do again in Week 1. This could leave us with a boring game as neither coach will want to reveal much about his scheme, especially in the case of Raiders coach Jon Gruden. No one knows what to expect from his offense after a decade away from coaching. 

Then there’s the issue of the Rams QB depth chart, which might be the worst in the league behind starter Jared Goff. Backups Sean Mannion and Brandon Allen combined to throw for just 89 yards as the two split last week’s blowout loss to Baltimore. Even if Goff gets in some reps, Mannion and Allen won’t do enough to get this total Over the 38.5 points.

Rush to win

It’s unclear whether Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott will make his preseason debut in this one, though history would say he will not as he’s only ever appeared in two preseason games — and both were in Week 3. 

Regardless, the real factor in this one should be Cowboys backup QB Cooper Rush. He went 15 for 23 for 145 yards and a touchdown last week and was also a standout in the 2017 preseason, completing 74.5 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and no interceptions. He’ll see plenty of action and should help Dallas cover the 3-point spread against a Cincinnati team that has lost five of seven preseason games.

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Winston vs. backups

Tampa Bay played last week as if Ryan Fitzpatrick is its starting QB - which is technically true, at least while Jameis Winston is suspended. The Buccaneers are likely to take the same approach Saturday, meaning the more talented Winston could get reps in the second half against Tennessee’s backups. 

The Titans want to get Mike Vrabel his first win as a head coach in the NFL. Starting QB Marcus Mariota looked good last week (2 for 3, 42 yards and a touchdown) and will likely play a few possessions, while backups Blaine Gabbert and Luke Falk shouldn’t have issues throwing against a Tampa Bay secondary that ranked dead last in passing yards against last season. The Titans should win, but the Over 41 is the safest bet. 

49ers to run?

It looks like an exciting matchup on paper as both 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo and Texans QB DeShaun Watson are expected to see action. However, San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said that Garoppolo might only see a slight increase from the one possession (nine plays) that he handled last week, while Houston’s Bill O’Brien hinted that his starters saw enough reps in the heat and humidity of the joint practices this week.

San Francisco will also be forced to test out its depth chart at running back as Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida are both hurt. This likely means lots of carries for the likes of Jeremy McNichols, Alfred Morris, and Raheem Mostert, which should help chew the clock. The Under 41 looks good here. 

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