The Cleveland Browns haven’t won a game since going 4-0 in last year’s preseason. Do they get back on track for Week 1 of the preseason this year? Covers checks in on the action and line movement for a handful of matchups on tonight’s 12-game slate, with insights from Jeff Stoneback, director of trading for MGM Resorts sportsbooks in Las Vegas, and D.J. Fields, odds consultant for offshore sportsbook Bookmaker.eu.
Cleveland is the featured team in HBO’s “Hard Knocks” this year, and added one of the featured players in the NFL Draft, quarterback Baker Mayfield. Tyrod Taylor will get the start for the Browns, but he’s not expected to be in long, while the rookie Mayfield could see as much as two quarters for a team coming off an 0-16 SU and 4-12 ATS campaign.
New York also added some offensive punch in the first round of the draft, via running back Saquon Barkley, who should see some action in this 7 p.m. ET kickoff. Eli Manning may see limited time under center for the Giants, coming off a dismal season of 3-13 SU/7-9 ATS.
“We definitely need the Giants in that game. They’ve been betting the Browns,” Stoneback said from his post at The Mirage on the Vegas Strip. “The ticket count is about equal, but money is about 8/1 on the Browns, and the sharp money is on the Browns.”
Stoneback said the expectation of Mayfield playing a lengthy stretch likely plays into the action on Cleveland.
“I would say so. They’re not gonna go through four or five quarterbacks, and you get the continuity of one quarterback playing significant snaps,” he said.
Bookmaker.eu also opened the Giants -3 and moved to -1.
“NFL preseason action, especially in Week 1, is typically driven by offseason moves. The Browns made several high-profile moves in picking up Tyrod Taylor, E.J. Gaines, Jarvis Landry, and drafting Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward,” Fields said. “As such, we have seen Cleveland money pour in. A resounding 85 percent of the volume is on Cleveland, yet the wager count is actually 51 percent in favor of the Giants.
“With the Giants being a big-market team, we do expect to see some late New York money come in, but so far, both public and sharp action is locked in on the Browns.”
Indianapolis Colts at Seattle Seahawks – Open: -3; Move: -2.5; Move: -2; Move: -1.5
It’s the return of Andrew Luck, who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury. The Indianapolis QB will start and is expected to play the first quarter tonight, which seems to have impacted the line in the Colts’ favor. Indy is coming off a dismal 4-12 SU/8-8 ATS season.
Seattle went 9-7 SU and 6-9-1 ATS in the 2017-18 season, ending a five-year stretch of making the playoffs. The Seahawks’ starters will likely only see one or two series for this 10 p.m. ET kickoff.
“We’ve been taking sharp money on that game, too,” Stoneback said. “There are a few more tickets on the Seahawks than the Colts, but the money is like 17/1, and that’s all sharp money coming in on the Colts. You would have to theorize that’s due to Luck, that he’s accounting for some of that.”
Bookmaker.eu opened Seattle -2.5 and made the modest move to -2.
“The handle on this game is second only to the Browns-Giants matchup,” Fields said. “Players continue to see value in preseason dogs, as 67 percent of the handle is in favor of the Colts, but 65 percent of the (tickets) are on Seattle. We are looking at big-dollar bets on the Colts, a ton of small-dollar bets on the Seahawks, and the sharp action split right down the middle.”
Carolina Panthers vs. Buffalo Bills – Open: -1; Move: Move: -1.5; Move: -2; Move: -2.5; Move: -3
With Tyrod Taylor gone, Buffalo needs to figure out who its quarterback will be. A.J. McCarron is expected to start in this 7 p.m. ET matchup, with Nathan Peterman and first-round draft pick Josh Allen also seeing action. The Bills went 9-7 SU and 8-7-1 ATS last year, squeaking into the playoffs as a wild card before losing to Jacksonville.
Carolina went 11-5 SU and 9-7 SU in 2017-18, also nabbing a wild-card playoff berth before losing at New Orleans. Cam Newton is expected to get no more than a handful of repetitions at quarterback tonight, and presumably the rest of the Panthers starters will be limited, as well.
“We’ve got quite a decision on Panthers-Bills,” Stoneback said. “We need the Panthers there, and it’s probably our biggest decision of the night. We’ve had some wiseguys taking the limit of $5,000 on the Bills, running that line from -1 to -3.”
Washington Redskins at New England Patriots – Open: -4.5; Move: -4; Move: -3.5; Move: -3; Move: -2.5
New England has been to the past two Super Bowls, winning in 2016-17 and losing last year, but preseason bettors are going opposite the Patriots in a 7:30 p.m. ET start. The Pats went 15-4 SU and 12-7 ATS in a season that ended with a loss to Philadelphia in the championship game. Don’t expect to see much if any of Tom Brady tonight, as he hasn’t played in the preseason opener in three of the past four years.
Washington has a new QB in town, with Alex Smith moving on from Kansas City. But Smith will likely see no more than a few snaps, perhaps a series or two, with the starters. The Redskins went 7-9 SU and ATS last year behind Kirk Cousins, who is now with Minnesota.
“Again, bettors are seeing value in the ‘dog,” Fields said of activity at Bookmaker.eu. “The theme of big-money bets on the dog/high wager count on the favorite continues in this matchup, as 82 percent of the money is on the Skins, and 54 percent of the wagers are on the Pats. The sharp money is unified on the Redskins, and despite expecting Patriots money to come in close to kickoff, it looks like we are going to be rooting for the Pats to win by 5.”
MGM books also opened New England -4.5 and were down to -2.5 this afternoon.
“A lot of sharp money on the Redskins, taking the points, though it’s kind of stopped at 2.5,” Stoneback said.
Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.