NFLX picks and predictions for Week 1
Thirty teams will play the first of three preseason games this week, while the Jets and Browns got a head start in last week’s Hall of Fame Game. These are important reps for rookies and players on the cut line, but most of the starters and even a lot of the backups will be on the sidelines for the first tune-up of the summer.
Over the weekend, I wrote about some NFL preseason betting tips and Steve Makinen wrote about some top NFL trends and systems for the exhibition part of the season, so you may want to refer to those for the Week 1 action. I would also highly recommend checking out the QB Depth Charts that Matt Youmans put together and Michael Lombardi's thoughts on why the preseason matters.
Here are a couple of best bets to consider for NFL Preseason Week 1:
New York Jets at Carolina Panthers (-3.5, 37)
The Jets have one preseason game under their belts already and also had a preseason casualty. Chris Streveler was released, unclaimed, and subsequently placed on the IR by the team after an ugly 1-for-7 performance, which leaves the QB reps for Zach Wilson and Tim Boyle.
Wilson was 3-of-5 for 65 yards, including a long completion to Malik Taylor that led to a 54-yard field goal from Greg Zuerlein. Wilson seems to have a good bit of leash in these games, but he had that long pass and not much else. Boyle was okay in relief with six completions on 11 attempts for 61 yards. He was 26-of-46 for 274 yards with a couple touchdowns and a couple picks last preseason. He was only 22-of-39 for 135 yards in the 2021 preseason. While he’s been around, he hasn’t exactly played well.
The Jets only ran for 2.3 yards per carry against Cleveland, so it was a really weak offensive showing aside from the 57-yard bomb. The other area where the Jets struggled was in stopping the run, specifically, the run from Dorian Thompson-Robinson. The New York defense will face two QBs that can use their legs effectively in Bryce Young and Matt Corral. DTR had six carries for 36 yards as the Browns ran for 5.2 yards per carry and 172 yards total.
While neither Young nor Corral have played in an NFL game, they can move and that may be a big problem for the Jets. The Panthers were really high on Corral when they used a third-round pick on him in last year’s draft, but he suffered a season-ending injury. It’s a new playbook under Frank Reich, but there is a lot of upside in this QB room while Andy Dalton serves as a coach on the sidelines.
Reich may also want to establish a culture of winning. Doug Pederson has been quite solid in the preseason in his career and that should have rubbed off on Reich as well.
Pick: Panthers -3.5
Jacksonville Jaguars (-4, 38) at Dallas Cowboys
The defense has been winning the day in Oxnard on a regular basis as the Cowboys go from Kellen Moore’s offense to the scheme of new OC Brian Schottenheimer, but Mike McCarthy also has his fingerprints all over the offense and will be calling plays. It’s hard to imagine McCarthy showing much in this first game.
Former Florida and West Virginia QB Will Grier is going to get the vast majority of the work here, as the Cowboys won’t want to put Dak Prescott and Cooper Rush in harm’s way. Prescott hasn’t played in the preseason since 2019, so he definitely won’t see the field. Rush will play, along with Brandin Cooks and Michael Gallup, but “play” is a relative term in the preseason. Most of the stars on defense won’t play either, but the Cowboys seem to really be excelling on that side of the ball, while the offense is a work in progress with a new scheme and a lot of reasons to look at running backs Malik Davis and Deuce Vaughn.
On the Jacksonville side, Trevor Lawrence won’t play and none of the dynamic skill players will get much in the way of snaps. However, former Ohio Bobcat Nathan Rourke should get a lot of the looks after spending a couple seasons as a star in the Canadian Football League. The NFL game is certainly a step up and the field has different dimensions, so it will be a bit of a learning curve for the dual-threat signal caller. He set a CFL record for completion percentage at 78.7% and had 25 TD passes in just 10 games last season.
What that means is that Rourke and current backup QB CJ Beathard are in a battle to be the backup and a former QB like Doug Pederson is going to be very interested in that position this week and in subsequent weeks. As a result, I think we see a lot more from the Jaguars offense and I’d be surprised if we see much of anything from the Cowboys. I also prefer mobile QBs that can improvise late in games when protections break down, which is a skill Rourke possesses.
Pick: Jaguars -4