It was a nice birthday present last Thursday with the first NFL action of the season, even if it was meaningless preseason action, as the Baltimore Ravens beat the Chicago Bears 17-16 in the Hall of Fame Game (and the Bears got the backdoor cover as 2.5-point underdogs with a late TD and failed 2-point conversion).
This week, we get a full slate of games. Now, I concur with everything that my VSiN colleague Matt Youmans wrote in last week’s Point Spread Weekly cover story on the “Do’s and Don’ts” of betting these games, especially the seemingly conflicting advice that you don’t want to go too crazy; however, there are good spots that selective handicappers can profit from.
So, I’m going to give my takes on this weekend’s preseason slate to try to cherry-pick the best bets. Since we’ve got “Week 1” of the preseason on our minds, it seems like an appropriate time to give an update on “Week 1” of the regular season. And, after having the Claret Jug surrounded last month in the British Open and coming up empty, I also want to take another shot at this weekend’s PGA Championship.
Tuley’s Takes on Preseason Week 1
Ravens -3 vs. Rams (Thu.): If you read Youmans’ piece last week, you know that Baltimore coach John Harbaugh is among the NFL coaches that takes preseason games seriously. And even though the Ravens ended up not covering, Harbaugh is still 29-12 SU & 27-14 ATS in preseason games. In addition, we should continue to see a battle between Robert Griffin III and Lamar Jackson for the backup role behind Joe Flacco, so that should help the Ravens be a playable team all preseason. One last thing: even though it’s only been a 50/50 trend with teams coming off playing in the Hall of Fame Game (8-8 SU & 6-6-4 ATS since 2008, according to handicapper Marc Lawrence of playbook.com), I still believe it’s mostly a positive thing for a team that’s played a game (even an exhibition) taking on a team playing its first game. For those who want the longer-term stat from Lawrence (who will also be talking preseason football on “Follow the Money” on VSiN on Wednesday morning and archived at vsin.com/videos): HOF teams are 38-28 SU & 39-23-4 ATS (62.9%) in their next games since 1983.
Bears plus 2.5 at Bengals (Thu.): The Bears also have a game under their belts, and we saw that they played hard to the end. As Youmans also pointed out last week, Chicago backups Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray are serviceable preseason QBs while head coach Mike Nagy is among the new coaches that certainly wants to instill a winning attitude. He’s taking on Marvin Lewis, who it doesn’t seem like he needs to do anything positive to keep his job.
Vikings plus 1 at Broncos (Sat.): Mike Zimmer is the shortest tenured of the top preseason coaches, but his winning percentage is the highest at 14-3 SU (82.4%) & 12-5 ATS (70.6%) so he’s really been taking these games seriously. When most people look at this game, they might think of former Viking Case Keenum now playing for the Broncos, but he’ll probably play just one of two series. A bigger impact could come from Minnesota backup/former Denver starter Trevor Siemian taking on his former team.
Tuley’s Takes on Regular Season Week 1
Back in April, I recommended and made five Week 1 bets right after the schedule came out (and maybe some of you are holding these tickets as well): Browns plus 7 vs. the Steelers, Giants plus 4 vs. the Jaguars, Buccaneers plus 7.5 at the Saints, Bears plus 9 at the Packers and Raiders plus 1.5 vs. the Rams.
It looks like I made the right calls with the Browns, Giants and Bears as those were the best numbers available and they’re long gone. I’m holding a bad number on the Bucs, but that’s mostly due to Jameis Winston being suspended (though I don’t feel too bad about having it with Ryan Fitzpatrick and likely will double down on the Bucs if the line goes to double digits by gameday). My biggest error appears to be the Raiders at only plus 1.5 as the line is up to plus 3, but I still feel OK with having the Raiders to win outright as live home underdogs.
When the openers came out, I passed on the Falcons plus 3.5 against the Eagles as I felt that line would increase. That’s worked out as planned as it’s plus 4 at most books, though I’ll wait to see if the line gets bet higher on the defending champs.
I originally passed on the Bengals plus 1 at the Colts as I felt it would go higher if Andrew Luck returned for Indy; I like the Bengals now at plus 3 but will wait to see if it crosses the key number before opening day.
Most of the other Week 1 lines look pretty solid so (barring major injuries), I wouldn’t expect these games to see any line movement between now and Labor Day.
Tuley’s Takes on PGA Championship
If you played my British Open picks last month, you know what an exciting, roller-coaster ride it was. We had Zach Johnson (75-1) and leading the tournament after Friday’s second round and still within striking distance over the weekend. Then, Tiger Woods (20-1) made his move and was leading on Sunday. Even after he faded, Justin Rose (17-1) pulled within a shot of the lead before tying for second behind Francesco Molinari (too bad it wasn’t Jean van de Velde!).
We didn’t cash a ticket, but certainly felt we got our money’s worth after being continuously in position for a nice payday. So, let’s see if we can do it again (and hopefully complete the deal this time).
I already have Woods at 5-1 (to win any major this year) but will take him again at 25-1. If you read my Tweets during the British Open, the players I was most afraid of beating my golfers was Jordan Spieth, so I like his chances at 20-1. Finally, after getting such a great run from Zach Johnson, I love that he’s still offered at 80-1 and will take him as an overlay again. If looking to complete a foursome, I would suggest Molinari at 30-1 as a value play to win back-to-back.