Week 1 of the NFL preseason wraps up with a trio of tilts on Saturday. Our focus will be breaking down the totals on these contests.
Other than the final week of the NFL preseason, where no starters play at all, the opening week of exhibition games (That’s what they are, let’s be honest) is the second-toughest week to make NFL picks.
This is especially true of totals because the circumstances are so volatile. Just a few years ago almost all totals were 31 to 35 points. Possibly, because of a lack of actual tackling in training camps, the last two seasons have seen a spike in scoring and the sportsbooks have had to quickly adjust their NFL odds on the fly.
Because NFL coaches have become more secretive about playing time and intentions for their squad compared to the not too distant past, trying to find an edge as a sports bettor or handicapper is tougher than ever in August. With this in mind, here is a look at all three games on Saturday night.
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(277) Cincinnati at (278) Kansas City – O/U 36.5
The expected quality in these AFC teams could hardly be any more different, with Kansas City trying to reach a Super Bowl and Cincinnati taking up residence in the AFC North basement.
All signs point to the Bengals striving to be a more of a running team. This makes sense since Andy Dalton is an above pass-action passer and Cincy has suffered multiple injuries to wide-outs and tight ends the last couple of years.
The Kansas City offense might not be explosive as last year, but their aggressive approach is part of their culture and they should move the ball on a Bengals defense that was last in the league last year. Let’s take the OVER in this one, with the Chiefs a 27-13 winner. NFL Pick: Take Over
(279) L.A. Rams at (280) Oakland – O/U 35.5
It is fully expected the Rams will sit out all key personnel which played a part in the total crumbling from 37. (Even Gatorade is getting night off with Powerade in its place on the L.A. bench) These teams have met each of the last two years in August, with last year’s outcome an UNDER at 19-15 Rams (total of 38.5) and the year prior Los Angeles also taking that one over Oakland 24-21 (total of 41.5) for an OVER.
With backups seeing nearly all the action, a few drives that could be touchdowns will result in field goals to keep the scoring lower. However, there will be enough points tabulated to be at or close to 40 digits for an OVER. NFL Pick: Take Over
(281) Dallas at (282) San Francisco – O/U 36
While Dallas is in camp, they are attempting to work deals with their offensive stars. This disrupts training camp a bit with questions being asked and players finding it a distraction. The Cowboys defense will again be one the best in the league and they have excellent depth, especially in the defensive line.
San Francisco is looking to rebound from a 4-12 season and there is reason to believe they could be a .500 club if quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo plays a full season. But he’s going to get most of his work in non-game situations, looking to avoid injury.
With the average total score of the Cowboys last 42 NFLX road contests 34.8, we’ll side with the lower figure. NFL Pick: Take Under
Writer/Handicapper Doug Upstone is 15-7 the last three years in the NFL preseason and has won 13 of 16 years in August pro football.