With the Hall of Fame game officially in the books, it’s time for teams to actually hit the fields for three weeks of preseason action. It’s the first preseason the NFL has had since 2019, as the 2020 preseason was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have a full slate of NFL games, featuring all 32 teams in action.
We’ve already had some injury news from camp as Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson went down with a sprained AC joint in his shoulder. The Colts have been ravaged early and will be without presumed starting quarterback Carson Wentz and all-pro left guard Quentin Nelson for the foreseeable future. The Giants gave a promising update on star running back Saquon Barkley, but reiterated their stance on monitoring his knee closely as the season approaches.
Biggest Clashes of the Preseason Week 1
Preseason Week 1 begins on Thursday and finishes on Sunday as we get our first full weekend of football since February. Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting matchups in Week 1.
Tennessee Titans @ Atlanta Falcons: After trading their franchise wide receiver to the Titans in the offseason, the Falcons welcome Julio Jones back in the first week of the preseason. At this point it’s doubtful we see Julio in action as the veteran receiver has been nursing a minor injury throughout camp. On the other side of the ball, the game will represent new head coach Arthur Smith’s first taste of action as a head coach. Smith came over from Tennessee after nearly a decade with the organization, including the past couple of seasons as the offensive coordinator. Keep an eye out for how the Falcons utilize tight-end prospect, Kyle Pitts early in the preseason.
Kansas City Chiefs @ San Francisco 49ers: We get the rematch of Super Bowl 54 on Saturday, although don’t expect to see many star players in this one. Of note to watch, see if Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire gets back into game action after missing much of the end of the season with injuries. Perhaps one of the most interesting position battles this training camp has been between Jimmy Garoppolo and incoming high draft pick Trey Lance. While the 49ers reiterate that Garoppolo will be the Week 1 starter, if Lance gets off to a hot start in the preseason, it could make things very interesting in the Bay Area.
What To Expect & Best Bets for Week 1
As usual, don’t expect to see many starters during the preseason in the NFL. Injuries can happen on any given play, so coaches generally don’t like to play their stars. With that being said, teams are more likely to play starters early on and then rest them as the season approaches, although traditionally Game 3 is the last time we see starters. Here are a couple of best bets from Week 1 of the NFL preseason.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Los Angeles Rams +3.5: Does this line seem off? It’s probably because bookmakers are banking on the Rams continuing their history of not playing any starters during the preseason under Sean McVay. But new quarterbacks often need some in-game action, and Matthew Stafford will most likely get some early plays. I also expect the Rams to see what they have in their running back committee now that Cam Akers is out for the year. Take the Rams +3.5, because I think the offense will stay on the field longer than we may expect in this first game against a non-conference opponent.
Miami Dolphins @ Chicago Bears -3.5: Why are the Bears more than a field goal favorite? Historically teams with strong backup quarterbacks are favorites in the preseason. Who gets the start out of Andy Dalton, Nick Foles, and Justin Fields is beyond me, but whoever it is should have a good chance to play for most of the game. On the Dolphins side, it’s Jacoby Brissett who will backup Tua this season, but with some key injuries to their wide receiving core, I like the Bears to cover that small number with ease.
Seattle Seahawks @ Las Vegas Raiders -1.5: In another interesting spread, bookmakers are obviously not expecting many Seahawk starters to play. One key thing to remember here is that Seattle has a new offensive coordinator. I don’t care how good your starters are, there is always some adjustment needed to a new system. If you’re telling me that it’s going to be Seattle’s backups trying to figure out that system, then I do like the Raiders to win as small home favorites on Saturday.