With less than three weeks to go before the NFL season officially kicks off when the Detroit Lions head to Arrowhead for a matchup with the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs, there’s still some preseason games to get through. An opportunity for players to earn a roster spot, coaches to work out the kinks, and fans to hope for a healthy football team when the final whistle blows.
Make no mistake, the games are competitive exhibitions, and these players who are repping with the second and third-string units are playing for their jobs—and even if they don’t make the cut with their current team, some good tape will go a long way towards getting them another shot with someone else.
That being said, if it’s available in the state you inhabit, there’s an opportunity to wager on NFL preseason games, and we here at SB Nation make it happen with the help of none other than the DraftKings Sportsbook. Let’s take a look at three bets you should either “buy” or “sell” for the matchup between the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars.
First off, I’m keeping in mind Dan Campbell’s comments he made early Thursday morning during a radio interview:
“Another reason we do these (joint practices) is that I feel like you’ve got two great days of work, banked a lot of reps, and so I don’t see us playing these starters this week. I don’t’ see it,” Campbell told Stoney and Jansen on 97.1 The Ticket Thursday morning. “We’re going to sit that core group again, and let some of these young guys go. There may be a few select rookies we don’t play. We’ll see where we’re at there as well. But I think that’s the benefit of having this (joint practice session). We have over 40 reps yesterday.”
In the lead up to the joint practices this week, Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson mentioned how the starters would get the “bulk” of the work this week, but he still hadn’t decided on playing time for Saturday’s exhibition. Last week against the Dallas Cowboys, the Jaguars starters on offense played three series before giving way to the reserves.
From attending the joint practices on Wednesday and Thursday this week, regardless of whether or not the Jaguars play their starters on offense, I’m buying the chalk: Jacksonville moneyline (ML) for the first half (-166).
For the Lions, they’re still slowly bringing the recently signed Teddy Bridgewater up to speed, so I’m fairly certain Nate Sudfeld is going to get the start in this game. After an incredibly rough preseason opener against the New York Giants last week, Sudfeld was just as uneven in practice this week. For every good read and throw, there was a questionable decision right around the corner. If Sudfeld gets a good chunk of reps in the first half, and the Lions sit some of their rookie playmakers like Jahmyr Gibbs and Sam LaPorta as Campbell alluded to doing, the Jaguars should come out on top after two quarters.
On that note, I’m selling the Jaguars spread (-4) for the entire game, mostly because a big piece to the puzzle in preseason games is the talent gap between backup quarterbacks—and there’s a pretty sizable one between Bridgewater and the Jaguars second and third-stringers, C.J. Beathard and Nathan Rourke. Even Lions quarterback Adrian Martinez, who has been moved to fourth-string with the arrival of Bridgewater, showed some moxie and willingness to lay it on the line to make plays, scoring the game-winning touchdown on a quarterback sneak last week against the Giants.
Detroit’s depth on defense features quite a few players like edge rusher Julian Okwara, interior defensive lineman Christian Covington, and cornerback Starling Thomas V who boast legitimate NFL traits, but are vying for roster spots. They should play deep into Saturday’s game against Jacksonville and should keep the game close enough for Detroit to cover (+4).
For gambling purposes, I’d wait to see if Pederson shares his intentions on playing Jacksonville’s starters before wagering on the over/under (39.5). Right now, I’d lean towards the under, but any series from the Jaguars starters could easily turn into points against the Lions reserves on defense.