The third and final week of the NFL preseason begins Thursday night with a standalone game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Atlanta Falcons. Three more games will follow Friday, before the majority of teams have their final dress rehearsal over the weekend.
Admittedly, as far as preseason excitement goes, the NFL peaked Monday with Baltimore’s 24-game winning streak coming to a dramatic close in the final seconds. It gave bettors a little bit of that juice that awaits us in September. This weekend will have a much different vibe. It’s the final hurdle for teams to stay healthy and for us rabid fans who are eagerly anticipating Week 1. By Monday, we will have tucked away the legends of Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Aidan O’Connell and start analyzing the line movement for the first week of meaningful games.
As much as we want to fast-forward to September, let’s dive into some key spots this weekend. As the teams are putting the final tweaks on their rosters, it’s time for us to put the finishing touches on our bankroll.
It didn’t take long for bettors to figure out that Mike Tomlin is serious this preseason. After two double-digit preseason wins, the Steelers head coach doesn’t appear ready to let up. Tomlin declared earlier this week that players healthy enough to play will do just that, so you can expect starting QB Kenny Pickett to at least get one series. I touched on how impressive Pickett has been this preseason, so I expect the Steelers to strike first in Monday night's game. Since 2021, Tomlin is 8-1 S/U in the preseason with seven of those wins coming by six points or more. With Arthur Smith non-committal about his starters seeing the field, I will bet Tomlin pushes his Steelers hard in this one. Bet: Steelers -4.5
Mike Tomlin says that all healthy players will indeed play against the Falcons.
The Steelers did some legitimate gameplanning for this game as well.
— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) August 22, 2023
Chargers +7.5 at 49ers (O/U 37.5)
Every bettor has a set of unwritten rules. One of mine is that you can never, under any circumstances, lay 7.5 points in a game with a total of 37.5. The underdog should be an auto-bet. But since it’s preseason, I’m going to bet it’s the total that’s off. I see why San Francisco is getting backed hard for Friday night's contest. Coach Kyle Shanahan declared the starters are getting significant time, and the Chargers haven’t taken preseason too seriously under Brandon Staley (2-6 S/U; 3-5 ATS). Last season, Chargers preseason games averaged 46 combined points and have averaged 45 through the first two weeks. All three of the 49ers quarterbacks will see the field, so I expect San Francisco to do heavy lifting to put this one over the total. Bet: Over 37.5
Raiders -4.5 at Cowboys (O/U 38.5)
If there is one person you want your money on this weekend, it’s Josh McDaniels. That alone tells you that preseason is a different animal. I backed the Raiders last week as part of a moneyline parlay, and the boys from Las Vegas did their job as expected. Since being hired last season, McDaniels is 6-0 in the preseason, and his Raiders posted 34 points in both wins this year. O’Connell, a rookie QB, has been brilliant in both games, combining for 304 yards and three touchdowns. The Cowboys will employ a conservative approach Saturday by sitting their star players, paving the way for another undefeated preseason for McDaniels. Bet: Raiders -4.5