The totals were split right down the middle during Week 1 of the NFL preseason. Good work by the sportsbooks, who are keeping their football odds in check for Week 2.
Is there anything more beautiful than a balanced book? Okay, I can think of a few things off the top of my head. But when the totals for Week 1 of the 2015 NFL preseason came in at 8-8, I couldn't help but tip my cap to the sportsbooks. They moved their Week 1 totals down from last year's preseason openers, and they absolutely nailed it.
That's one interpretation, at least. Here at the ranch, we tend to assume the sportsbooks want to keep their action and their results balanced in order to avoid exposure. That's not always the case, of course – bookies can also tweak their football odds to discourage sharp bettors from entering the market, although that opens up another doorway for risk to get in. But as far as Week 2 is concerned, the books are sticking with what worked last week, keeping the totals down a point or two from where they were at this time in 2014. Let's see if we can capitalize with Thursday's NFL picks.
Detroit vs. Washington (7:30 p.m. ET)
After beating the New York Jets 23-3 (UNDER 35) in Week 1, Jim Caldwell has the UNDER at 4-1 in preseason action since taking over as Detroit's head coach. The Lions still have a quality defense despite losing DTs Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley to free agency, and despite incoming DT Haloti Ngata starting the year on the PUP list. Detroit's D is otherwise well-stocked and healthy for Thursday.
Which is a heck of a lot more than we can say about Washington's offense. We wrote about this when we looked at our ATS football picks; in short, the first three tight ends on the depth chart are all MIA. Also out of commission are WR DeSean Jackson (sprained AC joint) and back-up RB Silas Redd (torn ACL and MCL), who was waived on Sunday. Tough gig. By the way, the UNDER is 4-1 in the preseason for Jay Gruden after last week's 20-17 win over the Cleveland Browns (UNDER 38).
Free NFL Pick: Take UNDER 40 (–106) at Pinnacle
Buffalo vs. Cleveland (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
We'd normally be excited to take the OVER in this matchup. Rex Ryan had the OVER at 17-7 during his preseason tenure with the New York Jets, and he kept the good times rolling in last week's 25-24 loss to the Carolina Panthers (OVER 36.5). However, Buffalo's offense is falling apart at the seams, especially at running back – LeSean McCoy, Fred Jackson, Anthony Dixon and Karlos Williams are all out.
The Browns offense has its own injury problems, affecting all the “skill” positions and the offensive line as well. Both teams still have plenty of quarterback depth (if not height), so maybe they'll get all pass-happy on Thursday and blow out the total. We'll put our faith in their defenses instead.
Free NFL Pick: Take UNDER 40 (+100) at Matchbook