Bet on the Bills vs. Panthers in NFL Preseason Week 1

Jason Lake

Wednesday, August 6, 2014 5:10 AM GMT

The Buffalo Bills are already off to a losing start this season. But at least they got in some faux football at the Hall of Fame Game. Will that practice be enough for Buffalo to beat the NFL lines versus the Carolina Panthers?

As if things aren’t difficult enough in Buffalo. Not only are the Bills worried about the possible sale and relocation of their team, they also had the dubious honor of playing in last Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game in Canton. That’s five exhibition games for Buffalo this year. Five opportunities for people to get hurt – people like New York Giants RB David Wilson, who re-injured his neck in Sunday’s 17-13 victory over the Bills (–3 on the NFL betting lines) and had to retire.

But hey, at least the Bills got to play. Buffalo will take all that practice and preparation into this Sunday’s NFL Week 1 exhibition tilt with the Carolina Panthers, who like 29 other teams will be making their preseason debut. Is this enough of an advantage to make the Bills worth your NFL betting consideration?

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Bills, Bills, Bills
In a word, yes. Teams that played in the last five Hall of Fame Games combined to go 7-3 SU and 8-2 ATS in Week 1. That includes the Bills, who lost 21-18 to the Tennessee Titans (–3) in the 2009 HOF Game, then beat the Chicago Bears (+3) 27-20 the following week. It was the only preseason game Buffalo won that year.

These profitable results might be overstating the advantage the HOF Game teams carry into Week 1, but it’s an advantage nonetheless. Let me point you back to my NFL preseason betting guide, where we took a moment to consider the nature of these exhibition games. Quick summary: They’re glorified practices. Buffalo’s players and coaches have already gone through the motions in Canton. They’ve gotten at least somewhat used to playing football again, and to the new quirks that pop up every year – like the tablets that everyone will be using on the sidelines instead of the old black-and-white photos.

 

Sophomoric
It’s fantastic that we’ve got such a strong NFL betting angle like this on our hands. Otherwise, there’s not much to choose from in this matchup. Let’s look at the preseason ATS record for both coaches in Friday night’s matchup (7:30 p.m. ET):

Doug Marrone, Buffalo: 1-2-1 ATS

Ron Rivera, Carolina :7-5 ATS

Riverboat Ron has the slight advantage here, but it’s really far too small of a sample size to tell us much. This is only Marrone’s second year as an NFL head coach, after all. And if you’re looking for an edge on the preseason football totals, good luck with that: The over/under is dead even at 2-2 for Marrone and 6-6 for Rivera.

 

We Meet Again, Mr. Anderson
At least none of those numbers spoils what looks like a solid NFL bet on Buffalo. The Bills have that extra practice (and history) on their side, and they’ve got the back-up quarterbacks to get the job done this Friday. You saw them both in action during the 2013 regular season. Thaddeus Lewis (81.0 passer rating last year) arguably outplayed the incumbent starter, then-rookie EJ Manuel (77.7 passer rating). Granted, Jeff Tuel (45.1 rating) wasn’t quite as successful when his number came up. He was pretty good against the Giants, though: 12-of-17 for 74 yards, with a TD and a pick.

Meanwhile, back in Carolina, Derek Anderson has been busy holding a clipboard for three years now behind Cam Newton. Anderson’s 102.8 preseason passer rating last year was No. 20 among all quarterbacks, five spots behind Tuel (106.6 passer rating). Joe Webb was signed as a third-stringer to mimic Newton in practices; the Minnesota Vikings let Webb go after trying to make him a full-time wide receiver instead. I like Buffalo’s chances.

NFL Pick: Take Buffalo –1.5 (–108) at SBOBET