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Thursday's NFL Action
Aside from scoping the backup units of teams for potential fantasy football steals, the NFL preseason betting phase of our lives gives us a chance to get some action in and build up our bankrolls while figuring out which teams are in sync and which teams aren't. Below are the preseason matchups for Thursday night, and while home teams enjoy a natural edge in these types of contests, they're not the solid take you think they might be. Don't bet blindly this weekend as teams display their first teams well in to the third quarter.

Thursday, August 22nd --- Ford Field --- 7:30pm EST

Detroit looked absolutely lousy against the Cleveland Browns while being torched in a 6-24 loss on the road. Though they return home, I don't expect Detroit to be able to pull up their socks against the Patriots, who are undefeated at 2-0 SU in the preseason. As excited as I am for Detroit this season, they are obviously far from perfect.

The rushing game of Detroit, which acquired Reggie Bush and still offers Mikel Leshoure as a spell back, was lifeless last week in the tilt against the Browns. Bush and Bell totaled just 12 carries for an uninspiring 32 yards (which equates to a 2.7 yards per carry average). I think Bush and Leshoure can work as an effective tandem, giving Detroit another offensive option which it has lacked confidence in for quite some time.

Defensively, the Lions are a mess. They were just lit on fire by Brandon Weeden, and in Week 3 of NFL preseason betting you can expect the starting offence to stay out on the field longer. That means Tom Brady, who eviscerated the Bucs last week on 11-of-12 completions for 107 yards and a touchdown, will be out there slinging passes and doing damage on the scoreboard for much longer.

Tebow was absolutely pathetic in relief action and has one last chance to make the team after going 1-for-7 for negative yards passing. I still think that Tebow has a chance to impact the team as a fullback option (which is a dead horse I've been beating all summer that may be rotting faster than I thought) but that won't matter. Mallett and Brady will take over the reigns and remind the Lions that their secondary - while improved - is still awful.

Thursday, August 22nd --- M&T Bank Stadium --- 8:00pm EST 

Early on in the summer, I pressed that the Ravens were going to hit a rough rebound patch as they try to defend their Super Bowl title. They lost two key defensive leaders in Reed and Ray, while sacrificing Anquan Boldin to the salary cap gods. Honestly, a lot of this ignored the improvement of Joe Flacco who is one of the more technically sound quarterbacks in the league and someone who steps up in big games on a routine basis. Flacco went 7-for-9 while throwing for 118 yards, a touchdowns and one pick last week against Atlanta. Those aren't the most impressive numbers, but they're more than satisfactory.

The point is that Flacco is being paid to carry the team, and more than ever I actually believe he can accomplish this. Ray Rice, who had 8 carries on 10 yards, will see limited action as the team tries to get another spell back to join Bernard Piece as another backfield option. Baltimore has had no trouble putting up points in NFL preseason betting, with 27 dropped on Atlanta and 44 against Tampa the week before. They should have no worries dispatching the Panthers.

My friend and I were discussing Cam Newton's fantasy value over the phone last night, and we both came to the same conclusion: he amasses stats and is a top-5 fantasy quarterback. The question then became this: if Newton is so good at piling up numbers, why don't his teammates hold any relatively strong fantasy value?

Newton completed just 8-of-17 passes for 112 yards while his team was held out of the endzone entirely during their 9-14 loss against Philadelphia. Ginn Jr. and Steve Smith are still catching passes, along with Greg Olsen, but they're not able to break open on routes like a starting quarterback needs them to. Newton is still a threat on the ground, but overall his offence lacks the explosiveness we expect from a guy who is such a fantasy threat. The Panthers, as always, have been a one-trick pony. While Newton has a lot of tricks up his sleeve, one-trick ponies are led to slaughter during the regular season and in NFL preseason betting, which is why the fluid Ravens are a better bet here.

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