Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:57 AM

Week 1 - Rams at Raiders

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NFL Preseason Week 1 Preview
Los Angeles Rams at Oakland Raiders

Saturday's slate of preseason action has three games on the card, and all three feature a playoff team from a year ago. Dallas and the Rams met in the Divisional round with LA winning and moving on to a Super Bowl appearance, while the Kansas City Chiefs wanted to be LA's opponent in that big game but came up just short in the AFC Championship.

However, it's the preseason game featuring the LA Rams that deserves attention on Saturday for a variety of reasons, and it's the one that takes center stage here.

NFL Odds: Oakland (-5.5); Total set at 34.5

This line has already seen significant action going against the Rams throughout the week, as it's basically been nothing but Oakland money since the Raiders opened at -3. Obviously a lot of that has to do with word getting out that the Rams are taking a highly conservative approach in the preseason with their projected starters and how can you blame them. This team was a few plays away from winning a Super Bowl last year, and they want to start the year as healthy as possible to try and reach that goal this season.

Considering the Raiders get plenty of scorn and criticism for how they've chosen to do things in recent years, this may be one of the few times all year we get to say that early money has come in on Oakland. Obviously there might be a few games – especially early – where the perception of this team doesn't quite match up with the reality of what they've got on the field, but with WR Antonio Brown's recent frostbite incident in a cryo chamber, and what's already gone on during their time on 'Hard Knocks' this year, the Raiders are not going out of the way to avoid criticism in the least. All that matters to bettors though is how they perform on the field this week, and based on all the Raiders love early this week, many would prefer them to come out on top.

Even with this Rams organization being one that's not been particularly good during the first game of the preseason, it is hard to come in on the Raiders at such a bad number now. Getting the best of the number and being fully aware of key numbers in football still applies to preseason betting, and if you were considering Oakland and hadn't fired, it's probably best to let that ship continue to sail. However, with the Rams being the reigning Super Bowl losers – for lack of a better term – there are some good scenarios regarding the total for this game which I'll get to in a second. For those that may still be interested in backing Oakland, reigning Super Bowl losers like the Rams are 2-5 ATS the following year in their first preseason game.

But while that ATS run is another great piece of evidence for those already holding an Oakland ticket this week, it's the fact that the first preseason game for reigning Super Bowl losers is 4-1 O/U the past five years (4-0 O/U the last four) is what I want to focus on.

The lone 'under' that cashed in that stretch was by a mere half-point on 'under' 37.5 (37 is a key number in totals), but even with this week's action shifting heavily to the low side of the total – it opened at 37 – I can only look to the high side of things at the current number.

A 4-1 O/U run is always nice, but the fact that the total points scored in those games has averaged 41.2 points per game, and all but that 37-point outing five years ago have had at least 41 points scored, suggests to me that we should see some points scored in this game. We could land basically a full TD below that average of 41.2 and still cash the 'over' at 34.5, and when you start to look at things you expect to see on the field, the 'over' makes a lot of sense as well.

From the Raiders side of things, they've got to look for significant improvement offensively this year, and with Mike Glennon and Nathan Peterman battling for the backup role behind Carr, some healthy competition should exist between those two guys all preseason long. Heck, if Peterman ends up throwing plenty of INT's like he's known for, that's not a bad thing either for an 'over' play.

On the other side of the field, we've got Blake Bortles starting the year as the backup to Goff, and on a personal level, Bortles has to use these next few weeks and any opportunities he gets during the season to prove to people across the league that he still belongs. He's only got things to gain from being aggressive in his time out on the field, and with many reports coming out of Rams camp suggesting that he's been a great addition to their depth chart, he's got to be comfortable and confident enough in his skills to find some success.

Put it all together with the history of reigning 'runners-up' in this league during this week, and I believe you've got to look at going above this total that's probably adjusted too much at this point.

Best Bet: Over 34.5 points

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