Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:57 AM
Friday's Tip Sheet
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NFL Preseason Week 3 Betting Preview
It's a two-game betting board in the NFL on Friday night, as a couple of AFC teams with more positive expectations on them this year then either have had in recent memory, head out on the road to square off with a couple of NFC bottom feeders from a season ago.
The Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills are both road favorites (a rarity to say) for their preseason games against Tampa Bay and Detroit respectively. The Browns and Bills have yet to lose in the preseason and results like that only fan the flames for both fanbases who expect their respective teams to be playoff bound come January.
However, the more immediate question becomes whether or not both will remain undefeated after this week. The Lions are winless so far this August and would love to give their home crowd a win to celebrate, while Tampa Bay's been in two different preseason games decided by two points already this summer and are catching more then that as a home dog vs the Browns.
So here's a look at both of them, as this preseason is finally starting to wind down:
Cleveland (-3) vs Tampa Bay (+3); Total set at 42.5
The hype train in Cleveland has grown so big that the city needs multiple bilevel cars strung together to contain it. The Browns are going to win the division, the AFC, the Super Bowl, are plenty of bold claims that have gotten out of hand, and with QB Baker Mayfield seemingly in the news cycle every 10 days for someone being offended/upset at something new he's said, the Cleveland Browns never seem to leave the news cycle for long these days.
If this kind of stuff continues on through September and October, it's going to be harder and harder to not go contrarian and look to fade Cleveland in different spots that come up, and it's that mentality that those who are sick of all this talk about the 2019 Cleveland Browns being the best team in all of the land are starting to lean towards for the rest of this preseason as well. Yet, the market was quick to back Cleveland this week, pushing their line up from an opening number of -1, and that's in part why I'd hold off on fading the Browns and their potentially inflated lines.
That move is significant no doubt, but even with the Buccaneers playing tight preseason games so far where a spread move like this could end up mattering, it's still the Browns that I've got to side with. I say that because not only does a line move like this game has had deserve respect, but Cleveland has spent the better part of the last six months doing everything to try and change the franchise's identity and become sort of a “paper bully” that everyone across the league should fear because of the player acquisitions they've done in that time. And what do “paper bullies” like to do? Pick on the smallest/weakest around them to further their image of power, or in football terms; win the games that don't matter.
Cleveland has made a point about these preseason results mattering to them, as they've not been shy about going out their early, trying to grab a lead, and then take the game from there. The more wins this team can pile up – whether they count or not – only helps them build that ego up and inflate those cars on the Browns hype train even more. That's a scenario that we can all profit from down the line in September and October when hope and hype converge to inflate this team well past the safe rate, but we've still got to get their first. And for the Browns, that means continuing to win these games.
Two tight games against Miami and Pittsburgh so far in the preseason have to have them content with what they've seen from the bulk of their starters so far this year, and they probably aren't looking to start another year without Jameis Winston under center for Week 1.
The line move on Cleveland was definitely warranted, and one that should likely only be sided with.
Best Bet: Cleveland -3
Buffalo (-1.5) vs Detroit; Total set at 42
So I've got the Browns remaining undefeated in the preseason this week, but I can't same the same thing about the Bills. Buffalo has already gone out and beat the Colts and Panthers – each by 8 or more points – through two weeks of play, but I think that's where the winning stops for them this August. Like the Browns this week, Buffalo has gotten enough support to flip the line to make them the favorite, and while it's a move worthy of respect for sure, it's not one that I can say I agree with.
Buffalo may be a team that's got realistic playoff expectations as well in 2019, but they aren't in need of being the loudest barker on the block in the sense that Cleveland is trying to grab that role. Bills fans also got to taste playoff atmosphere a just a couple of years ago, so there isn't that same sort of 'look at me, I'm the best' persona that Cleveland's emitted this summer as well. So compared to the first game on the card on Friday, Buffalo's a lot more comparable to Tampa Bay than the also-undefeated Browns in the sense that they've got nothing much left to prove this August other then to stay healthy and continue to prepare for Week 1.
On the flip side, Detroit's Matt Patricia has shown that preseason means very little to him, but for a Lions team that's looking for a much better year as well, they could see some results on the football field sooner rather then later.
Detroit got blown out by the Patriots in Week 1, and were on the wrong side of a shootout with Houston last week. Giving up 30 points each week has to be the biggest concern overall for a defensive guy like Patricia, and if the Lions are able to shut down a Bills starting unit that sees plenty of snaps, albeit not an offense known for explosion plays, that's a good sign of growth for Detroit going forward.
Then when you consider that Buffalo is on a 0-7 ATS run in the preseason when coming off consecutive wins and 0-5 ATS on the road in the preseason when off a win by 10+ points, this line move is one that's much easier to go against.
Detroit needs a confidence building performance going into a year that will likely end up being a struggle to see .500 again, and at home in this spot I believe they get it.
Best Bet: Detroit Lions ML