The third week of the preseason is easily the most interesting one — probably the only interesting one. Why? Every team’s starters will play the most of any exhibition game, usually at least a half but obviously that depends on the head coach. Here are two underdogs on NFL lines I would back this week.
Here’s a Look at the Preseason Week 3 Betting Underdogs
Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-4)
Tampa Bay has a 4-4 record against Cleveland in preseason play and the two teams will meet for the second year in a row. The Browns present the only 3-4 defense on Tampa Bay’s preseason schedule, which was one of the reasons that Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter was eager to work out an extended week with Hue Jackson’s squad. Once the regular season arrives, the Buccaneers’ offense is going to be all too familiar with the 3-4.
“Cleveland is a 3-4 defense and we’re going to see like eight 3-4 teams over the course of the year, so two extra days of worcking against a 3-4 are huge and then they’re a zone-read team on offense,” said Koetter. “That’s not all they do, but over the first couple of games they’ve probably averaged, I’ll say, six or seven zone-read plays a game where the first two teams [we played], not so much. And we need to see zone-read for down the road when we play teams like San Francisco and Seattle and Carolina, of course. Each team is a little bit different, but just playing and working against different guys is good.”
After a standout performance in Saturday’s win in Jacksonville, Bucs rookie CB Vernon Hargreaves began to get some work with the starting defense at outside cornerback on Monday.
I like Cleveland here because Griffin III seems to be gaining confidence by the day and the Bucs have looked really undisciplined and shaky at times this preseason.
Philadelphia Eagles at Indianapolis Colts (-3)
It’s not often you can find a starter off the street this late in the preseason but the Eagles might have done just that in signing linebacker Stephen Tulloch to a one-year deal worth up to $3 million, including $1.75 million guaranteed. The move reunites Tulloch with Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, under whom Tulloch played in Detroit. Tulloch will compete with Jordan Hicks in the middle. The Eagles could decide to move Hicks to the weakside, but Coach Doug Pederson said that is not the plan right now.
The Eagles will have kicker Caleb Sturgis available. He was cleared from a concussion and returned to practice Monday, ending one of the more bizarre injury stories you will hear. Before last Thursday night’s game, Sturgis was going through pregame warmups without a helmet. He had just kicked a field goal when an errant Donnie Jones punt soared through the air and hit him on the top of the head. The veteran sustained his first-ever concussion and missed the game. Sturgis has a chance to beat out Cody Parkey for the kicker job. On Monday in practice, he outkicked him again Sturgis nailed all five of his field goal attempts early in practice — from 28, 33, 36, 39 and 42 yards — while Parkey went 4 for 5, missing a 42-yarder wide left.
Indianapolis will be without one of its best defensive players in Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis. He has a right ankle sprain and is week-to- week. Davis’ injury adds to a secondary that is dealing with a number of setbacks. Patrick Robinson, who is expected to start with Davis, has a groin injury. Nickel cornerback Darius Butler is working his way back from a hamstring injury. Davis went through a stretch where he didn’t give up a touchdown reception in 25 straight games, and the Colts don’t have to worry much about giving up big plays on his side of the field.
No Davis means back Eagles on NFL odds.