John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens are champions of the 2021 NFL preseason after recording an unblemished 3-0 August campaign that has pushed the franchise’s record-breaking preseason winning streak to 20, with a ridiculous against-the-spread mark of 18-1-1.
Which leads us to…
Fade to black: For those of you wondering how preseason success carries over into the regular season, have I got a trend for you. Over the last 20 years, teams that have posted an unbeaten record in the preseason have combined to go 20-19 straight-up and 19-19-1 against the spread in Week 1 of the regular season.
But that’s not the trend I was hyping in the previous paragraph.
Get this: Over the last 20 years, teams that have gone winless during the preseason have combined to post a record 12-27-1 straight-up and 11-27-2 against the spread in Week 1. For the math inclined, if you’ve bet against the winless preseason squads from the last 20 years in Week 1, you’re cashing tickets at a rate of 71 percent.
However, take note that this year’s preseason is one game shorter than those aforementioned preseasons after the league whittled down the exhibition period from four games to three.
With that in mind, your winless preseason clubs from 2021 include Dallas (+8 at Tampa Bay), Minnesota (-3 at Cincinnati), Detroit (+7.5 vs San Francisco), Green Bay (-3 at New Orleans), the Los Angeles Rams (-7.5 vs Chicago) and the New York Giants (+2 vs. Denver). The winless Eagles and Falcons play each other in week one (Falcons -3.5).
By the way, from 2016-2019 following each of their previous undefeated preseason runs, the Ravens are 4-0 both SU and ATS in Week 1 (-4 at Las Vegas on Monday Night Football).
What were they thinking? I’m not sure which of the following is more absurd: Jacksonville head coach Urban Meyer trying to convince the world that first overall pick Trevor Lawrence was engaged in a battle for the starting quarterback gig with Gardner Minshew just a week ago, or Meyer naming Lawrence the starter last Wednesday before promptly trading Minshew to Philadelphia for a conditional 2022 sixth-round draft pick on Sunday.
Whichever side of the fence you land, don’t lose sight of the fact that Meyer and the Jaguars-who possess one of the worst offensive lines in the league-just acquired a low-level asset in exchange for a competent backup signal-caller who completed a healthy 66.1 percent of his passes last season while tossing 37 touchdown passes with only 11 interceptions over the last two years. Jacksonville’s offensive line surrendered 44 sacks last season (t-7th in NFL) and has looked suspect at best throughout the month of August. Should something happen to Lawrence, much like it did to 2020 first overall pick Joe Burrow in Cincinnati last season, the Jaguars are going to wish Minshew was still in the fold to bail them out.
As of this writing, you can still find books with a win total of 6.5 (over +100, under -120) for Jacksonville. 7 wins could be a stretch for this club.
The rush was on: While the value has long since been sucked dry, Saturday offered a sizeable window in which astute bettors found themselves with a precious opportunity to beat the NFL prop market.
During Baltimore’s 37-3 annihilation of the Washington Football Team, Ravens starting running back J.K. Dobbins was lost for the season with a torn left ACL, sending alert bettors scrambling to find the best possible prop prices on backup running back Gus Edwards, who is averaging a ridiculous 5.2 yards per carry over his three seasons in Baltimore.
In a matter of just a few hours, Edwards saw his odds to claim this year’s rushing title plummet from 150-1 to 20-1, while his rushing yardage prop surged from 625.5 yards to 1,000.5 yards. As mentioned above, it’s too late to extract any significant value at this moment in time, but let this serve as a valuable reminder that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
Read between the lines: Why would Patriots head coach Bill Belichick trade 2018 first-round pick Sony Michel to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for a fourth-round pick in 2023 and a sixth-round pick in 2022? For starters, Michel has failed to live up to expectations during his three seasons in New England.
But more importantly for bettors, I’m wagering it’s because Belichick is secretly quite pleased with what he has in third-year running back Damien Harris, who averaged 5.0 yards per carry last season while rushing for 691 yards in just 10 games. James White, Brandon Bolden and others are still currently on the New England roster, but Harris has the potential to serve as the team’s primary workhorse ball-carrier.
Take note that after opening with a 2021 rushing yardage prop in the neighborhood of 850.5 yards, Harris is still widely available at a price of 845.5 yards for the upcoming 17-game season.
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