You know it's NFL preseason when you see the Buffalo Bills as a home underdog, or the Miami Dolphins favored to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The preseason is underway, and let's check out what each coach for the weekend games said about his plan for playing time (an exercise we already did for the Friday games):
Kansas City Chiefs (-1) at Chicago Bears
Chiefs coach Andy Reid is from the old school and his preseason plan remains what coaches did for decades. He'll play his starters as much as any coach in the league. It's hard to argue with his success. The starters will play the first quarter at Chicago on Friday. Reid went 3-0 in the preseason last year and as long as he takes these games more seriously than other coaches, the Chiefs should win more preseason games than they lose.
New Bears coach Matt Eberflus plans to have his starters in for 15-20 plays, via Adam Jahns of The Athletic, but running back David Montgomery and tight end Cole Kmet will likely sit because they've been dealing with injuries.
Carolina Panthers at Washington Commanders (-3)
The Panthers have a quarterback battle. Whether there's any real mystery in Baker Mayfield vs. Sam Darnold is up for debate — it would be a shock if Mayfield isn't the starter Week 1 — Panthers coach Matt Rhule wants to keep that charade going. Still, it won't play out much Friday. According to The Athletic, each quarterback will get a handful of plays and that's it.
“We’ll play each quarterback for one series,” Rhule said, “and then get those guys out, and play the rest of the guys the rest of the game.”
The line moved from Washington -1 to -3 after that.
Commanders coach Ron Rivera said his starters will be on the field for 15-20 snaps.
Indianapolis Colts (-1.5) at Buffalo Bills
Bills coach Sean McDermott has a 10-5 preseason record including 3-0 last year, so he takes these games fairly seriously. However, he has already said quarterback Josh Allen won't play and other starters will be determined "on an individual basis," according to WGRZ. That probably means most starters are sitting.
Colts coach Frank Reich is joining the group of coaches who will play starters in the first and third preseason games but sit them in the second week. He said quarterback Matt Ryan and the starters will play about a quarter. The difference in approaches is why the Colts are favored.
Seattle Seahawks at Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5)
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is 26-17 in preseason games. Given how he preaches competition, that makes sense. However, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is 34-24, so he sees value in winning these games, too.
Both teams will be looking at quarterbacks. The Seahawks are deciding between Geno Smith and Drew Lock. Carroll said Smith will start at Pittsburgh. Mitchell Trubisky will start for the Steelers over Mason Rudolph and first-round pick Kenny Pickett, Tomlin said. According to ESPN, Trubisky and the starters will get the first quarter, the second group will get the second quarter and the third team will get the second half. Pickett and Rudolph have rotated second- and third-team snaps, ESPN said.
Often teams with a quarterback battle will play starters more than usual, but there's not much of a betting edge to be found in that angle if both teams have a QB competition.
Miami Dolphins (-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mike McDaniel, the Dolphins' rookie head coach, said some starters will play at Tampa Bay. He's more likely to take the game seriously than the Buccaneers, a veteran team that is just trying to get to the season without any more injuries. Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles said last week that his starters are unlikely to play. The Buccaneers and Dolphins had joint practices this week.
“There will be a lot of starters that won’t play in that game,” Bowles said, via SI.com. “They’ll get plenty of work in practice, though, the two practices we’ll get to play similar to a game for those guys."
Miami will be the more serious team, and it's a good spot to take them as a small favorite.
New Orleans Saints (-1.5) at Houston Texans
Saints quarterback Jameis Winston has a sprained right foot, so he won't play Saturday. Andy Dalton likely will start, but the Saints will probably be careful with him.
Texans coach Lovie Smith said quarterback Davis Mills will play, which means other starters will too although injured players like rookie cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. will sit.
"Some of the players won't play," Smith said according to the team's site. "Majority will."
Dallas Cowboys at Denver Broncos (-3)
Dallas coach Mike McCarthy said the starters wouldn't play due to joint practice work against the Broncos this week.
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense to give a group of guys one series,” McCarthy said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
McCarthy's Cowboys went 0-4 in the preseason last year.
The Broncos have a new coach, Nathaniel Hackett. He came from the Green Bay Packers, who don't play starters in the preseason. It sounds like he won't be using starters either. Neither team will be playing many recognizable players.
"The No. 1 most important thing is getting the guys healthy going into the season," Hackett said. "That’s all that matters.”
Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Chargers (-3.5)
We can keep this short. Rams coach Sean McVay won't play starters in the preseason. Chargers coach Brandon Staley, a McVay disciple, won't play starters in the preseason. Good luck betting this one.
Minnesota Vikings at Las Vegas Raiders (-3.5)
The lone Sunday game features a Raiders team that has played already and showed a lot more than you'd expect for a team in the Hall of Fame Game. Perhaps Josh McDaniels scales it back for the second game with two to go, but he'll probably be taking it more seriously than his opponent this week.
New Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell won't say whether starters will play, but he's coming from the Rams. It's probably fair to assume he'll follow the McVay model and not play any key players this preseason. That's a good reason to take a look at the Raiders, even at a tick more than a field goal.