The third preseason game used to be the so-called dress rehearsal, in which most starters would play more than a half. It made it a little more predictable for bettors.
That's not the case anymore. The preseason is down from four games to three, and coaches have thrown out the script on how to handle preseason anyway. Each coach has a different plan, and that means searching for clues on playing time. Let's look at Thursday's preseason games, which closes the preseason for these four teams:
Green Bay Packers (-1) vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Andy Reid usually plays starters as normal in the preseason, but even he said he wasn't sure who would play in the preseason finale or how much on Thursday. That's a reason the Packers are favored at BetMGM, even though Green Bay will not play starters.
Quay Walker will be the only defensive starter to play and the offense will feature two or three starting offensive linemen and that's it, via PackersNews.com. Jordan Love will start at quarterback.
“It’s just the risk vs. reward knowing it’s a long season, 17 games,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said.
San Francisco 49ers (-3.5) vs. Houston Texans
We will see some starters in the other preseason game on Thursday.
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said he wanted his first team to get some action but it won't play beyond halftime.
"I want them to get out there," Shanahan said, according to the team's site. "I plan on playing those guys, but I haven't exactly decided how much. I know they won't go past the first half. It'd be the first half at the most."
The Texans seem to be treating this game like the traditional dress rehearsal. Starters will play into the second half, coach Lovie Smith said. That includes quarterback Davis Mills and rookie running back Dameon Pierce, who sat last week as an indication he has won the starting job.
“As far as playing time for them, we’re going to play the guys a lot more this week,” Smith said, via Click2Houston. “This is the game we’ve kind of been shooting for to play the guys. I’m not going to say exactly how long right now, but a lot more.”
Here's a first look at the sports betting slate for Thursday:
MLB has 9 games for Thursday
It's a fairly light baseball schedule Thursday, with three afternoon games. The highlight in the afternoon is the Cleveland Guardians, with red-hot pitcher Triston McKenzie, at the Seattle Mariners. Cleveland is a -115 favorite.
At night, we get to see Jacob deGrom on the mound for the New York Mets. We probably don't get to bet on him though, since they're a huge -400 favorite over the Colorado Rockies.
The Tour Championship begins
The Tour Championship golf tournament, the culmination of the FedEx Cup playoffs, begins Thursday. It has a tiered system based on the results of the season in which the leader, Scottie Scheffler, starts at 10-under par. He is the favorite to win at +200.
What's the best bet?
It actually is tempting to take the Texans as a home underdog, but we'll go with the Guardians. Triston McKenzie has been really good lately and we're not laying a big number.