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Guess what? You made it to the weekend! And do you want to know what your reward is for grinding through the workweek? PRESEASON FOOTBALL! We have not one, not two, but three straight days of preseason football in front of us, including four nationally televised games on Saturday. 

Similar to the preseason, we here at the Pick Six Newsletter are digging deep into our depth chart with our pal John Breech getting in some veteran rest days before the start of the regular season. You'll primarily be getting the great Cody Benjamin in your inbox, but you'll also see a sprinkle of me, Tyler Sullivan, over the next few weeks. 

Of course, make sure you're signed up to receive this newsletter every day, especially as things start to ramp up over the next few weeks and months. 

With my meandering out of the way, let's get into this upcoming slate and try to win you some money in the process.

1. Today's show: Preseason Week 1 best bets


Like I said in the intro, we are jam-packed with preseason football, which technically got underway on Thursday with the Texans beating the Patriots and Seahawks defeating the Vikings. Both favorites covered and pulled out the straight-up win on Thursday, but what do our experts think the rest of the weekend will bring? Will Brinson welcomed in SportsLine's Emory Hunt and Jason La Canfora to unveil their best bets for Week 1 of the preseason. 

  • All three guys are in on the Panthers (-3.5) as they host the Jets on Saturday afternoon. Brinson specifically likes taking Carolina in the first half of this matchup. At Caesars Sportsbook, Panthers -2.5 for 1H is currently -110 (and -170 on the moneyline). Even juicer, the guys dove into a futures play with the Panthers, highlighting how great a value Frank Reich is for Coach of the Year. 
  • Hunt likes the Colts (-5) to win as the visit the Bills on Saturday, specifically because he believes Indianapolis' depth is better than Buffalo's. We know that Anthony Richardson is going to start. After him, the Colts can trot out Gardner Minshew and Sam Ehlinger, which should create consistent opportunities to pull ahead. Hunt also notes that he likes the Under, which is at 38.5.
  • As we turn our attention to the Browns-Commanders head-to-head on Friday night, La Canfora likes the Over 38.5. He highlights how both coaches, Ron Rivera and Kevin Stefanski, are on the hot seat and could try to send positive vibes to their respective owners with a strong showing throughout this exhibition. He's also leaning towards Washington to win this matchup, specifically because of Rivera possibly trying to cozy up to his new boss in Josh Harris

Catch the full episode (and subscribe for all kinds of daily NFL talk) right here.

2. Preseason takeaways: C.J. Stroud struggles in Texans debut

While the weekend is filled with games, things technically got rolling on Thursday with two nationally televised preseason exhibitions, starting with the Texans visiting the Patriots. Houston was able to pull out the 20-9 victory, but the win came on a sour note as No. 2 overall pick C.J. Stroud struggled mightily in his debut. I was tasked with covering last night's game and summed up Stroud's performance, which included an interception on his first drive of the night. 

Stroud's rough night: It was a forgetful debut for the No. 2 overall pick, who looked shaken by the speed of the NFL. Stroud held the ball too long in certain instances and the pressure applied by New England forced him to jockey around in the pocket and it never seemed like he was able to get comfortable. His interception was arguably the most egregious as he simply telegraphed his throw by starring down his intended receiver, which Mills was able to read with ease. Of course, it's early and Stroud has plenty of time to work out these issues before the regular season. That said, if they continue to linger, he might not start the year off as QB1.

As for the Patriots, arguably the story of the night also came at the quarterback position with undrafted rookie Malik Cunningham. The Louisville product has been transitioning to a wide receiver at the NFL level but did get some reps at quarterback in the fourth quarter. Cunningham was an immediate boost to the offense, rushed for a touchdown, and even got some praise from Bill Belichick. 

To read my breakdown of Patriots-Texans, click here.

3. Preseason takeaways: Seahawks rally to beat Vikings

Minnesota Vikings v Seattle Seahawks

Thursday's nightcap featured the Seahawks rallying to defeat the Vikings at home, 24-13. Neither Geno Smith nor Kirk Cousins played in this game, but there was some solid quarterback play in the first half. Nick Mullens got the start and helped Minnesota jump out to a 10-0 lead before Drew Lock and the Seahawks went on a 10-0 run of their own. Lock played three full quarters and completed 17 of 24 passes for 191 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Mullens completed 14 of 20 for 139 yards and a touchdown while playing the entire first half. 

However, the main attraction for this game came at the wide receiver position as both of these teams took pass catchers in the first round of this year's NFL Draft. Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Jordan Addison both made their debuts on Thursday and Jordan Dajani has a full synopsis of their nights. 

Dajani on the rookie WRs: Smith-Njigba caught 3 of 4 targets for 25 yards. He had a nice catch across the middle on a slant route that went for a gain of 15 yards. DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are still the headliners at wide receiver for Seattle, but JSN has enough talent to make this passing attack a three-headed monster that keeps the league on edge. He's certainly someone to watch moving forward. ... As for Addison, he caught just 1 of 3 targets for 22 yards. However, that stat line isn't exactly truthful. The No. 23 overall pick made a fantastic toe-tapping grab early in the first quarter, but the refs apparently thought it was too good to be true. The officials ruled it incomplete.

To read Dajani's full breakdown of Vikings-Seahawks, click here.

4. Top 10 must-see rookies this preseason

As you may have gathered through these first few sections, rookies are a massive piece of the preseason and are arguably the most fascinating players to watch throughout the summer. With that in mind, we had NFL Draft analyst Chris Trapasso dive into this rookie class and highlight the top 10 first-year players that will be appointment viewing this preseason. And two of those rookies come at the tight end position. 

Trapasso on the Bills' Dalton Kincaid: At training camp, the Bills fast-tracked Kincaid into what appears to be a prominent role in the offense. Quickly running with the ones. Targeted often by Josh Allen every practice. And the former Utah star has passed every test thrown at him. Well, maybe not blocking just yet. Getting open and catching the football? With flying colors. He's even sprinkled in some circus grabs. With the presumed rather large feature -- for a rookie -- in Buffalo's offense, how much will Kincaid play? And will he look better than the vast majority of his preseason competition? He glides in and out of his routes and is slippery after the catch.

Trapasso on the Lions' Sam LaPorta: LaPorta finished as my TE1 in the 2023 class. Naturally, I thought the Lions got a mega steal in the second round with him. There've been rave reviews on the Iowa product from Lions camp, and there was a gaping hole at tight end on the Lions roster, so LaPorta being a fixture of the pass game after Amon-Ra St. Brown will surprise exactly no one. 

Click here to check out Trapasso's full rundown of the top rookies to watch this summer. 

5. Five division underdogs to bet on


Now is as good of a time as ever to lock in some futures bets before the start of the regular season. Instead of scratching your head at your desk trying to figure out where the value is, how about we let Jordan Dajani do the heavy lifting and we just count our cash? He has identified five underdogs that have a legitimate shot at vaulting up the standings to capture their division crowns in 2023, which includes the Seahawks and Dolphins

Dajani on Seattle winning the NFC West: We haven't seen back-to-back NFC West champions since 2017-18. If there were to be an NFC West team that moved past the 49ers this season, I say it's the Seahawks. ... When it comes to the NFC West, if Brock Purdy isn't healthy or gets injured again, how will this team fare under Trey Lance or Sam Darnold? The 49ers should be a solid team, but what if the Seahawks take another leap forward? Seattle's epic draft class helped it make the playoffs in 2022. The Seahawks had the NFL rookie leaders in starts, snaps, rushing yards, forced fumbles and interceptions last year. What if the front office knocked it out of the park again this offseason?

Dajani on Miami winning the AFC East: Remember, Miami started the season 8-3 last year. Tagovailoa missed the majority of all of those three losses due to concussions. A five-game losing streak at the end of the year ended their hopes for a division title, but the Dolphins had a legitimate shot to win the division. In Year 3, Tagovailoa had a career year despite missing what was virtually five regular-season starts. He became the first Dolphins quarterback to lead the NFL in passer rating since Dan Marino in 1984, and Miami averaged 6.5 yards per play with Tagovailoa as the starter, which were the most by any starting quarterback in the league last season (minimum 10 starts). ... Defensively, there's no doubt Miami has some playmakers in Christian WilkinsJaelan PhillipsBradley ChubbXavien Howard and Jevon Holland. You hope to see more consistency from this unit, and it's exciting that the Dolphins went out and got Vic Fangio to lead that side of the ball. 

6. Extra points: Jimmy G calls '21 season with Lance 'real awkward'

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