Thankfully, the NFL did away with the fourth preseason game.
For many years almost every NFL coach followed the same script. The first couple games the starters would get some time, the third game would be the "dress rehearsal" and then you'd almost never see a starter in the fourth week. Coaches just wanted to get done with that game. Nobody wanted it, outside of a few players needing a last impression to make the roster. Now all teams get that week off.
That doesn't mean the third week is still a dress rehearsal. Some teams will play starters more than usual. Other teams won't play starters at all, as is their wont during the entire preseason.
There are two games Thursday, and here is what the coaches from each game said their plans are for the game (with odds from BetMGM):
Pittsburgh Steelers (-4.5) vs. Atlanta Falcons
The Steelers have looked good in the preseason and the starters will play again.
“The way that we’ve done it in [two prior preseason] games will continue: Those that are healthy are scheduled to play,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said, via TribLive.com.
Kenny Pickett has looked very sharp in the preseason, as have many of the Steelers' key players. They'll want to keep that momentum going. Tomlin said starters will play "until we have a level of satisfaction on both sides of the ball."
The Falcons played starters for one long drive in the second preseason week, but coach Arthur Smith wouldn't say whether his starters would play in the third game.
“I think we’ve got a decent idea, I just really want to see how the next two days go,” Smith said, via Falcons Wire. “We’ll finalize that Tuesday night.”
Indianapolis Colts (-4.5) vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The Colts and Eagles held joint practices this week, and many coaches won't play starters in the preseason game after competitive practices.
The Colts didn't play starters last week and have a rookie quarterback, Anthony Richardson, so coach Shane Steichen said starters will play Thursday night. That includes Richardson.
Eagles coach Nick Sirianni didn't divulge his playing time plans for Thursday's game. However, Philadelphia has been sitting starters this preseason and that's expected to continue on Thursday night, according to the Delaware News Journal.
Here's the first look at the sports betting slate on Thursday:
MLB with afternoon action
There are 10 games in MLB today, including a Los Angeles Dodgers-Cleveland Guardians game that was suspended after two innings on Wednesday due to rain.
The New York Yankees finally won a game on Wednesday, avoiding a 10-game losing streak. They're -175 favorites as they go for a two-game winning streak against the Washington Nationals. That's one of five afternoon games on Thursday.
In the evening we get the conclusion of an entertaining series between the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles. The teams have split the first two games. Both teams are -110 for Thursday's game.
Best of the rest
The Tour Championship on the PGA Tour starts on Thursday. Scottie Scheffler is +140 to win, with his lead from the stroke-based bonus system. There are also four WNBA games, including the league-leading Las Vegas Aces as 14.5-point favorites at the Chicago Sky.
What's the best bet?
One of the hottest pitchers in baseball the last month has been J.P. France of the Houston Astros, with a 1.78 ERA. The Astros aren't huge favorites against the Boston Red Sox at -125, and Houston is the play.