A lot of people criticize the NFL preseason but those who do their homework can find value in the lines. The key to success is understanding how to handicap the exhibition games. Sure, you can wait until the regular season before placing your bets but if you want to make some money betting on NFL preseason action, follow these steps:
Check Coaching Statistics
Some NFL coaches care a lot more about getting results in the preseason than others do. That fact carries a lot of weight when it comes to betting on the exhibition games. One of the best examples of this is the difference between Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer and New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton.
Zimmer, who coached the Vikings to a 3-1 record in last year’s preseason, owns a 17-4 record all-time in exhibition play. On the flip side of the equation, Payton is just 26-28 all-time in the preseason despite coaching some pretty successful rosters. While Zimmer, Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll have produced excellent preseason records, Payton, Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and Dallas Cowboys head coach Sean Payton all have below .500 preseason records. It’s important to understand which coaches have been successful in the preseason and which coaches tend to struggle before you bet on the exhibition games.
Evaluate Depth Charts
Another important aspect of betting on NFL preseason football is understanding and evaluating depth charts. Since star players don’t usually play big minutes in the preseason, the teams with quality depth tend to perform better overall in these games.
How many capable quarterbacks does the team you want to bet on have on its roster? What does its running back depth look like? Will the quarterback that plays the most minutes still have decent protection from his offensive line or is there concern about the club’s depth at that position?
By understanding which players are competing for jobs and what they bring to the table, you can match depth charts against one another and evaluate which teams have the edge in specific preseason matchups. Coaching clearly matters but in order to win, coaches need quality players at their disposal regardless of which time of the year it is.
Understand Every Game Is Different
One of the biggest mistakes that bettors can make is approaching every preseason game as though the teams playing in it are taking the same approach. That is simply not going to be the case. Each game of the preseason should be different than the others including how many minutes the star performers play, how important it is for a team to get a strong showing and so on.
As is the case with comparing preseason coaching records, it’s also important to do the best you can to get in to the mindset of the players before every game. Is it a preseason opener in which a veteran team doesn’t have much to really be concerned about? Or is the third preseason game with a number of key young players fighting for starting jobs? While the first and second preseason games tend to feature most of the young players that are trying to earn roster spots, the third preseason game usually features bigger name stars playing more minutes. Every game is different. It’s important to approach each game with an understanding of what that means for each matchup.
Beware Of Totals
One area that you need to be careful betting is the totals for preseason games. Unlike during the regular season when the totals are usually fairly high, the totals for exhibition games are usually set a little bit lower in order to entice bettors to jump on the Over. However, also unlike the regular season the scoring on average tends to be a lot lower in the preseason.
Considering that the majority of the public tends to bet on the Over when wagering on totals during the regular season, it’s important to make a note not to fall in to that trap in the preseason. That isn’t to say that you should never bet on the total for a game regardless of the teams playing in it and what the line is set at. However, it’s important not to make the mistake of chasing lines that appear to be set a lot lower than they should be only to be disappointed when both teams rest their star players in a boring, low scoring contest that features mostly young players competing for jobs.
Bet Winners Over Spreads
The final tip to remember when it comes to betting on preseason football is that the lines are usually a lot lower during the exhibition schedule than they are in the regular season. Since it’s a lot harder to predict the outcomes based on the uncertainty of who plays, how long they play and how much the game result actually means to the players and coaches competing in it, the sportsbooks tend to keep the lines relatively close on the point spread in order to avoid getting exposed.
Random NFL preseason fact: Over the past nine years, no Super Bowl champ finished their preseason with a losing record. pic.twitter.com/pEsRQZEWt9
— John Breech (@johnbreech) September 1, 2017
Rather than betting on the spread, it might make more sense to bet on the outright winners. This is especially true when it comes to small underdogs that are listed at +1.5 or +2.5. Since they aren’t covering the key number three, it would make a lot more sense to just bet that underdog straight up at decent odds and ignore the spread altogether. As is the case with betting on the totals, there are always going to be exceptions to the rules. However, by following the tips that we provided for you in this column you should be able to improve your odds to win betting on NFL preseason football and ultimately improve your bottom line.