It’s been nearly six months since Seattle routed Denver 43-8 to win Super Bowl 48 and for some the time has flown by. For others it has seemed more like six years since they last watched, and bet on, football.
That long drought is over, sort of, as the NFL returns this coming Sunday with the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio.
The Buffalo Bills and New York Giants will kick off the 2014 preseason in the first of 65 “exhibition” games that paves the way for the start of the regular season on Thursday, Sept. 4, when Super Bowl champion Seattle hosts Green Bay.
Although they met last preseason the 2014 season opener will be the first regular season meeting between the Seahawks and Packers since Seattle’s infamous and controversial 14-12 win in the third week of the 2012 season.
It was the game that resulted in the NFL settling its dispute with their officials, putting the “replacement refs” out to pasture.
The fever for pro football gets more intense nationwide each season and Las Vegas is one of the hottest spots of all. That’s because residents of and visitors to our fair city – and state – are legally allowed to wager on the outcomes of the games. Wagering on pro football continues to grow each season and that trend should continue.
After six months of sitting on the sidelines it is only natural to want to get into action at the first opportunity. And that opportunity will be on Sunday when the Giants and Bills officially kick things off at 5 p.m. Pacific time.
Handicapping the preseason is totally different from handicapping the regular season or the Playoffs. The most important factor in being successful in the preseason is information. And even then the timing of the information greatly influences your probability of success.
In this modern era of 24/7 coverage and widespread social media, news travels instantaneously. When a player is injured in training camp that information has already gone viral as the player is being helped off of the field. Linemakers do not live in a vacuum and they get that information just as quickly as the bettors for whom they are setting the line.
Winning a priority?
Perhaps the most vital information used by handicappers and bettors relates to the quarterback rotation and the amount of playing time expected to be seen by the starters. Unlike during the regular season, coaches will speak freely about their plans for preseason games.
Keep in mind winning is far from the number one priority for most coaches in the preseason. The main focus is in getting prepared for the regular season when wins and losses count. Coaches will never come right out and say they will not try to win or winning does not matter.
Often these games are little more than glorified scrimmages played in front of thousands of paying spectators. It is not uncommon for the two coaches to have made some agreements to work on certain aspects of their games that are to the long term benefit of each team.
This often relates to a team implementing a new offensive scheme facing a team putting in a new defense with the teams not scheduled to meet during the season and often from different conferences.
Betting a challenge
And those factors are what makes betting the preseason a challenge and potentially hazardous. These games are often decided by players who will not even be on Opening Day practice squads. Yet our wagers are often determined by them.
That’s not to say you can’t make money in the preseason. There are some seasoned professional bettors who claim preseason is their best time of the season.
But in the current information overload environment touched upon earlier, what used to be huge edges have been diminished in recent seasons.
Still, there is much pent up enthusiasm to make that next football wager and many cannot bear the thought of NFL games being played – even though they are preseason games – without having at least a token financial interest in the outcome.
So if you fall into this group just be aware the games don’t count, the best players will see limited playing time and the games will be played and coached differently from regular season games.
Hall of Fame game
In Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game Buffalo opened as a 2½ point favorite over the Giants but money started to come in on the Giants over this past weekend such that the game can be found right around pick’em or with either team favored by a point at many locations.
The Total sits at 32.5, indicative of the expectation neither offense will be especially effective at creating big plays or sustaining drives with such little time in training camp leading up to the game.
There might be some edges with Buffalo as they are looking to continue the development of second season quarterback EJ Manuel and the need to have a capable backup in case Manuel struggles out of the gate.
This is also Doug Marrone’s second season as Buffalo head coach. He may be a bit more eager to tinker with some adjustments he learned as a rookie coach than will be Giants’ veteran coach Tom Coughlin.
Coughlin should be more interested in his team staying healthy. The Giants do need to focus effort on improving the offensive line play, suggesting technique will be more important than results on the scoreboard.
Over the next four weeks each of the eight Divisions will be previewed with two looked at each week in addition to some early week thoughts on the upcoming preseason games.
Then, for the opening week of the regular season, in addition to offering opinions on each of the 16 games, predictions will be made for the teams that will ultimately meet in the Super Bowl next February in Glendale, Arizona.
Let the games begin!
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]