With the start of the college football and NFL seasons just weeks away, plenty of work will go into preparing for the weekly battles with the bookmakers.
Since the Internet gained widespread popularity nearly 29 years ago it has become the main source of up-to-the-minute information via articles on websites, forums and, most recently, social media. The most popular social media platform is Twitter and virtually every college and professional team, media columnists and even players have Twitter account through which information is conveyed to their followers.
Digital media has become the main source of transmitting and receiving information and is the best resource for those of use with an “immediate need to know” mentality.
To complement the immediacy need for information there are those of us who like to spend our summers preparing for the football season using traditional “physical” resources that provide comprehensive as well as detailed previews of the 130 major college football teams (known as the FBS subdivision) and the 32 NFL teams.
I’m “old school” in that I like to hold in my hand reading materials which allow me to flip the pages back and forth as thoughts and questions come to mind. I am certainly capable of using digital versions which have features that allow you to do searches and other functions on a phone, tablet or other devices. But having grown up on books and magazines I feel not just more comfortable going “old school” but it also allows me to make more efficient use of my preparation time.
General Circulation Magazines — Athlon, Lindy’s and Street & Smith’s. All three are similar in that each has separate publications for college football and the NFL as well as being geared more towards a general audience as opposed to bettors. Each has between 200 and 300 pages with most of the magazine devoted to team previews.
The NFL magazines generally have a half-dozen pages for each team that provide and overview for the coming season, breakdowns of the various personnel units, note key personnel and coaching (including assistants) from the prior season and present depth charts and basic statistics from the prior season. There are also articles of interest, a review of the NFL draft and brief sections geared towards fantasy football as well.
My personal favorite is Lindy’s because of one specific feature. For each team the expected pre-training camp roster is presented of roughly 60 players. In addition to basic information (height, weight, experience, etc.) comments are given for each individual player related to his expected role, why his performance improved or declined the prior season, etc.
The college versions of each magazine provide a page or two preview for each of the 130 FBS teams. The previews include key stats from the prior season, commentary for personnel units and forecasts for the upcoming season, including projected finish within the conference. Projected starters are shown. Many handicappers find use in the number of returning starters on both offense and defense for early season betting. One nice feature of the Street & Smith’s publication is the inclusion of the team’s website and Twitter account in their ‘team information’ section.
Marc Lawrence’s 2019 Playbook Football Preview Guide. This is clearly geared to bettors with the type of information contained within its 256 pages. There are two pages devoted to each NFL team and single pages devoted to each college team. Ten seasons of straight up and point-spread results are given, game by game, including game logs for each game played in 2018.
One of the nice features is for those bettors who like to know teams’ ATS “trends and tendencies” that highlight the strongest “Play On” and “Play Against” situations for each team. The magazine can be used as a workbook throughout the entire season with each team’s schedule presented in a manner that allows for the recording of game and point-spread information.
Phil Steele’s 2019 College Football Preview. This is perhaps the most complete, detailed and comprehensive college football guide ever published. It has been published annually for over 20 years and this season’s edition has 352 pages of information.
Two-deep depth charts are presented for each college team and 10 seasons of game results are also included.
Phil also breaks down each conference, team by team and their individual units and has specific notes for each game on a team’s schedule. It’s impossible to highlight all of the features of this outstanding magazine but of note to bettors is Phil’s listing of the teams he expects to be ‘surprise’ teams and also those he expects to be the ‘most improved’ teams. Both lists can be used in making attractive futures wagers as well as making advance wagers on some of those surprise and most improved teams at sports books that post “college games of the year” prior to the start of the season by locating certain matchups that may show significant line movement between now and when the games are played during the season.
Kenny White’s College Football Power Ratings. In its first season of publication by a former Las Vegas oddsmaker who now uses his extensive knowledge on our side of the counter. The magazine’s 332 pages include two pages for each of the 130 FBS teams and is clearly directed at those who bet college football.
Kenny has many strengths but perhaps his biggest is his ability to assign a value to each player, a process that begins with an evaluation of the player’s high school career. He gives predicted scores for each game a team will play in 2019. In addition to providing start-of-season Power Ratings for all FBS teams he also has initial Power Ratings for all 125 FCS teams, most of whom will face at least one FBS team this season,
Warren Sharp’s 2019 Football Preview. This deals exclusively with the NFL and devotes seven pages to each team. The material is largely visual in nature with color coded charts that review individual player performance, unit performances in terms of offensive and defensive formations used on a play by play basis with heavy emphasis on team and coaching tendencies.
I would consider this an advanced book for handicapping and betting the NFL but one worth having as a tool that will help you understand why some teams succeeded in 2018 and why some failed and upon what their 2019 fortunes rest from a deep dive analytics perspective.
Football Outsiders 2019 Almanac. In many ways this is similar to Warren Sharp’s book but presents the material in a more verbal than graphically visual way, and also relies heavily on advanced analytics.
There are plenty of statistics presented in the traditional manner of charts rather than graphs. The first 245 pages are largely devoted to team profiles that include projected wins for the 2019 season as well as the likelihood for each team of making the playoffs.