The first week of preseason football is in the books and perhaps the most surprising result thus far has been that, including the Hall of Fame game, 12 of the 17 games went OVER the total, several by considerable margins.
Underdogs have gone 11-6 ATS, which really cannot be considered too much of a surprise given the vagaries of exhibition football with the mindset of coaches toward the allocation of playing time, and the importance placed on evaluating personnel and developing depth at the expense of doing what coaches normally do when winning is the primary goal.
Another vagary of preseason football is the absence of advance lines. During the regular season there are lines on many games available well in advance of game day, such as in the case of “Games of the Year” offered by a number of Las Vegas sports books.
And during the regular season the LVH routinely posts lines 10 days ahead of when the games will be played, giving you a chance to bet week three’s games, for example, even before week two’s games have been played.
Such is not the case during August. With the exception of the first full week of preseason games, when lines may be up for a couple of weeks or so, lines rarely come out for upcoming games early.
In fact, as of mid-morning Monday only a handful of offshore books have Week 2 lines showing up on the odds screens used by so many professional bettors with none showing up for the Las Vegas books.
Information trumps Power Ratings and roster talent books are extra cautious in posting preseason lines. Action on these games is far less than action on regular season games and “wise guys” tend to represent a greater percentage of action taken on preseason games than regular season.
As such it is worth reminding readers who plan on betting these “glorified scrimmages” to do your homework by paying attention to media reports on injuries, expected QB rotation, personnel being held out or expected to see extended action, etc. in order to make your best educated and informed judgment as to where the edges lie in a given matchup. And often those edges may be with a totals play rather than a side.
Here’s a general overview of the second full week of preseason games.
Thursday Pro Football Games
Detroit +3 at Cleveland (38½): Both teams are off home wins in their opening game. The Lions are more set at many positions while the Browns have a new coaching regime in place and may be more inclined to evaluate first and second string players and be more concerned with fine tuning offensive and defensive schemes. CLEVELAND.
Atlanta +3 at Baltimore (39): The Ravens played with a purpose in winning easily at Tampa Bay while Atlanta went through the motions in losing at home to Cincinnati. Those results seem to be in line with the personalities of the respective coaches although both are veteran laden teams. The Ravens do have more concerns with integrating new key personnel and thus might enjoy the edges in this matchup. BALTIMORE.
Carolina +3½ at Philly (43): Carolina got a home win over Chicago in a turnover filled game while the Eagles lost new coach Chip Kelly’s debut although both Philly QBs Michael Vick and Nick Foles both played well. This is the Eagles’ second and final home game of the preseason which may provide a bit more motivation for a good performance in front of the Philly critics, er, fans. PHILADELPHIA.
San Diego +4 at Chicago (37½): San Diego’s offense was not in evidence in last week’s home loss to what appeared to be a very inspired Seattle. The Chargers do have offensive line issues which may suggest a more conservative approach here. Chicago’s offense is still a work in progress for new coach Marc Trestman. We may see both teams place a greater emphasis on blocking and tackling. UNDER.
Friday Pro Football Games
Minnesota +3 at Buffalo (38½): Minnesota lost at home to Houston while Buffalo was very impressive in winning at Indianapolis with rookie EJ Manuel looking sharp in his QB battle with veteran Kevin Kolb to win the starting job. With a new coach Buffalo may again be inclined to build the confidence of their young QB in front of an admiring home crowd. BUFFALO.
TB +4 at N. England (43): Tampa Bay laid an egg in their 44-16 home loss to Baltimore and the offense may seek to be more aggressive here. The Pats continue to play replacement football with a new set of receivers. QB Tom Brady looked sharp in his two series in the Pats’ win at Philadelphia. Look for a better effort from the Bucs offense here in what could be the week’s highest scoring game. OVER.
Oakland +5 at N. Orleans (40): Both teams had narrow wins to open the preseason in a pair of games that stayed UNDER the total. The Saints have the more explosive offense and with the starters of both teams likely to see more action this week that gives the hosts an edge in what will be the Saints’ final home game of the preseason. NEW ORLEANS.
San Francisco pick at KC (38): Chiefs RB Jamal Charles was carted off the field early Monday with an injury that did not appear to be serious following negative x-rays. But that should limit his playing time here, if he sees any at all, against an aggressive San Francisco defense. Neither offense showed much in their openers but, even with a sidelined Charles, the Chiefs have more decisions to make with a new coach and QB. KANSAS CITY.
Saturday Pro Football Games
Dallas +1 at Arizona (38): Dallas is playing its third game in less than three weeks and with most coaches using the penultimate preseason game as their dress rehearsal we may see Cowboy backups seeing most of the action here. Arizona played well in winning at Green Bay, especially the defense with Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu greatly impressing observers. Despite the high scoring nature of last week’s games defenses generally hold the edges over offenses. That should be the case here. UNDER.
Tennessee +3½ at Cincy (39): This is another matchup of a veteran team against a team needing to evaluate personnel with the hopes of improving. Cincinnati was sharp in their easy win at Atlanta while the Titans played competitively in their home loss to Washington. The Bengals, having made the playoffs in 3 of the past 4 seasons, are set at most positions. The Titans are seeking to end a 4-season playoff drought and have more concerns in more areas. TENNESSEE.
J’ville +3½ at NY Jets (37): Both teams have major QB issues although the Jets, surprisingly, may be in better shape. Jacksonville played poorly in a 27-3 home loss to Miami despite catching the Dolphins with just a few days of practice following the Hall of Fame game. The Jets remain under pressure to return to the playoffs this season. Given the woeful performance of the offense last preseason, the Jets may have a greater sense of urgency to hold less back here to assuage the pain and bitterness felt by their fan base. NY JETS.
Miami +3½ at Houston (38): Miami has twice shown an interest in winning these preseason games, coming up short against Dallas (due to turnovers) but then by impressively winning at Jacksonville. Houston’s main goal in August is to stay healthy as they seek a third straight division title. Both teams have strong defenses and that may dictate the pace and flow here. UNDER.
GB pick at St. Louis (38½): Green Bay was not all too concerned about losing 17-0 to Arizona last week while St. Louis was disappointed by their losing effort in Cleveland. Green Bay is set at most positions and is thus more likely to work on fine tuning. The Rams should be the more aggressive team, more concerned with execution to build confidence for a team that believes it is on the edge of a breakthrough season under second season coach Jeff Fisher. ST. LOUIS.
Denver +4 at Seattle (40): Seattle’s energy in last week’s win at San Diego rivaled that of a regular season game which is in line with coach Pete Carroll’s “rah rah” personality. Denver essentially went through the motions in their rather dull 10-6 win at San Francisco. The Broncos might open things up on offense this week while Seattle, even in preseason, enjoys a strong home field. OVER.
Sunday Pro Football Games
Indy +4 at NY Giants (39): Both teams have more issues in their running games than in the aerial attacks which suggests the emphasis might be more along the lines of scrimmage than in the passing lanes. Both teams also have more questions on the defensive side of the football than with their offenses which would portend a lower scoring game. UNDER.
Monday Pro Football Games
Pitt +2½ at Washington (39): Both teams have veteran coaches that know the purpose of the preseason although Washington coach Mike Shanahan has fared well on the scoreboard dating back to his years in Denver. Pittsburgh is seeking a return to a strong ground game that deserted them last season. The ‘Skins have solid QBs with Kirk Cousins a fine backup for RG III (unlikely to see action) which suggests greater emphasis being placed on the rushing game. UNDER.
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]