With Minnesota’s 14-3 win over Pittsburgh in the Hall of Fame game this past Sunday night the 2015 NFL season is officially under way.
Over the next four weeks all 32 teams will have a chance to evaluate their rosters, looking to decide upon the 53 man rosters with which they will open the regular season that begins on Thursday, Sept. 10 when defending Super Bowl champion New England hosts Pittsburgh.
As pointed out over the years in this column, wagering on preseason football presents challenges not present during the regular season.
Coaches know the games don’t count but will still put on an “all games count and we play to win” countenance when discussing their team and their goals with the media. Yet most coaches realize the purpose of the preseason is to get the team ready for the regular season – when the games do count.
That includes deciding on the starters and their backups, working on the plays that need work, getting the players into game shape and all the other details associated with season preparation as opposed to game preparation.
Information is a key to success in assessing which team in a game has more factors in its favor to produce a winning result.
As such, if you are to make wagers during August it is vital you monitor what comes out of training camp and that means more than just watching the reports on ESPN, the NFL Network, etc., when just highlights are given of a day’s workouts. Reading teams’ beat writers often presents nuggets of useful information and following journalists closely associated with a specific team via social media can be of benefit.
Giving specific recommendations on how to bet preseason games can be challenging given the nature of how lines are set and how they move in August, especially the first two weeks. As coaches announce their game objectives and quarterback rotations in midweek the lines tend to show more volatility as that kind of information is what drives line movement.
Here are brief comments about each of the 16 games that will mark the first full week of preseason.
Pro Football – Thursday
New Orleans Saints +3 at Baltimore Ravens (38): The Ravens have been an elite organization for many years and are more likely to be interested in developing backup depth. Hence the edges may point more toward New Orleans in this opening exhibition games.
New York Jets +3 at Detroit Lions (36.5): The Jets have a new coach, Todd Bowles, who comes from Arizona with a defensive mindset and inherits a team that is built on defense. Detroit coach Jim Caldwell is in his second season and has a veteran team with most positions set. More of the edges appear to be with the Jets.
Green Bay Packers +3 at New England Patriots (37.5): Starters are likely to see limited action. Because of this more of the edges in this game would point to a low scoring contest rather than favoring either side.
Washingto Redskins +2 at Cleveland Browns (36.5): Neither roster appears especially strong in terms of skill position players but this game sets up as one in which both offenses may try to gain confidence by using more aggressive plays than teams that have greater roster stability.
Miami Dolphins PK at Chicago Bears (37): The Dolphins are more likely to work this summer on fine tuning in areas that needed addressing whereas more Bears will be auditioning for their new coach to gain starting positions or just to make the roster. Hence the edges would appear to be with Chicago.
Dallas Cowboys +3.5 at San Diego Chargers (38): Both coaches have backgrounds dealing with offense and as such we might see more offensive creativity than is normal for a preseason opener, lending support for a higher than expected scoring game.
Pro Football – Friday
Tennessee Titans +2.5 at Atlanta Falcons (37): With the matchup of a highly touted rookie QB Marcus Mariota facing a team with a new coach, perhaps more interested in evaluating his personnel, this could be a sluggishly played game.
Carolina Panthers +3 at Buffalo Bills (35.5): Carolina is a veteran team off of back-to-back Division titles and likely to be more concerned with the development of depth. Rex Ryan likes to set a positive, confident attitude right from the start and thus the edges in this game clearly favor the Bills.
New York Giants +3 at Cincinnati Bengals (37): The Giants have more issues to address, especially along the offensive line. The Bengals are more likely to be just concerned with getting ready for the regular season with most positions set on a team that has been together for several seasons. More edges appear to be with the Giants.
Pittsburgh Steelers NL at Jacksonville Jaguars: Pittsburgh has the advantage of already having played one game and thus is further along in the evaluation process than are the Jags. In that respect the edges would favor the Steelers in a low scoring game.
St. Louis Rams PK at Oakland Raiders (36): St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher is more likely to take a conservative approach to the entire preseason whereas del Rio may show more interest in getting his tenure off to a positive start, giving more of the edges to the Raiders.
Denver Broncos +5.5 at Seattle Seahawks (37): Both coaches may approach this game as little more than a combination workout/scrimmage, looking to shorten the game by using more running than passing plays. The edges would tend to favor limited scoring chances.
Pro Football – Saturday
Tampa Bay Buccaneers NL at Minnesota Vikings: Top draft choice QB Jameis Winston makes what should be a limited debut for Tampa Bay. Minnesota has the Hall of Fame game under its belt and will have had most of this week to evaluate and make adjustments. These circumstances, plus playing at home, would favor the Vikings.
San Francisco 49ers +3 at Houston Texans (35.5): The 49ers have had all sorts of issues in the wake of the departure of former coach Jim Harbaugh, including players involved in off the field issues and surprising retirements, making things very tough for new coach Jim Tomsula. Conditions would expect a crisper all around effort from the Texans.
Kansas City Chiefs +2.5 at Arizona Cardinals (36): Arizona has more issues to address than do the Chiefs, especially with the departure of defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and several key players. The edges may be with the Cardinals and, in turn, favor a lower scoring game.
Pro Football – Sunday
Indianapolis Colts +4 at Philadelphia Eagles (42): Both teams are Playoff caliber teams that will look to focus mostly on depth. The edges would appear to be with the Eagles as their offense may take longer to develop the requisite timing to be successful when the regular season starts.
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]