The wait is almost over. With training camp right around the corner, Week One of the NFL season is almost here. However, bettors do not have to wait for Week One if they do not want to. There are always preseason NFL games… But to most, betting on preseason NFL games is a fool’s errand.
Is it, though?
You cannot trust the best teams to put their best foot forward. But at the same time, you cannot count on poor teams playing as you would expect, either. But if you play your cards right and do your homework, there is money to be won in the preseason.
The following tips and insights will point you in the right direction.
Know The Coaches
If you pay attention to the preseason, you know many coaches could care less about the outcome of preseason games. To them, it is more important to evaluate players in game-like situations. However, at the same time, some care immensely and will try to win.
If you can recognize the approach each team takes to preseason games, you can get a leg up on predicting the winner.
Take the Week Three preseason game between Baltimore and Washington. John Harbaugh has not lost a preseason game since 2015. Ron Rivera was 18-16 in the preseason during his time with the Panthers (he has yet to coach Washington in preseason play).
Who do you think will be trying harder when they meet in the third week of the preseason this year?
First-Year Head Coaches
New head coaches want to make a good one on their team’s fans—which means recording their first win ASAP. That means winning their first preseason game. The outcome is meaningless as far as the season goes, it is their way of proving the team’s front office did not make a mistake by hiring him.
However, this tip only applies to Week One.
‘Experience’ does not refer to veteran players on the roster. It is about having experience in the coach’s system. A team that has been playing under the same head coach and coordinators for years is going to be better prepared to play since most players will already be familiar with the system
Take the Buffalo Bills as an example. Buffalo has been running Sean McDermott’s system for four years. In his three preseasons, the team went 1-3, then 2-2, and in the last one, 4-0.
Consequently, teams with first-year head coaches and new coordinators will not have their teams nearly as prepared because they will be installing their systems throughout training camp and the preseason. Desire and effort may be enough to get them a win in Week One. But do not count on it in Week Two or Three.
Depth (Or Lack Thereof)
Preseason games are a chance for the second and third-string guys to shine with the starters on the bench. So, the better the depth is on a team (especially at the skill positions), the better a team will play in the preseason with starters on the bench.
Take the Dallas quarterback situation as an example. Dak Prescott will probably not play at all. That means trusting the offense to Garret Gilbert, Den DiNucci, and Cooper Rush (without the help of Ezekiel Elliot, Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, or Michael Gallup).
Underdogs, tend to try a little harder in the preseason and it is not unusual to see them win more than lose. They are going to have something to prove to themselves and their fan base. Favorites will not have anything to prove and will be more concerned with keeping guys healthy.
Favorites can still win simply because they are better teams. But it is not uncommon for underdogs to try harder and come out on top (or at least beat the spread).
Betting on the spread is not advisable because of the unpredictability of outcomes. Betting the moneyline is safer. However, bets on bigger underdogs (six or more points) tend to have value.
Spreads are typically around three points since that is the most common point differential. But it is not unheard of for fans to bet heavily on a traditional powerhouse (the favorite) playing a lesser team. This can sometimes force sportsbooks to raise the spread a few points.
In those situations, betting on the underdog has a lot of value since they will have a better shot at covering the spread.
Fade The Public— Sometimes
When the public is betting heavily on one side of a game, sportsbooks will encourage bets on the other side by shifting the odds. If the lines move enough, betting against the public can have value.
However, much of the action books handle in the preseason comes from sharps (professional bettors). So, if these guys are betting one way, it might be a good idea to follow suit. Since most sportsbooks tend to respect the track record of sharps, they will adjust the odds according to how the sharps are betting whether they are betting on the more popular team or the other one.
Information Is Key (And So Are Press Conferences)
While it is next to impossible to get information out of coaches during the regular season, coaches are often more forthcoming during the preseason. Many will talk freely about their focus in the next preseason game or how long their starters will play.
If they play at all, that is.
In the preseason, coaches do not mess around with injuries. They do not want to risk something minor evolving into something significant in the regular season. If a star player is on the injury report, do not count on him to play.
There are other things, of course. You can fade the two teams in the Hall of Fame game the following week, especially if guys get banged up. It is also a good idea to fade West Coast teams traveling to the East Coast because of the humidity.
However, it is also important to remember that no preseason tip is 100 percent. They all involve tendencies that can give one outcome an edge over the other. But while the trend may result in a win 55 percent of the time, it results in a loss 45 percent of the time.
But if you bet carefully, there is money to be made in the preseason.