NFL preseason lines can be defeated August

Aug 2, 2005 1:17 AM

August kicks off the best time of the sports betting calendar — football season.

Competition on the field won’t be as intense as September, of course. Wins are not as important compared to evaluating young talent and trying to keep top players healthy. However, there will be betting lines available on preseason pro action and it’s possible to cash winning tickets. Here are some August football tips to keep in mind.

Coaching strategy: An understanding of what coaches are trying to accomplish each week in August is essential. With four preseason games to play, NFL coaches will typically go with starters one quarter or less in the first August game, one quarter-plus in second game, the first half and into the third quarter in the third game, and then very little in the fourth game. Keeping starters healthy while getting them some competition against the opponents’ first stringers are the obvious reasons.

Coaches will often use "vanilla" offenses, working on short passes and running plays. This is why preseason totals are lower than the regular season. For example, in the first two preseason games last August, the high-powered Vikings’ totals were 37 and 39½. The first two games of the regular season, Minnesota’s totals were 43½ and 51. In the third preseason game, with starters projected to play more, the Vikings total against San Francisco jumped up to 41. Working on basic plays and keeping things simple are usually the case for the first two weeks of preseason.

Newspapers: Keeping tabs daily on what local beat writers are commenting on is essential. Many times coaches will hint at potential strategy, such as "We’re going to open up the passing game a bit in the first half this week." Another strategy could be, "Our starters will play two series just to get their feet wet." These tidbits are key to a good sports bettor, who knows how to evaluate coaching comments, injuries, and how strategy changes may influence the side and total.

A few years ago in a preseason game, the Atlanta Falcons coach was furious with his team’s play the week before and announced that the starters would play the entire three quarters. The line jumped from Atlanta -2 all the way to -5, and went off as a six-point favorite kickoff. Sharp bettors wasted no time in hammering the Falcons, who won the game easily, all because of the game plan revealed by the coach and the fact that the team was likely to give a much better effort.

Quarterback play: Quarterback is the single most important position on the football field. Think of the Super Bowl matchups the last decade: How many below average QBs have gotten their team to the big game? Maybe the Ravens in 2000 with Trent Dilfer, although he blossomed into a productive quarterback for Seattle. Meanwhile, the Chiefs, had the No. 1 offense in the NFL in 2004.

QB play is essential and a key this time of year, as starters don’t play the whole game. When wagering on a favorite in preseason, it’s smart to carefully evaluate the No. 2 and 3 QBs. Often these backups play as much as the starter. A team with a great No. 1 QB, can be a disadvantage if the rookies or poor backups come in after just two series.

Coaches: Coaching is such an important part of football. So many players need to be organized and taught various roles each week. Some coaches are more demanding in preseason, while others are more laid back. Notice that Bill Parcells is 52-20 SU, 45-23-1 ATS all time in preseason, while Bill Belichick is 25-16 SU, 23-17-1 ATS. Mike Shanahan has an August record of 31-20 SU, 28-21-2 ATS, while Dennis Green is 29-18 SU, 26-20-1 ATS.

A couple of young coaches who have terrific preseason marks are the Jets’ Herman Edwards (12-5 SU, 11-6 ATS) and Carolina’s Jon Fox (9-3 SU, 9-1-2 ATS). Two coaches whose teams seem to care little about preseason football are New Orleans’ Jim Haslett (8-12 SU, 8-11-1 ATS) and St. Louis’ Mike Martz (7-14 SU, 8-13 ATS).

Home Field: While home field is a big edge when games count in the post and regular seasons, the site is far less important in preseason. In Week 4 of the preseason last August, the home team went 9-7 SU, but the visiting team went 11-5 ATS.