NFL preseason wins come down to depth, interest

Aug 1, 2006 3:23 AM

It may be hot and many folks are still on vacation, but 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 won’t be as important as evaluating young talent and trying to keep players healthy. However, there will be betting lines available on preseason pro action and it’s possible to cash winning tickets this time of year.

Here are some 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. The objective is keeping starters healthy and getting them some competition against first stringers.

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 Colts totals were 41 and 40½. The first two regular season games were 44½ and 47. In the third preseason game, with starters projected to play more, the Colts scored 45 against Denver. The first two preseason games are about basic plays and keeping things simple.

”¡ Newspapers: Keeping daily tabs on local beat writers is important. Many times coaches will hint at potential strategy. Tidbits such as "We’re going to open up the passing game a bit in the first half, or our starters will play two series just to get their feet wet," are essential. Good sports bettors evaluate coaching comments, injuries and how strategy changes may influence the side and total.

A few years ago in a preseason game involving Atlanta, the Falcons coach was furious over the previous week’s performance and said the starters would play the entire three quarters. The line jumped from Atlanta -2 to -5 and finally to a 6-point favorite at kickoff. Sharp bettors wasted no time in hammering the Falcons, who won and covered easily. All because of the extensive game plan revealed by the coach.

”¡ QB Play: Quarterback is the single most important position. How many below average QBs have gotten their team to the Super Bowl in the last decade? The Ravens in 2000 with Trent Dilfer is probably the only one. Starting QBs early on 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, they play more than the starter. Teams using great No. 1 QBs just two series, with rookies or poor backups playing most of the game, can be at a disadvantage.

”¡ Coaches: Some coaches are demanding in preseason, others more laid back. Bill Parcells (Dallas) is 55-21 SU and 48-24-1 ATS all time in preseason. Bill Belichick (New England) is 27-18 SU and 25-19-1 ATS. Mike Shanahan (Denver) has an August record of 35-20 SU (31-22-2 ATS). Dennis Green (Arizona) is 32-19 SU and 29-21-1 ATS.

A couple of young coaches who thrive in preseason are Kansas City’s Herman Edwards (15-6 SU, 14-7 ATS) and Carolina’s Jon Fox (11-5 SU, 10-4-2 ATS). A year ago, Denver was 4-0 SU/3-1 ATS in preseason. The New York Jets were 3-1 SU/ATS in the preseason under Edwards, but a rough a 4-12 last year.

”¡ Home Field: While a big edge when games count in the playoffs and regular season, the venue does not mean as much in preseason. Week 4 is particularly revealing. The home teams were a miserable 5-11 ATS last year in Week 4, the final exhibition game.