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They’re baaack!

Jul 29, 2003 7:16 AM

Beginning this week, there will be some sort of football ”” college or pro ”” on television every week for the next six months.

Couch potatoes, rejoice!

Of course, most of the games over the next four weeks are NFL preseason games (colleges kick off in three weeks), but they are football games nonetheless, and there will be betting lines posted.

Betting the preseason is unlike betting the regular season because the games don’t count ”” coaches view them as either exhibitions or practice games.

"Fortunately, there are still plenty of games in which motivation, scheduling situations and talent disparities are great enough to present some interesting wagering situations," said Chuck Sippl, senior editor of the Gold Sheet.

Finding an edge in handicapping preseason games, Sippl said, often hinges on trying to determine the coach’s motivation.

Sippl said that, in the first two preseason games, most coaches play their regulars for just a quarter or two, and use the balance of the game to evaluate new players.

"Game three is usually a dress rehearsal for the opening day," Sippl said. "Starters play two-thirds to three-quarters of the game and backups the rest of the way."

The use of trends is helpful in evaluating preseason games, as it is during the regular season.

The most telling trend is the coach’s record in preseason.

"Some coaches want to win in the preseason to establish a winning attitude," said Phil Steele, handicapper and author of numerous football betting guides. "Other coaches use the preseason to evaluate talent and see how rookies and free agents perform.

"The latter are often established coaches from successful teams who don’t often care whether their teams win or lose in the preseason," Steele said.

Among the coaches to watch during the preseason are:

”¡ Dan Reeves (Falcons), 17-7-1 ATS (against the spread).

”¡ Bill Cowher (Steelers), 6-2 ATS at home after a loss, and 6-1-1 ATS at home versus NFC.

”¡ Bill Belichick (Patriots), 8-0 ATS and SU (straight up) in last home game.

”¡ Dick Vermeil (Chiefs), 10-1 SU and 9-2 ATS at home versus NFC.

Coaches’ preseason records are readily available in publications like the Gold Sheet, Marc Lawrence’s Playbook and Phil Steele’s Pro Football Preview, all of which are available at the Gambler’s Book Shop in Las Vegas.

Here are a few other interesting trends worth noting, Sippl said:

Teams that are 0-2: Teams that lose their first two preseason games often bounce back with a win. Over the past six seasons, 0-2 teams are 27-19 ATS in their third game.

Jets vs. the Giants: This game, which takes place on Saturday, Aug. 23, has been owned by the Jets, which have covered 11 straight in the series.

Betting the "under": Many bettors blindly play the game’s total to go under, following the theory that evaluating players and fine-tuning defenses tend to produce low-scoring contests. However, stats for the last eight years show that "overs" lead the "unders" by a 79-69 margin during the first full week of preseason games.

Teams with a game under their belt: Generally, a team playing its second game against a team in its first game has an edge. Those teams are 8-4-1 ATS over the past two seasons.

Most handicappers advise betting with restraint during the preseason.

"It is the nature of most NFL exhibitions that personnel to be used is not finalized until late in the practice week," the Gold Sheet’s Sippl said. "But, even though they’re just practice games, Las Vegas sports books know that, as far as wagering is concerned, football is still king."

Long live the king!