Dig deep for those preseason trends!

Aug 5, 2003 6:18 AM

This week, the NFL begins its preseason in earnest with a full slate of games, so it would be helpful to examine a few trends that might be useful in finding a few winners.

One theory among handicappers holds that, even though the outcome of the game is not that important, teams without a win try harder than those that already have one. Let’s look at the numbers to see whether this theory holds true.

We studied results of all preseason games during a six-year span from 1997-2002 in which there was a home team (we disregarded neutral sites). Initially, we focused on how many preseason wins a team had coming into the game. Since the sample size is already small, we elected to cap a team’s wins at two or more.

The preliminary conclusion shows there is not much credence to the theory. A winless side is just 20-25 against the spread (ATS) on the road against teams with a win, and

30-29 ATS at home, for an overall 50-54 mark. In other words, the results don’t indicate any "predictive value."

However, two very interesting statistics jumped out of our number cruncher.

1. Road teams with two or more wins are 25-9 ATS against home teams with one win. That’s a lucrative 74 percent winning percentage.

2. In a game of winless teams, the road team is 64-40 ATS, for a respectable 62 percent winning margin, and the underdog is a very healthy 68-36 ATS for a 65 percent win rate.

These results would make sense because teams with better records have already shown a desire to win, whereas the struggling teams may have a more casual attitude. Plus, playing the underdog in the NFL has always been profitable.

If these two trends hold up, bettors should be able to cash some tickets over the next four weeks.

Of course, the "wise guy" bettors may be ready to complain that looking at wins without regard to the stage of the preseason is foolish. Well, we’re ready for you. Based on our statistics, here is a summary of specific weekly preseason trends:

Week 0 ”” lean to the underdog (15-8 ATS)

Week 1 ”” in a battle of winless sides, road dogs are 37-16 ATS.

Week 2 ”” winless underdogs are 5-2 ATS at home, 22-14 ATS on the road.

Week 3 ”” home dogs with one win are 1-7 ATS.

Week 4 ”” road teams with 2 or more wins are 14-3 ATS versus home teams with one win. Home teams with 2 or more wins are 28-15 ATS, which includes a stellar 7-1 ATS as a home dog.

Incidentally, "Week 0" includes the early "festival" games such as the Hall of Fame Game. These are not part of the Week 1 rotation.

This should be a nice way to kick off your preseason betting.

(TwoMinuteWarning.com features innovative statistical coverage of the NFL to help identify winners. Roland Beech can be reached at [email protected]