NFL season starts Sunday with Cowboys vs. Dolphins

Jul 30, 2013 3:01 AM

Are you ready for some football???

The answer is probably a resounding “Yes!’  or, here in Las Vegas, “you bet!”

The 2013 NFL season gets underway, sort of, this Sunday, in Canton, Ohio with the annual Hall of Fame game concluding a weekend of festivities.  It’s the first of 65 preseason games that will consume the month of August as a prelude to the start of the regular season on Thursday, Sept. 5.

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The NFL likes to call these “preseason games” but the reality is that they are “exhibitions” as starters rarely see significant playing time. Teams use preseason as regular season dress rehearsals, commonly saving their top players for the game prior to the final tune up game, generally Week 3. 

 Yet even in those dress rehearsal games starters rarely go beyond a couple of series in the third quarter.

And therein lies the challenge in betting the preseason. The games don’t count and the intention of coaches, for the most part, does not place primary, and often secondary, emphasis on winning. 

Rather, coaches realize that these games provide the best opportunity to evaluate players and plays. They make decisions on the best personnel to have on the roster entering the regular season -- when the games DO count!

At the same time, these preseason games provide the potential for profit and many professional bettors fare extremely well betting these contests that don’t count anywhere other than the bankroll.

The key is to understand that preseason betting success is information driven.

Coaches are often very open with the local and national media during the summer, often revealing specific intentions for areas or players that will be the focus of an upcoming game.

The internet age has changed the approach to betting on the preseason.  Years ago the lines were very homogenous with most games priced at a FG or less depending on the teams involved and the quality of the rosters.  Nowadays we see preseason games priced almost as regular season games would be priced with lines upwards of a touchdown in some instances.

Information is much more accessible but it does take some work to ferret through the vast amount of “coach-speak” and separate the meaningful from the meaningless. Those who make August profits are constantly scouring the internet and, more and more these days, keeping up with the social media with Twitter being the most popular vehicle.

Information is available virtually instantaneously around the world from anyone with a Smartphone in attendance at a team practice. It’s commonplace these days for word of a key injury to spread worldwide even as the injured player has to leave the practice field.  And such information is often reflected in line movements within minutes.

Still, there are some generic concepts that continue to hold weight when looking at these exhibition games. Quarterback rotations and battles can often lead to edges enjoyed by one team over another.

Coaches taking over losing teams may often do more in attempting to win games and build up fan support. More established and veteran teams frequently concentrate on developing depth in looking to fill out the final few available roster spots rather than give proven players extended playing time.

Still, it’s important to keep in mind that winning is generally not the primary goal of coaches in these games.

How a coach approaches these games and what areas he wants to focus upon can often lead to game plans and play calling that lead to wins.  In other words, winning is often a by-product of how teams approach these exhibition games rather than being a direct result of coaching intention.

Much of the information that can be useful in pointing towards one side or another – or to a play on the total – is generally not available until later in the week as this column is authored on Sunday night/Monday morning.

Most of the commentary in the game previews will, of necessity, be rather generic but will try to point out what to look for later in the week as coaches discuss the upcoming game.

In Sunday’s Hall of Fame game Dallas is a one point favorite in most books over Miami with the total at 34. LVH listed Miami as a 2-point favorite late Monday.

Both teams will have been in camp barely two weeks which seems like a short period of time to prepare for a game. But with so much activity occurring in the offseason, such as OTAs (Organized Team Activities) players come to training camp in better shape than in past years and with a greater familiarity with offensive and defensive philosophies if not game plans themselves.

There is some question as to whether Dallas starting QB Tony Romo will see even limited action after having off season surgery to remove a cyst from his back.  Most likely the Cowboys will work on developing backup depth at the position.

Miami QB Ryan Tannehill may see some action as the Dolphins look to assimilate ex-Steeler Mike Wallace into the offense as their top wide receiver.

It generally takes longer for an offense to find rhythm, especially in the passing game which takes precise timing between QB and receiver.  If the defense just stands around and the offense cannot execute its play, the defense wins. Thus we often see many games stay UNDER the Total in these early games.

To make a final point about the hazards of betting on preseason football it may do well to take a look at how you approach other sports.  Do you make any wagers on spring training baseball or on pre-season NBA games?

The concepts are the same.  And there are some professionals who do profit on those preseason games in other sports. But this is football and betting on football is indeed America’s pastime or at least Nevada’s.

Preferred pick: If you want to get in on the action right from the start you might consider both MIAMI / UNDER in the game that “kicks off” the 2013 season.

Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]

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