How NFL coaches will approach preseason is everything
August 01, 2017 3:00 AM
by Jim Feist
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, as wins aren’t 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. Here are some things to keep in mind when watching preseason football.
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 the second game, the first half and into the third quarter in the third game, and then very little in the fourth. Keeping starters healthy while getting them some competition against the opponents’ first stringers are the obvious reasons.
Coaches will often use “vanilla” game plans, working on short passes and running plays. This is why preseason totals are lower than the regular season. Last year the NFL Hall of Fame game was cancelled (Colts/Packers), but the previous season the Giants topped the Bills, 17-13. QB Eli Manning threw only seven passes and the five other QBs in the game were named Nassib, Painter, Tuel, Lewis and Manuel – no future Hall of Fame signal callers in that group!
Three years ago in the first preseason game the high-powered Broncos offense played the 49ers, but the final score sailed UNDER the total in a 10-6 Denver win. Four years ago the high-powered Saints played the Cardinals and the total was 34. It sailed UNDER in a 17-10 New Orleans win with four turnovers as the teams combined to go 9-of-28 on third down.
If the game had been during the regular season, the total would have been closer to 44. In fact, when the Saints did open the regular season the total was 50 against Washington and their lowest total all year was 49. In the third preseason game, starters are projected to play the most. Working on basic plays and keeping things simple are often the case for the first two weeks of preseason.
While a big edge when games count in the post and regular seasons, it can be less important in preseason, especially in Week 4, the most meaningless of games where coaches are more focused on the opener the following week. Last year the home team was 8-8 SU, 6-10 ATS in Week 4. The last three preseasons the home team is 24-23 SU, 18-27-2 ATS.
Keeping tabs daily on what local beat writers are commenting on is important. 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” or “Our starters will play two series just to get their feet wet.” These tidbits are key and a successful sports bettor knows how to evaluate coaching comments and 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 the starters would play the entire three quarters. The line jumped from Atlanta as a 2-point favorite all the way to 5, and went off at 6 by kickoff. Sharp bettors wasted no time in hammering the Falcons, who won and covered the game easily, all because of the extensive game plan (and anger) revealed by the coach.
This 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? The Ravens in 2000 with Trent Dilfer and Chicago’s Rex Grossman. Last February’s Super Bowl pitted two of the best in the game, Matt Ryan and Tom Brady.
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 important to carefully evaluate the No. 2 and 3 QBs as they often play as much as the starter or more. A team with a great starter expected to play just two series, with a rookie or poor backup QBs playing most of the game can be at a disadvantage.
Some are more demanding in preseason, while others are more laid back. Notice that Bill Belichick is 45-32 SU, 42-31-2 ATS all time in preseason. A year ago in preseason the Pats won their first three preseason games but packed it in for Week 4, losing 17-9 at the Giants, getting outscored 14-3 in the second half with rookie QB Jacoby Brissett getting sacked three times.