A lot of people think that betting any preseason game is a waste of time. I don’t think that is the case at all. In fact, I see it as an opportunity to build your bankroll.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you should be investing a large chunk of your bankroll on these games. However, there’s nothing wrong with a little action if you are making smart wagers.
That’s the entire purpose of this article. To help you better understand what you should be looking for when handicapping these so-called meaningless games.
Betting Basics & Understanding the NFL Preseason Odds
The basics of betting pro football are the same for preseason. That’s where people get mixed up. Amateurs often make their wagers using the same techniques they use for handicapping the NFL. That’s a recipe for disaster.
You don’t want to be treating the preseason NFL odds like you would a regular season matchup. It’s the only time where a loss isn’t considered the end of the world. A teams win/loss record means nothing.
As far as the betting lines are concerned, its the same format you see with any football game. The one big difference is you will rarely see any big favorites. Most games are set at a field goal or less with the exception of a few.
Expert Handicapping Tips: How to Profit Against the Spread
#1 – Focus on Quarterbacks, Depth Chart, & Injuries
This is the biggest factor I look for when making my NFL picks. Unlike the regular-season where you can focus only on the starters and a few reserves, you need to get familiar with the entire depth chart.
No secret that the most important position to look at is the quarterback. It’s often more about the No. 2 and No. 3 signal callers than the starter.
An experienced backup or talented youngster are ideal for these games. They are more than capable of carving up the 2nd and 3rd string defenses of the opposing team. Finding an edge here will often lead to success.
Another position I like to focus on is the big boys in the trenches. It doesn’t matter who the backup QB is, if the 2nd string o-line is weak and facing a team with a lot of depth on the d-line.
You also need to be very cautious backing teams with a lot of injuries. The focus of these teams quickly goes to avoiding any more guys going down. They will play extremely conservative and get their key players off the field earlier than normal.
#2 Try to Get an Idea of How Long Starters Will Play
Every head coach has his own theories and strategies for playing time in these games. With that said, there’s a basic game plan that a lot of teams use.
First game the starters will maybe play one drive. The second week you might see them play the entire 1st quarter or even the 1st half.
Third week they almost always play the entire first half and at least one drive to start the 3rd quarter. Closest thing to a regular season game. After that most teams rest all of their key players in Week 4.
You can get a really good idea on playing time by looking at the trends from previous seasons. That is as long as there hasn’t been a head coaching change.
A better strategy is to listen to the coaches press conferences. They will often tell you how long they plan on playing the starters or splitting up QB reps.
#3 – Motivation
Any kind of motivation in these games can be the deciding factor in who covers. There are three things that I like to look for when it comes to motivation.
There’s all different forms of motivation. Here are a few things I like to look for.
Key Position Battles – This is strongest when you have two guys competing for the starting QB spot.
New Head Coaches – New coaches have the most evaluating to do. They also want to set a tone for both the upcoming season and get the fan base excited.
Young Teams – Teams that don’t have a lot of veterans will often take these games a little more seriously.
Bad Teams From Previous Season – Clubs that didn’t live up to expectations the previous year could come out with a chip on their shoulder.
#4 Every Week is Different
This kind of goes hand-and-hand with playing time and how each week it’s different. I just want to touch on it a little more.
Just because a team is a good bet in Week 1 doesn’t mean they will be a good bet in Week 2. So much can change from game-to-game that you have to start fresh each week.
It might not seem like a big factor, but scheduling can definitely play a role. You will often have multiple games on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Some where a long the lines, one team is going to have more time to prepare. You also have to factor in how traveling can negatively impact a team. Especially if they have to play their first two on the road.
Another key thing with scheduling is the prime time games that get hyped up by the networks. These are going to be some of your more popular bet games.
Be sure to take into consideration that these lines will often be inflated on the public side of things. I’ve provided a full list for this year below.
2017 NFL Preseason Football TV Schedule
Hall of Fame Game
- 8/3 – Cowboys vs. Cardinals (NBC, 8:00 PM)
- 8/17 – Buccaneers at Jaguars (ESPN, 8:00 PM)
- 8/21 – Giants at Browns (ESPN, 8:00 PM)
- 8/25 – Chiefs at Seahawks (CBS, 8:00 PM)
- 8/26 – Chargers at Rams (CBS, 8:00 PM)
- 8/27 – Bears at Titans (FOX, 1:00 PM)
- 8/27 – Bengals at Redskins (FOX, 4:30 PM)
- 8/27 – 49ers at Vikings (NBC, 8:00 PM)
*All Times EST
Check out our other handicapping guides to learn how to beat the lines in other sports: