There’s a misconception out there that betting on preseason NFL football is not a good idea. The belief is that only degenerates wager on exhibition games.
While degenerates do in fact bet on preseason games, they aren’t the only ones. Expert handicappers like myself are more than willing to get in on the action. Simply put, there’s money to be made if you know how to attack the action.
The biggest reason that amateur players don’t profit when they try to pick the preseason, is they don’t put in the work/time to make smart wagers. They also rely way too much on there perception of what a team will look like in Week 1.
The truth is there’s no correlation with the regular-season. There’s no better example of that than the Cleveland Brown in 2017. The Browns went 4-0 in the preseason and followed that up by going 0-16. That same year the Patriots were 1-3 in the preseason and played in the Super Bowl.
You have to handicap the preseason completely different than you do the regular-season. While experience helps, the biggest key is taking the time to evaluate all the factors that come into play. It’s definitely time consuming, but the information is out there for everyone to take advantage of.
For those of you who bet on the NFLX or are thinking about starting, I’ve listed some of the top factors that I look at when I’m handicapping all the preseason action.
Betting Basics & Understanding the NFL Preseason Odds
The basics of betting pro football are the same for preseason. You are making the exact same kind of wagers with the money line spread and total.
One of the biggest differences is the preseason odds are usually right around a field goal, give or take a few points. Rarely will you see a team favored by a touchdown or more.
You also aren’t going to see a ton of line movement. There’s not near the handle of a regular-season game and there’s often much lower limits on how much you can bet.
Expert Handicapping Tips: How to Profit Against the Spread
#1 – Focus on Depth Chart – Quarterbacks
This is the biggest factor I look for when making my preseason 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. Not so much the starter, but who the team has coming off the bench. A lot of preseason games are decided by the No. 3 and even No. 4 quarterbacks. Teams who have an assortment of talented quarterbacks will end up winning a lot more than a team who just has a couple good guys at the top of the depth chart.
While quarterback is the No. 1 priority when looking at a specific position, you also want to factor in the overall depth of a team. There’s a lot of teams who just don’t have a lot of talent past the starters. These teams will struggle to be competitive no matter who they have behind center.
The ideal scenario would be to back teams with a strong quarterback situation, who also have a history of developing their young talent and are at least in year two under the current offensive/defense coordinators.
Teams who have a lot of backups that have been around and know the schemes will have an edge over a team that is overhauling their roster or learning new schemes.
#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 or two drives (will sometimes be a set number of plays). 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. The exception being a young roster that has a lot of star players. It doesn’t matter how long a player has been in the league. Coaches aren’t going to risk getting their star players hurt any more than they have to.
- Bad Teams From Previous Season – Clubs that didn’t live up to expectations the previous year will often come out with a chip on their shoulder and put a much bigger focus on winning these games.
#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 from scratch 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.
There are going to be times when, a team has more time to prepare/practice than their opponent. 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.
2018 NFL Preseason Football TV Schedule
Hall of Fame Game
- 8/2 – Bears vs Ravens (NBC, 8:00 PM)
- 8/16 – Jets @ Redskins (ESPN, 8:00 PM)
- 8/20 – Ravens @ Colts (ESPN, 8:00 PM)
- 8/23 – Eagles @ Browns (FOX, 8:00 PM)
- 8/24 – Lions @ Buccaneers (CBS, 8:00 PM)
- 8/25 – Saints @ Chargers (CBS, 1:00 PM)
- 8/26 – Bengals @ Bills (FOX, 4:30 PM)
- 8/26 – Cardinals @ Cowboys (NBC, 8:00 PM)
*All Times EST
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