We're finally here. It's been 179 days since the Super Bowl, but we've arrived. There is an NFL football game tonight. This is sure to be a terrible, sloppy, nearly star-free, garbage-dump exhibition game.
I couldn't be more excited.
Besides being incredibly high on both the Ravens and Bears for the upcoming year, I'm just glad to finally have my favorite sport being played live for me to enjoy. In addition to being excited to watch football, I'm obviously also very excited to start betting on it again. The preseason is a bit of a mine field but, I think there are some ways to attack it if you have the time, the know-how and the motivation.
If there were some simple formula to crack sports betting, sportsbooks would probably be out of business. The fact of the matter is that people who are successful are the ones who take the time and put in the work. It’s not that dissimilar from any endeavor, the cream will rise to the top and hard work pays off. The NFL preseason is very, very different from the regular season in a multitude of ways, but this isn’t one of them. If you want to find an edge and make wagers that you feel have an advantage, you need to put in some effort and go hunt down those edges.
I don’t make many wagers on the preseason, and usually if I find something I like it’s completely by accident as I’m just spinning through training camp news getting ready for the real deal. That said, I’ve put together a list of things I have seen over the years and even a fact or two to back it up.
1. There are some coaches who want to win more than others. This is widely known and probably built into the lines, but it’s still worth noting. Mike Zimmer, Pete Carroll and John Harbaugh are a combined 64-25 straight up in the preseason, which is not a reason to blindly start betting heavy moneylines, but it is certainly something to think about, especially if you are looking to possibly oppose one of their teams. I’ve included a handy link to a nice table with every coaches preseason records here.
2. Do your homework. Information is power! Setting aside late season cases where a team might be resting starters for one reason or another, most regular season games have a similar narrative: both teams would like to win. This isn’t always the case in the preseason, and finding out as much as you can about a team’s game plan is huge. So read team websites, follow beat writers on Twitter, watch press conference videos, do whatever it takes to glean a little bit of useful information! As noted, this is a whole different ballgame and should be treated as such, so I usually am looking for any info getting dropped regarding if certain players will play, for how long, and if there is something that the team will be working on trying to improve.
3. Know the Quarterback dynamics. A good old fashioned QB battle can breed motivation for both parties. A team with two motivated field generals can be a nice advantage versus, say, a team with a firmly entrenched starter that’s just out there to get some reps and build some chemistry with new players. Knowing who’s playing how many series’ and with which units can be very valuable information when breaking down an exhibition game. Additionally, look for teams with good backups or possibly even accomplished offensive coordinators/QB coaches.
4. Change your betting up a bit. Nothing is ever very certain or predictable in sports betting, and that variance shoots way up when you are dealing with guys that certainly know they don’t have much of a shot to make the roster. Later in the 2nd half of a game can be an enormous crapshoot with “camp bodies” playing against each other. If you really like a team’s starters vs another teams starters, maybe you should find a first half spread or moneyline instead of the full game bet. No sense handicapping something perfectly and then letting some guys that will be selling used cars this time next week ruin it for you late in the game.
5. Totals will be lower, don’t go nuts on the over bets. This could probably be said about most of what is in this article, but, if you know something about a game, it is almost a certainty that the bookmaker also knows it and knew it long before you did. The totals are set where they should be as the offenses are still trying to gel as a unit again and sloppy play favors the defense. You will see totals around five points lower on average when compared to the regular season, don't let it get in your head.
6. Don’t forget the basics. Use what you normally do in the regular season if it fits the situation. While most motivational angles can be tossed out the window, there are still situations a team will be thrown into that can affect them one way or the other. A team traveling from the West coast to the East coast to play an early game is still at a disadvantage. Many situational angles will still fit the mold, even in the preseason.
7. Have some goddamn fun. I don’t know you, but I’m guessing you’re not a professional sports bettor. It’s been a while since you laid money on football, and you deserve to toss a little bit down on a dart throw in a coin flip of a game. If the possibility of losing a few bucks doesn’t scare you, then tease the damn total down or lay that -200 moneyline. Get some of that shit out of your system before we get to September.
All that said, good luck on your degenerate journey into the next five weeks and welcome back NFL!
(I'll be on Lamar Jackson 1st half moneyline -130 for the cost of some beers and Pho.)
*Update* Baltimore 1H ML is a winner! Just like that I'm undefeated in NFLx!
Thursday night 12 pack of games has me pumped also: