For years I never followed NFL preseason football in the month of August. I thought it was a waste of time and absolutely had nothing to do with the regular season. The latter point is still true, just not the first one. Over the last decade-plus I made more money in the preseason then I would have guessed betting football. The beauty of exhibition games (The NFL hates that term) is their simplicity. I have been very fortunate to honestly hit a monitored 59.5 percent (78-53 ATS) of these plays since 2003 and now will share with you how it happens.
Please understand, in hitting a percentage like this, you have to be very selective and really choose your spots. I have made a grand total of 131 plays in 13 seasons, which is 10 per August. This can be a challenge for those eager to get started and end up creating a significant hole before the regular season actually starts.
Just like in the regular season, it is important to know your teams. I am not talking about reading hours of information about every given team, rather to know the coaches and the tendencies of the teams. Coaching blunders and superior game plans can alter the outcomes of contests during the regular season. A missed tackle by the opposition or unexpected turnovers can change the final score, no matter what a coach does. In the preseason, a coach can directly impact the scoreboard by substitution patterns and what his goal is for the team beforehand.
Throughout the internet is interesting fact-based cold data, available for you to learn from. For example, two NFL teams have shown they could care less about winning in the preseason, instead, they are more interested in building the team and having it ready for the start of the regular season and often you can find out exactly what the game plan is by going to team websites. The squads that match the criteria are Dallas (21-37 ATS) and Kansas City (17-34 ATS), who are money-burners as favorites over an extended period of time.
Week 1 – Know your Coaches
This is extremely important if you have a desire to have extra money BEFORE the regular season starts. Be assured, all the oddsmakers know the numbers, it is your duty as well if you expect to profit. In the years since John Harbaugh has been the head coach at Baltimore, he’s placed a priority on the Ravens playing well early and they are 8-1 against the spread.
Another important factor is first-year coaches. This year we have seven new taskmasters and guys like Hue Jackson (Browns), Adam Dase (Dolphins), Ben McAdoo (Giants), Doug Pederson (Eagles), Chip Kelly (49ers), Dirk Koetter (Buccaneers) and Mike Mularkey (Titans). Each will want to establish how they will be running their programs.
After going through grueling training camps, each will want to prove to his players that the work has been worth the trouble. Nothing pays off like winning. Historically, these coaches can bring a nice profit in contests where they don’t meet one another. Undoubtedly, these generals will want to bring in their type of players and it will be reminiscent of what legendary baseball manager Casey Stengel once said, “We’ll win soon, just not with these players.”
One last area to consider is coaches in peril. These fellows know their jobs are in jeopardy and have to deliver wins, even if it has to start in August. Among those that could be a good bet this month are Mike McCoy (San Diego), Sean Payton (New Orleans), Jeff Fisher (Los Angeles), Gus Bradley (Jacksonville) and Chuck Pagone (Indianapolis). Each have the wolves howling at their door and early wins and a good camp would quell the noise, at least for the time being.
Week 2 – Be Ready to Pounce
This is one of the two weeks football betting strategists can really take advantage of the lines and make large profits at sports betting outlets. The most important factors this week are prior performance and motivation. These are largely tied together and you can take advantage of them.
In 2013, Mike McCarthy’s Green Bay squad was not ready for their first preseason contest and was shutout by Arizona 17-0 at Lambeau Field. This did not sit well with the veteran coach and the coaching staff and the Packers players were put through the paces. Training camp is hard enough and the last thing any player wants this month is coaches hollering and screaming about effort. Green Bay players responded positively and systematically took St. Louis apart 19-7 as four-point road underdogs a week later.
Week 3 –Dress Rehearsal
This is the most important week of NFL preseason football, at least for coaches to get a real sense of where the team is and if they are on schedule. Starters will play about two-thirds of the game and a semblance of a game plan will be implemented. Many of the same principles still apply about motivation, with a few variations of note.
The coaches and players place additional importance on this week, thus giving a good showing does matter. In the preseason, situational handicapping has relevance, especially for teams losing by 10 or more points the week before. This is noteworthy, with back-ups playing and the games being fairly evenly matched. Once again, coaches will create further accountability through motivational and psychological tactics.
How you profit from this is maybe the coach feels the team is coming along too fast and wants to dial it back. We all know head coaches are control freaks. They want to build you up to tear you down and vice versa. As mentioned in the preseason, these maniacal masters love to put the team thru grueling practices after a weak effort. Others might feel the club is peeking too early and let them slack a bit after an exceptional performance, while closely monitoring they don’t lose their edge. This is part of the other aspect of analyzing situations, teams off blowout wins or losses.
This is where knowing the personality of a head coach is so important. When Mike Holmgren was coaching, he was famous for taking his team on an emotional rollercoaster in August, never letting them feel too good or bad about themselves
Week 4 – Pick your spots and be ready for the regular season
The last week of the preseason is nothing more than final preparation for most teams trying only to avoid injury and making final cuts. Be cautious with your plays the last week. If you are having a winning preseason, a game or two that you really are sure of is worth the risk. If you are having an ordinary or below average time in picking winners before the start of the regular season, save your money for what you care about, real NFL football. This is what you have been looking forward to anyways.
Take the time to review the box scores. Do not do this for the traditional reasons as you might believe. Looking at stats and trying to figure out your fantasy team has nothing to do with the preseason games. What this is for is future reference. This can lead to insights about any team’s depth. Every NFL squad is going to have injuries. By reviewing the box scores this time of year, you might find a team that has built up a 17-0 or 20-3 leads with the first-team players in two different games and ends up losing both contests in the second half. This could be a red flag when this club has injuries during the regular season, when the drop off could be precipitous. Most importantly, don’t overanalyze, follow the coaches of the 32 teams and have fun.