NFL preseason betting tools

By: Oscar Mattingly | Tuesday, August 25, 2009

NFL tackle

Some may joke that gambling on preseason football is for the truly obsessive gambler. But the reality is that it’s time for the truly smart gambler.

It may take a little extra digging, but there is more valuable information out there when it comes to preseason football. In August, coach-speak isn’t just cliché-filled doubletalk. It is, generally, the truth. Game plans aren’t guarded like state secrets. Instead, they are as accessible as European healthcare.

There is no need to guess if an injured player is going to play. If a veteran has a hangnail, he’s taking the day off.
There are several keys to handicapping in the preseason, but the most important center around coaches and quarterbacks.

CHECK THE COACHES

Winning – and covering the spread – in the preseason isn’t about talent and game plans as much as it is about mindset. Some coaches want to set the tone for the regular season, while others want to get to the regular season in one piece.
Among veteran coaches, history shows Bill Belichick (31-23-2 against the spread coming into 2009), John Fox (16-11-1), Jeff Fisher (30-23-2) and Jack Del Rio (16-8) are solid bets, while Mike McCarthy (4-8), Lovie Smith (8-11-2) and Dick Jauron (14-17-1) aren’t.

Since veteran coaches are more secure in themselves and their teams, winning isn’t paramount. But new coaches want to prove themselves. And no coach – or team – has more to prove than Jim Schwartz and the Detroit Lions. Coming off last season’s 0-16 debacle, the Lions need to learn how to win.

It was a strategy that worked wonders last preseason when Tony Sparano led the seemingly woeful Miami Dolphins to a 3-1 mark (both SU and ATS) and carried it over to a surprising 11-5 mark and a division title. No one is saying the Lions have that in their future, but they are certainly going to give it their all in August.

LISTEN TO THE COACHES

Once Labor Day arrives, coaches become tighter-lipped than an old KGB agent. Watch, even Rex Ryan will bite his tongue once in a while. But for now, they’re open with their game plans. And they’re sure to talk about their mindset – win the game, or work on the fundamentals.
Read some local papers and you are sure to find out how long the first team will be on the field. Find a team that will have its starters playing into the second half against a team that goes two series and out, and you have yourself a good bet. And finding out the quarterback rotation is paramount, which leads us to the next point.

CHECK THE BACKUPS

You might know what you’re going to get out of Donovan McNabb, Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer. But what happens when they come out. Most preseason games are decided by the second and third-string signal callers. So while the Raiders might be at a disadvantage with starter JaMarcus Russell in the game, they’re likely to have an edge when veteran Jeff Garcia is facing a defense filled with rookie free agents.

Other teams with strong backups include the Vikings, with Sage Rosenfels and the maligned Tarvaris Jackson. The Lions, with Daunte Culpepper, and the Redskins, with Todd Collins, also possess strong backups.

Notice all of those teams have issues with the starter. Brett Favre is going to take a while to get up to speed, which would scare you in the regular season. But August is a different story.

ODDS AND ENDS

Also keep an eye on the schedule. In August, it’s not unusual to find a team playing with only four days off against a team on a nine or 10-day layoff.  And you can find teams that have played an extra game, which also can help.
Pay attention to the betting line. Most preseason games have a two or three-point spread, but don’t be seduced by the occasional big favorite. Since 1983, teams favored by seven points or more are 39-60 ATS.

 
 
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