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Want to bet NFL preseason football? You most certainly can, unless, of course, you want to bet more than a dime ($1,000, that is). Sportsbooks have $1,000 limits on the preseason... but why?
Why would bookmakers have such low limits on "inconsequential" games, when they allow five-figure bets in the regular season? The answer is a mixed bag, with some straight-up fear likely added in.
Regardless of the reason, however, there is one thing for certain: the NFL preseason is a great opportunity to make money. The mainstream media will have you believe that if you bet the preseason, you have "an issue." When I started betting, I remember telling a friend that I was betting on the WNBA. He asked where I draw the line, and my answer was simple: "I will bet any time, on anything I can make money on." The NFL preseason is ripe for the picking, and if you are not willing to bet it because of perception, you are missing out on perhaps the only opportunity to bet on the NFL where you have a consistent advantage on the house. So what are the best processes and practices to bet the preseason?
In order to effectively bet the preseason, first throw out everything you think you know about the NFL. The best teams in the league may just be horrible bets in the preseason. The opposite may be true for the weakest teams. Follow these keys, and you are already greatly increasing your odds to make money.
Coaches lie, constantly. In the NFL's regular season, you should never believe what comes out of their mouths. The preseason, however, is a different story. Why, you ask? The answer is quite simple: coaches have no reason to lie when it comes to a meaningless game. They usually will tell you how long the quarterbacks are playing, how much time the second unit will see, or if they plan on sitting the starters entirely. Find the team's beat reporters on Twitter and set your notifications "on" for their Tweets so you can see live, legitimate reports as they are being tweeted. If you can get to that information before the sportsbooks do, then you could be in line for a profitable payday. Here are three handy, reliable and up to date lists for the upcoming 2022 season. Keep this in handy for your upcoming bets and fantasy drafts:
- ESPN Nation's Updated List of 2022 NFL Beat Reporters
- Adam Levitan's "Football Only" Twitter List (great source for those who also play DFS)
- The @32BeatWriters Twitter Account (another great source for compiled NFL beat reporters)
The first and most important concept to handicap is simply identifying the coach. If you have blindly bet on John Harbaugh and the Ravens moneyline the last 20 preseason games, for example, then you are now 20-0. They are also a remarkable 18-1-1 against the spread. There are coaches who simply value the preseason (and prioritizing winning) more than most others. An NFL preseason bettor could do a lot worse than simply backing the Ravens again in 2022. With that being said, you should make sure to bet on Baltimore at post (before the line inevitably moves) to increase your expected/closing line value.
All of my regular season handicapping starts with my power ratings. They are by far the most valuable piece of information I consider each week when starting to choose my best bets to make. Those same power ratings, however, are utterly meaningless when it comes to the preseason. Some of the NFL's best teams will be winless during these exhibition contests. Some of the worst teams will have the most success, because many of them have deeper rosters. Traditionally, it's the back end of a team's roster that gets the most playing time in the preseason, which makes regular season power ratings irrelevant.
Key numbers are extremely valuable in the regular season. A line moving a half point off of 3 is actually more important than moving from 4.5 to 6. Certainly, there is still considerable value in the traditional key numbers of 3 and 7, but the preseason key numbers also include 1 and 2. There's also an unwritten rule in the NFL that no preseason game should go to overtime for fear of additional injury risk. Teams that would typically tie the game with an extra point late in the regular season will go for a 2-point conversion in the preseason. This increases the likelihood of preseason games ending with a 1 or 2-point disparity. Shopping around for a reduced moneyline may be slightly more +EV than laying the points in these circumstances.
This one is simple: identify the teams that have motivation to win. For example, teams that have struggled the previous year in the regular season and teams that are winless in the preseason, etc - these are all potential betting opportunities. based on added motivation. Find the teams that are motivated and exploit the opportunity, especially if you can find one clearly motivated team vs. another that is "fat and happy."
Analyzing a team's quarterback situation can be a profitable endeavor as well. Identifying strong quarterback positions groups - and teams that have quarterback battles - are usually teams to back in the preseason. This is true especially in the first week of the preseason. Many coaches don’t even play their starting quarterbacks here, meaning that typical QB advantages for "good" regular season teams may be moot in the preseason. Backups tend to get more playing time because of this, which allows them to be significantly more influential on the outcome of a game. This notion is further enhanced when there is a quarterback competition at the #2 spot, as we mentioned above. QB depth matters in the preseason.
Identifying the style of backup quarterbacks can be fruitful when betting the preseason. Traditionally, 2nd and 3rd string QB's do not have the consistency or the continuity that the starters bring. Many players have only been there a short amount of time and some may still be learning the playbook. Because of all these factors, plays tend to break down in the preseason. Having a quarterback that can turn a negative into a positive with their legs - or ingenuity - can be advantageous. Mobile quarterbacks get a boost here.
Identifying cluster injuries in the regular season is typically an area that is not accounted for in the marketplace. This angle is magnified in the preseason, when teams no longer care about winning and risking further injuries to a depleted group. Regardless of position, look to fade teams with cluster injuries in the preseason. This is one of the few overlapping betting factors compared to betting the preseason vs. the regular season. Keeping a close eye to those beat reporter Tweets is helpful here.
Surely, the weather should be taken into consideration when betting on any outdoor sport. But this is even more true in the preseason. When there is inclement weather, teams overreact in these exhibition contests. After all, it is a meaningless game, right? This is a tremendous opportunity for unders to cash easily. The game no longer becomes about winning. It's now all about escaping unscathed and healthy.
Preseason NFL offenses are usually rudimentary and do not game plan for their opponents. Defenses typically play very conservatively as well. Every once in a while, however, a defensive coordinator will blitz the opposing quarterback(s) in a given exhibition contest. More often than not, the opponent's offensive line isn’t quite up for the task here either. It is definitely a profitable practice to read/listen to what the position coaches game plan will be each week of the preseason and back the teams that blitz.
HALL OF FAME GAME
The Hall of Fame Game has gone under in 7 of the last 9 years. Only 3 teams have scored more than 20 points during that time period and only one team trailing at halftime has come back to win in the last 13 contests. These teams play an extra exhibition game than other NFL squads, and this game takes place in the first week of August. Coaches simply do not game plan for this contest. I'm not even sure they know all the names of their players yet. They have one goal - to avoid injuries. This Thursday's Hall of Fame Game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Las Vegas Raiders is just another example of this situation.
1-0 vs 0-1
Perhaps the longest-running trend for the preseason is the 1-0 team versus the 0-1 team. We do not need to complicate things here, as the numbers speak for themself: blindly betting the winless team in week 2 of the preseason against an undefeated team is a winning bet over 60% of the time, since 1994.
TAKE IT ALL INTO CONSIDERATION
When deciding who to bet on in the preseason, do not rely on any one aspect for your handicap. Just because a team is 0-1 doesn’t always mean they will necessarily play to win the next game. Take all factors into consideration before betting, and if multiple factors begin to line up in your favor, you'll know it.
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