How to Bet NFL Preseason Spreads

Jason Lake

Thursday, July 9, 2015 12:02 AM UTC

Thursday, Jul. 9, 2015 12:02 AM UTC

There's plenty of money to be made betting on preseason football. It's just a question of paying attention to the right things when you're making your NFL picks.

Hopefully by now you've read our article about betting on preseason NFL totals. Now we look at the point spread. Formerly the be-all and end-all of NFL picks, the spread is still king, but totals and props have taken up an increasingly large part of the marketplace. Too bad, because the spread is where recreational bettors make their most reliable mistakes – and that goes double for preseason games.


Pictures at an Exhibition
As we mentioned in our discussion on NFL totals, the key to betting on preseason games is that they're not 100-percent competitive. This goes beyond the obvious fact that the games don't count in the standings. Their purpose is to act as a rehearsal for the regular season, so rather than actively trying to win, the coaches and players are focused on development while minimizing risk of injury.

This doesn't mean that winning is nothing. Some coaches like to foster a winning attitude by taking these exhibition games a little more seriously. They might leave their more talented players in a little longer, or draw up a few more immediately competitive plays rather than try something new. This will naturally lead to more victories.

You'll also find coaches who are just particularly good at running a training camp that happens to produce results during the preseason. They develop their players better and faster, using superior training methods, and/or they have the kind of personality and communication skills that lead to success. It's during the preseason, when coaches have the most control over the situation, that their systems are most likely to generate consistent profits – or losses.


Now You Has Mass Motivation
With that in mind, we turn our attention once again to the career preseason ATS records for the 32 gentlemen who will be under the headset this August. Most of these coaches will have records that gravitate even more closely to .500 than they will during the regular season, but there are a few outliers worth considering.


High: Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks (25-11-1 ATS)
Medium: Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints (19-12-2 ATS)
Low: Ken Whisenhunt, Tennessee Titans (9-19-1 ATS)
Cover Your Eyes: Joe Philbin, Miami Dolphins (2-10 ATS)


Of course, it's easy to say in hindsight that Carroll and Payton should have a leg up on the competition – they've built the Seahawks and Saints into powerful programs loaded with talented players, whereas Whisenhunt and Philbin haven't even established themselves as viable head coaches, let alone fully turned their teams' fortunes around. All we're saying is that preseason football is the place where their past performance is most likely to translate to future results.


B.D. for President
Beyond the coaches themselves, there are two or three men on each team who will play significant roles in determining who covers and who doesn't this August: the back-up quarterbacks. When we're making our football picks during the regular season and playoffs, we'll naturally focus on the starting quarterbacks, since their performance dictates to a large degree how well their teams will do. In exhibition play, we have to look at all the quarterbacks.

No problem. This is a healthy exercise, both for now and for when September rolls around. Recreational bettors don't pay much attention to back-up quarterbacks, so the more we know about them (and the more they play), the bigger our profit margins. And when the starters get injured during the regular season, we can carry that knowledge and that profit margin forward.

With that in mind, here are three of last year's top exhibition QBs to consider when you make your preseason football picks. And may the prolate spheroid be with you.


Drew Stanton, Arizona Cardinals (27-for-38, 125.0 passer rating)
Scott Tolzien, Green Bay Packers (38-for-56, 112.0 passer rating)
Colt McCoy, Washington Redskins (32-for-44, 111.6 passer rating)

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