Are you ready for some football? The NFL’s preseason schedule begins Thursday. While the games mean absolutely nothing, they are going to take solid betting action. Here’s some advice.
The 2017 NFL preseason schedule opens Thursday night from Canton, Ohio, with the annual Hall of Fame Game, this year featuring the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals -- thus they will be the only two teams to play five preseason games. The Hall of Fame Game had been held on Sundays but was moved this year partly because of the PR nightmare in 2016 when Colts-Packers was canceled because the field was a disaster. The short turnaround time between the Saturday night enshrinement and the Sunday game played a major role in that. Now the game will be the first event of induction weekend instead of the last.
If I’m being honest, I don’t touch preseason games, but an average NFL exhibition game draws more betting action at SBR’s top-rated sportsbooks than most MLB regular-season matchups. History has shown it doesn’t matter whether a team goes unbeaten or winless in the exhibition schedule in terms of how said team will fare in the regular season. For example, the 2008 Detroit Lions were a preseason juggernaut, if such a thing exists, going 4-0 and outscoring their opponents by 48 points.
The Lions were the only team with a zero in the loss column that year and the point differential was No. 1 in the league. Then when the games counted, the Lions were Motor City Kitties. They became the only team in NFL history to finish 0-16 and were outscored by a whopping 249 points.
Thus don’t go betting NFL futures on how a team fares in the preseason, being my point. The most important thing in exhibition games is to keep starters healthy.
Look For QB Battles, Coaching Trends
So what should you focus on in games where the spread is usually 3 points or fewer? I say two things: teams/players who have a reason to compete and a head coach’s track record. On the former, I specifically mean teams that have a quarterback battle and thus might play two starting-caliber QBs for longer than usual in exhibition games.
Team No. 1 on that list this preseason would be the Denver Broncos as first-year head coach Vance Joseph says there’s an open competition between incumbent starter Trevor Siemian and 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch. Joseph hopes to have a winner by the third preseason game. Other teams that have quarterback battles, presumably, would be Houston (Tom Savage, rookie Deshaun Watson), Cleveland (Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler, DeShone Kizer) and NY Jets (three bums).
While we don’t know how seriously the Broncos’ Joseph will take the preseason, some coaches like to win and build momentum while others could care less. The Seahawks have gone 18-10 under Pete Carroll in the exhibition season and not finished with a losing record since 2010. Baltimore is 24-12 under John Harbaugh (although the Ravens now might not have starting QB Joe Flacco for at least the first preseason game due to injury). But the king of the preseason is Mike Zimmer as his Vikings teams are 12-1 (10-2 ATS).
Coaches you might want to wager against are Cleveland’s Hue Jackson (0-8 SU & ATS with Raiders and Browns), so balance his record against the Browns’ QB situation, Dallas’ Jason Garrett (9-16) and Indianapolis’ Chuck Pagano (7-13). With Colts star QB Andrew Luck starting the preseason on the PUP list off shoulder surgery, Indianapolis could be the No. 1 team to fade in August as Luck might not play an exhibition down.