NFL Betting: 2013 Preseason Betting Guide

LT Profits Sports Group

Friday, August 2, 2013 4:00 AM GMT

People that refuse to bet the NFL preseason are missing out on some rather easy profit potential. Here is a week by week breakdown of NFL trends over the past 13 preseasons, as well as general overviews.

Many bettors both professional and novice alike stay away from betting on the NFL preseason, but we are in the vast minority in that this is actually our favorite time of year to make NFL picks.

After all, in no other time of the year in any other sport do head coaches reveal player rotations and game plans beforehand and then stick to them for the most part. And yet, people still refuse to bet on these exhibition games, not realizing they are missing out on some great opportunities that simply do not present themselves during the NFL regular season, which has the sharpest lines of any North American sport.

Even before looking at hard numbers, it has become very easy in this day and age to get an idea of each team’s intentions or game plans each week of preseason by simply keeping up with team websites, and there are many sites available with pretty accurate quarterback rotations, and that alone can give you an edge over novices that treat preseason games as if they were regular season games, which is the biggest mistake imaginable.
,
You will find some coaches like to win these games and some that like to work on their team’s perceived weaknesses, and knowing which is which can lead to a very profitable month of August for the shrewd preseason investor. We will give you four of the most successful preseason coaches in the game today that should be expected to do well again this season, and we will also give you week-specific trends from the last 13 preseasons since 2000.

Week-specific trends are important in the NFL Preseason because each week has its own characteristics, meaning that many of these trends are not coincidences. Please note that all ATS records are based on the closing odds from Pinnacle Sports for all preseason games since 2000.

Overview
The four aforementioned coaches that should be followed the entire preseason are Mike Shanahan of the Washington Redskins, Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers, John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens and Jim Schwartz of the Detroit Lions.

Shanahan easily has the most career preseason wins of any active head coach, as he improved to 49-23 straight up with the Denver Broncos and the Redskins combined after Washington went 3-1 last preseason. More importantly from a betting perspective, his teams are 30-18-1, 62.5 percent against the spread since 2000.

Tomlin is 19-6 straight up in preseason since taking over as head coach of the Steelers in 2007 after also going 3-1 last season, and something else that stands out about Tomlin is that he is a perfect 6-0 straight up in Week 4 of preseason, a week when most coaches do not allow their starters to see the field in an attempt to keep them healthy for the regular season opener the following week.

Harbaugh is 13-7 straight up as coach of the Super Bowl Champion Ravens, and that record has improved to 12-4 straight up and 10-6, 62.5 percent ATS over the last four years. As for Schwartz, he wanted to install a winning attitude for his formerly hapless Lions in preseason, so he is 12-4 SU and 11-5, 68.8 percent ATS since taking over in 2008, and a winning preseason may be more important than ever this year after a terribly disappointing regular season last year.

Looking now at overall ATS trends, the underdogs are 439-366-28, 54.5 percent ATS in all preseason games since 2000, and if you disregard Week 3, the underdogs are 338-272-21, 55.4 percent all other weeks. That makes perfect sense because Week 3 is when the starters usually play the longest and thus it is the week that most closely resembles the regular season, giving favorites a better chance at covering.

Another winning angle that works throughout the preseason is following underdogs coming off of a straight up loss. Remember that that these games are more about motivation than anything else, and teams coming off losses oftentimes would like to win their next game just to feel better about themselves, especially as underdogs. These underdogs are 153-124-12, 55.2 percent ATS, including a nice 99-60-7, 62.3 percent ATS vs. favorites coming off a win!

Now looking at totals, believe it or not the ‘overs’ and ‘unders’ are dead even at 416-416-10 since the 2000 Preseason, but as you will see once we get to our trends for each specific week, each one has a noticable total pattern. Before getting to those, here is the average combined score per week since 2000:

HOF Game + Pre-Week 1 – 35.7
Pre-Week 2 – 37.7
Pre-Week 3 – 39.5
Pre-Week 4 – 37.3

Note that we combined the Hall of Fame Game and Week 1 as one week, but what should be more obvious is that there is a direct correlation between the scoring averages and the playing time of the starters. Games are lowest scoring in Week 1 when teams are in the evaluation stage and constantly players in and out, then the scoring increases over the next two weeks peaking in Week 3 when starters play the longest before dropping in Week 4 when most of the starters sit.

As you will see, these weekly averages become critical when evaluating weekly ‘over’ and/or ‘under’ selections.

And now without further ado, let us move on to the trends for each specific week since 2000.

Hall of Fame Week plus Preseason Week 1
As mentioned, we combined the Hall of Fame Game and Week 1 as one week, and as you might expect, this is generally the sloppiest week of the preseason with so many different players receiving playing time. The knee-jerk reaction here is that the underdogs would have an edge with these games being virtual toss-ups, and that reaction would be correct.

All HOF and Week 1 underdogs are 117-95-11, 55.2 percent ATS, and if you are lucky enough to find underdogs of +3½ or more, they are 34-24, 58.6 percent ATS in Week 1. However, those are becoming a rare breed as only three opening games the last two preseasons had lines higher than +3 at Pinnacle, although the underdogs did cooperate going 2-1 ATS.

As for head coaches, aside from the four aforementioned coaches that are always worth following, some other notables for Week 1 are that Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots like to get off to fast starts, as they are 10-4 straight up and a fat 9-3-2 ATS in Week 1 since 2000, while Rex Ryan is just 0-4 both straight up and ATS as coach of the New York Jets.

As for totals, remember that 35.7-point scoring average for Week 1? Well, in games with posted totals of greater than 35½, the ‘under’ is a lucrative 42-21-1, 66.7 percent! Meanwhile, in games with posted totals of 35½ or less, the ‘over’ is 73-66-2, 53.0 percent.

Preseason Week 2
Week 2 of preseason is our favorite week of the year as it is the week with the most profit potential. There are many Week 2 ATS angles that have been profitable over the last 13 preseasons, and just about all of them are inversely correlated to a team’s Week1 result.

For starters, all Week 2 teams coming off of a straight up loss are 118-84-3, 58.4 percent ATS, while those coming off of a win are 86-120-1 for a 58.3 percent ATS fade!

Breaking down Week 2 teams off of a loss more, road teams are 58-36-1, 61.7 percent ATS and underdogs off a loss are an unbelievable 67-27-2, 71.3 percent ATS! Breaking down Week 2 teams off a win, home teams are 38-58 ATS for a 60.4 percent fade and favorites off a win are 37-60-1 ATS for a 61.9 percent fade. Finally, any team off of a loss facing any team off of a win is 67-37-1, 64.4 percent ATS.

Looking at Week 2 coaching tendencies, Jeff Fisher is 10-5 straight up and 9-6 ATS combining his work currently with the St. Louis Rams and previously with the Tennessee Titans, while Mike Smith is just 1-4 straight up (2-3 ATS) in Week 2 as coach of the Atlanta Falcons.

Week 2 has not been a good week to play totals for the most part over the last 13 years as the ‘over’ is 105-97 overall with no real subsets that stand out.

Preseason Week 3
Week 3 is as close as we get to a “normal” week during preseason as this is the week teams have their dress rehearsals for the regular season by playing their starters the longest. This, this is the week where scoring is at its highest and the favorites have done best, or at least the smaller ones.

Week 3 favorites of -3 or less are have been the best subset at 56-42-7, 51.1 percent ATS, but when the line has closed at 3½ or more, underdogs have continued to bark going 59-38, 60.8 percent ATS.

Some notable Week 3 coaching trends are that Sean Payton, who is back on the sideline of the New Orleans Saints after serving a one-year suspension, is 6-1 both straight up and ATS, while Tom Coughlin is just 2-7 straight up and 2-6-1 ATS in Week 3 as coach of the New York Giants.

Week 3 games are averaging 39.5 points, and this highest scoring week of preseason is actually unique from a total standpoint in that you actually want games with posted totals of 39 or more, as the ‘over’ is 42-33, 56.0 percent in those games.

Preseason Week 4
Week 4 generally marks a return to sloppy play with games involving a vast majority of reserves while the starters rest up for the regular year, and thus the underdogs have had an inerrant edge as you might expect, going 107-90-8, 54.3 percent ATS overall since 2000.

We mentioned earlier that Pittsburgh’s Tomlin is a perfect 6-0 straight up in Week 4, and also notable are Shanahan going 12-3 straight up with the Redskins and Broncos and Fisher going 11-4 straight up with the Rams and Titans. And then there is the other end of the spectrum, which has the returnee Payton and his Saints at 1-6.

Week 4 games are averaging 37.3 points and that average has served practically a perfect cut-off with the ‘under’ going 52-30, 63.4 percent in games with posted totals of greater than 37 and the ‘over’ going 73-48-2, 60.3 percent in games with posted totals of 37 or less.