NFL Betting: What We’ve Learned from the Preseason

Jason Lake

Friday, August 30, 2013 2:50 PM GMT

Exhibition games might not count in the NFL standings, but if you bet on football, the preseason is a highly valuable source of information and insight.

If you’re reading this, we don’t have to sell you about the importance of the NFL preseason. The games themselves a goldmine for NFL betting; spend some quality time learning about the second- and third-string quarterbacks, and you can pound those extra-soft football lines. But the preseason also teaches us about what could be in store for the games that count. Cover your eyes, Raider Nation.

Pryor Knowledge 

So you want to be an NFL quarterback? Consider the case of Matt Flynn. After four years backing up Aaron Rodgers for the Green Bay Packers, Flynn thought he had a starting gig last year with the Seattle Seahawks, only to lose his job to Russell Wilson in the preseason. No shame there. But now Flynn is facing the same situation with the Oakland Raiders, only it’s Terrelle Pryor stealing his job this time. 

You can see where Oakland’s coming from. Pryor was an outstanding dual-threat quarterback for the Ohio State Buckeyes, and at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, he’s capable of running through opponents as well as around them. However, Pryor’s arm isn’t nearly as good as Wilson’s. You could see the difference during the last game of the exhibition season; Pryor played the entire first half Thursday night against the Seahawks, scrambling for 48 yards on three carries, but completing just three of his eight passes for 31 yards and a pick. 

Football betting fans are getting their passports ready – it’s time to book the next flight out of Raider Nation. The NFL futures odds market still shows a regular season win total of 5.5 for the Raiders, but the OVER has moved from even money to +145. And the Week 1 football odds have Oakland dropping from +7.5 (-125) to +10 (–130) against the hometown Indianapolis Colts.

Doom and Gloom 

The Denver Broncos remain on top of the Super Bowl XLVIII futures market at preseason’s end, tied at 6-1 with the San Francisco 49ers. But this has been an offseason to forget for Denver supporters. The outstanding linebacker corps from 2012 is missing two key players for the 2013 season opener against the defending champions, the Baltimore Ravens (+9 away). Elvis Dumervil (11 sacks last year) is now a member of said Ravens, and Von Miller (18.5 sacks) has been suspended for the first six games.

Miller was given an extra game off Thursday as the Broncos fell 32-24 to the Arizona Cardinals (–1 away), finishing the preseason at 2-2 SU and 1-3 ATS. Are Denver fans worried? Not like their counterparts in Oakland. The NFL lines are holding steady for Peyton Manning and his orange teammates, both on the Super Bowl futures market and for Week 1.

The Broncos might have the horses to overcome Miller’s suspension and take the milquetoast AFC West, but beating the NFL betting lines is another matter. According to Chad Millman over at ESPN, Miller himself is worth one point ATS above his replacement on Denver’ strong side, 10-year veteran Shaun Phillips (9.5 sacks last year with the San Diego Chargers). And the Broncos secondary, which is getting a little creaky, is likely to be without Champ Bailey (61 tackles) in Week 1 due to a sprained foot. Baltimore supporters can smell the blood in the water.

Unleash Tim Tebow

We can’t leave the 2013 preseason behind without a Tim Tebow update. He played the second half for the New England Patriots and threw a pair of TD passes in Thursday’s 28-20 victory over the New York Giants (+1 away). Tebow may or may not make the final cut Saturday, but truth be told, that’s not the important news from this game.

That would be on the other side of the ball. The Giants lost an important player when RB Andre Brown (5.3 yards per carry last year) suffered a broken leg late in the first half. Brown says it’s a small fracture that doesn’t need surgery, but the already-hurting Giants will nonetheless be without the man they were counting on to support top tailback David Wilson (5.0 yards per game). As if that Week 1 Sunday nighter against the hometown Dallas Cowboys (–3) needed any more drama.