NFL Picks: How to Bet Preseason Games

Doug Upstone

Wednesday, August 5, 2015 11:52 PM GMT

Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015 11:52 PM GMT

For years I never followed NFL preseason football in the month of August. I thought it was a waste of time to look at the betting odds and that it absolutely had nothing to do with the regular season.

However, beginning in 2003 I changed my tune as an NFL football handicapper and came up with a simple solution. Over the last decade I made more money in the preseason than I would have guessed making NFL picks. The beauty of exhibition games is their simplicity. I have been very fortunate to honestly hit a monitored 59.4 percent (66-45 ATS) of these plays and I will share with you how it happens.

 

Pre-Preseason
Just like in the regular season, it is important to know your teams. I am not talking about reading hours of information about every given team, rather to know the coaches and the tendencies of the teams. In the preseason, a coach can directly impact the scoreboard by substitution patterns and what his goal is for the team beforehand.

For example, two NFL teams have shown they could care less about winning in the preseason, especially when favored, (which would be mostly at home) are Dallas and Kansas City. The Dallas Cowboys are 21-36 ATS as a favorite and the Kansas City Chiefs are 16-33 ATS. These franchises have worked on the principle of building the team and having it ready for the start of the regular season.

 

Week 1 NFL Picks– Be Well Versed on Coaches
This is extremely important if you have a desire to have extra money BEFORE the regular season starts. Be assured, all the sportsbooks like WagerWeb know the numbers, it is your duty as well if you expect to profit from sports picks. In the years since John Harbaugh has been the head coach at Baltimore, he’s placed a priority on the Ravens playing well early and they are 18-6 against the spread.

Another important factor is first-year coaches. This year we have seven new taskmasters and guys like Dan Quinn (Atlanta Falcons), Rex Ryan (Buffalo Bills), John Fox (Chicago Bears), Todd Bowles (New York Jets), Jack Del Rio (Oakland Raiders), Jim Tomsula (San Francisco 49ers) and Gary Kubiak (Denver Broncos). Each will want to establish how they will be running their programs.

After going through grueling training camps, each will want to prove to his players that the work has been worth the trouble. Nothing pays off like winning. Historically, these coaches can bring a nice profit in contests where they don’t meet one another.

One last area to consider is coaches in trouble. These fellows know their jobs are in jeopardy and have to deliver wins, even if it has to start in August. Among those that could be a good bet this month are Lovie Smith (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Gus Bradley (Jacksonville Jaguars).

 

Week 2 NFL Picks– Time to Really Engage
This is one of the two weeks you can really attack the NFL odds. The most important factors this week are prior performance and motivation. These are largely tied together and you can take advantage of them.

Last season, first-year head coach Bill O'Brien went out to the sizzling desert and his Houston squad was ambushed by Arizona 32-0 as 1.5-point favorites. Needless to say that didn't set well with the coaches and they rode the Texans players hard all week. Back in the right frame of mind after a tough week of practice, Houston thumped Atlanta 32-7 as three-point home favorites.

Likewise, just the opposite can occur. San Diego got off to a rousing start in Week 1, dumping Dallas 27-7 last year. With optimism built up, the Chargers bolted for Seattle and were crushed the next week 41-14 as 6.5-point underdog. Look for ripe situations.

 

Week 3 NFL Picks– Final Tune-up for Regular Season
This is the most important week of NFL preseason football, at least for coaches to get a real sense of where the team is and if they are on schedule. Starters will play about two-thirds of the game and a semblance of a game plan will be implemented. Many of the same principles still apply about motivation, with a few variations.

The coaches and players place additional importance on this week, thus giving a good showing does matter. In the preseason, situational handicapping has relevance, especially for teams losing by 10 or more points the week before. This is noteworthy, with backups playing and the games being fairly evenly matched.

Once again, coaches will create further accountability through motivational and psychological tactics. Last August, St. Louis gave a real dull home effort in Week 2, losing to Green Bay 21-7 in a game that was not that close. In reading the Rams camp reports, coach Jeff Fisher made it quite clear another shoddy effort was not acceptable and his team was thoroughly prepared and they clobbered Cleveland 33-14 as field goal road dogs.

How this works to your advantage is that maybe the coach feels the team is coming along too fast and wants to dial it back. We all know head coaches are control freaks. They want to build you up to tear you down and vice versa. As mentioned in the preseason, these maniacal masters love to put the team through grueling practices after a weak effort. Others might feel the club is peeking too early and let them slack a bit after an exceptional performance, while closely monitoring they don’t lose their edge. This is part of the other aspect of analyzing situations, teams off blowout wins or losses.

 

Week 4 NFL Picks– Pick Your Spots
The last week of the preseason is nothing more than final preparation for most teams trying only to avoid injury and making final cuts. Be cautious with your plays here. If you are having a winning preseason, a game or two that you really are sure of is worth the risk. If not, the regular season starts in a week and that is what you care about most.

 

Final Thoughts
Take the time to review the box scores. What this is for is future reference. This can lead to insights about any team’s depth. Every NFL squad is going to have injuries. By reviewing the box scores this time of the year you might find a team that has built up 17-0 or 20-3 leads with the first-team players in two different games and ends up losing both contests in the second half. This could be a red flag when this club has injuries during the regular season, when the drop off could be precipitous. Most importantly, don’t overanalyze, follow the coaches of the 32 teams and have fun.

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