Preseason Trends Applied to Regular NFL Season Betting

Ross Benjamin

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 3:30 PM UTC

Wednesday, Jul. 30, 2014 3:30 PM UTC

Do you want to know how NFL teams do against the spread in their unofficial dress rehearsal games? If you’re a NFL bettor this article is a must read, and will add to your football handicapping arsenal when it comes to picking NFL preseason winners.

An Inexact Science
There’s no denying that in the grand scheme of things, NFL preseason results have no bearing on what we can expect to see in the regular season. However, as long as Las Vegas continues to put out a point-spread, and a total on each preseason game, then there’s certainly an opportunity to make money.

Before I get into some situations that have been profitable over the years, I always advise clients, and readers alike, to proceed with caution at this time of the year. I stress wagering no more than 1.25% of your total bankroll per game during the preseason. There are just too many intangibles and variables to account for compared to regular NFL season betting action.


Dress Rehearsals
It’s been pretty standard tradition amongst NFL head coaches over the years to use their next to last preseason game as a dress rehearsal for the upcoming regular season. There are certainly exceptions to the rule in that regard. Jeff Fisher for example has been a proponent of using the last preseason game in order to get his projected starters the most prepared for regular season action. Fisher has exhibited that practice during his 15-years as head coach in Tennessee, and in his current tenure as the boss in St. Louis.

Then we have the annual isolated instances of the teams that play in the Hall of Fame Game that play 5-games compared to the 4-games in which the other 30-teams play. We will touch upon that later in this article.


Away Favorites Ready for the Real Show
Consider that 30 of the 32-teams in the NFL play 4-games during the preseason, and that Game 3 in the majority of instances are used for their final tune-up before it counts for real. Since the 1983 preseason, away favorites have been a very profitable play when playing in Game 3 of the preseason. During that time away favorites have gone 52-33 ATS (61.2%).

We can tighten that up even more to make it an extremely profitable situation: away favorites of 5.0 or less that are coming off a straight-up loss in their previous game have gone 24-9 ATS (72.7%) during that same time span. The logic here is quite clear in my eyes.

The odds-makers know that teams treat this game as close to a regular season game as you will get. Sticking with the theme of respecting their ability to set a line with the utmost accuracy, they clearly feel that the away team in this situation isn’t only superior, but also possesses the best intangible and miscellaneous edges. For lack of a better phrase, “the proof is in the pudding”.


Hall of Fame Game Participants
Each preseason we have two teams that take part in the annual Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, that use their 4th game in their 5-game schedule, as their final dress rehearsal. These teams have been traditionally a fade in these situations. Hall of Fame Game participants that are playing in their 4th preseason game have gone a miserable 57-81 ATS (41.3%) since 1983. If those teams are playing on the road they fall to 10-30 ATS (25%), and 8-32 (20%) straight up since 1993. The conclusion I draw from these results keep with the analogy of keeping it simple. These two clubs had to report to training camp a week or more before the rest of the NFL teams. As a result of the rigors of training camp, and having to travel to play this late in the preseason campaign, it’s clearly taken a toll on them.

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