Profitable Week 1 NFL Preseason Picks

Jason Lake

Monday, August 4, 2014 4:23 PM UTC

Monday, Aug. 4, 2014 4:23 PM UTC

Are you going to bet on the NFL during the preseason? Of course you are – provided you like money, that is. These exhibition games are dripping with value, and you don’t need a Ph. D. in football to figure out why.

When is an NFL game not an NFL game? When it’s a preseason NFL game, of course. They’re called “exhibition” games for a reason, and the reason is, they don’t count. You don’t get a trophy for winning the preseason. Khiry Robinson didn’t get any endorsement deals for leading the league in rushing last August (228 yards). He didn’t win a year’s supply of Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco Treat.

But Robinson did earn a job with the New Orleans Saints. Which is more in line with what the exhibition season is all about: Players who haven’t yet made the team need to impress their coaches, while those who have job security – well, they still need to impress their coaches, but mostly they can concentrate on preparing for the regular season. That’s why they play these games. And that’s why there’s so much value on these preseason NFL lines.


Somebody Bring Me My Headset
At first blush, it doesn’t look like there’s any rhyme or reason to who wins or covers in the preseason. Washington went 4-0 SU and ATS last year. So did Seattle. But there is indeed a method behind the madness. Exhibition games are de facto practices, which means you should be focussing your NFL preseason handicapping on the coaches. This is their show.

Each NFL head coach has a different way of going about the preseason. Some like to direct at least a little effort toward winning exhibition games, as a matter of practice. Some like to run as many offensive plays as they can while they’ve got the opportunity. Others like to devote as much time as they can to evaluating second- and third-stringers. Whichever approach they happen to take will naturally have a direct bearing on the final score. And again, since these games don’t count, the coach for Team B hasn’t spent all week figuring out how to spoil things for Team A. Coaches will even talk to reporters about their strategies for the upcoming game.

Here are a handful of coaches and their preseason ATS records to keep in mind. Full results are available at multiple locations on the Interwebs.
       Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks-----------------------23-9-1 ATS

       Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints-------------------18-11 ATS

       Ken Whisenhunt, Tennessee Titans------------------8-16-1 ATS

       Joe Philbin, Miami Dolphins-----------------------------1-8 ATS


1 for the Money
That’s the NFL preseason in a nutshell. But you can take your football betting strategy to the next level by breaking down the exhibition games week by week. Experienced handicappers will already know that coaches tend to use Week 1 of the preseason to work on the very basic fundamentals – lots of short passes and simple plays. Last year, 15 of 16 Week 1 games had an over/under of 37 points or lower on the NFL odds board. It’s pretty much the same for this week’s games as we go to press.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the scores themselves will be low. Scoring in the NFL has been on the rise in general, and with so much emphasis put into practicing offensive plays, preseason games have been generating more and more OVER results with each passing year. The OVER went 11-5 in 2013 during Week 1, and 38-26 overall (59.4 percent), following up on a strong 35-27 (56.5 percent) in 2012.

Don’t forget the mantra: These games don’t count. You’re going to see a lot more patty-cake than pulverizing during the exhibition season, and even more so in Week 1. You’re also going to see a lot more back-up quarterbacks. Pay close attention to the teams with quality No. 2 and No. 3 QBs on the depth chart, players like Washington’s Kirk Cousins (129.6 passer rating last preseason) and Seattle’s Tarvaris Jackson (131.4 passer rating). There’s gold in them there arms; keep it in mind when you make your next NFL pick.

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