Vegas Wiseguy Report: Betting the NFL preseason

Aug 5, 2013 |
I write a ‘How to beat the NFL Preseason article’ just about every year. But this is no ‘cut and paste’ from previous editions, because my strategies for betting (and beating) preseason football have been altered over the years, in some ways quite dramatically.

I updated this piece from start to finish last year and have updated it again for 2013, focusing on how the betting markets have changed here in the 21st century and the ways savvy bettors can take advantage of those changes.

My goal this week is to debunk some of those aging myths while focusing on strategies that work here in 2013.

Coaches vs. Coordinators

I used to be very concerned with finding and interpreting a head coach’s comments prior to preseason games. In the modern era of largely innocuous ‘coach-speak’, I’m definitely more interested in what the coordinators are saying. That goes doubly when we’re talking about first year coordinators installing new systems.

Neither coordinators nor head coaches are likely to give away tidbits in the regular season. But in the preseason, sometimes they’ll tell you exactly what they’re going to do, allowing you to cash some relatively easy winning bets.

Here are a list of the 13 new offensive coordinators around the NFL for the 2013 season: Harold Goodwin, Arizona; Nathaniel Hackett, Buffalo; Mike Shula, Carolina; Aaron Kromer, Chicago; Norv Turner, Cleveland; Adam Gase, Denver; Pep Hamiton, Indianapolis; Jedd Fisch, Jacksonville; Doug Pederson, Kansas City; Marty Mohrninweg, New York Jets; Greg Olson, Oakland;  Pat Schurmer, Philadelphia and Ken Whisenhunt, San Diego.

The Power of the Blitz

Most coaches don’t like to see their star veteran quarterback take big hits in the preseason. I don’t blame them! That simple fact gives teams with aggressive, blitzing defensive schemes a legitimate edge in August.

Teams that blitz early and often tend to have preseason success shutting down opposing offenses. Once again, finding out the coordinator’s gameplan can pay real dividends. And it’s surely worth noting that the Saints are only -3 at home against a Kansas City team breaking in a new coach, new quarterback and new offense this Friday Night.

The Value of ‘3’

NFL bettors are conditioned to think about the pointspread number of + or -3 as being the single most important or ‘key’ number in football betting. That certainly holds true for the regular season, when nearly one out of every seven games finishes with a final margin of three points.

But in August, coaches don’t play for overtime. We saw a prime example of that in Week 1 of the preseason last year. Jacksonville rallied from 17 points down against the Giants, scoring their final TD with two minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Instead of kicking the extra point to tie the game – making it quite likely that one of the two teams would win by a field goal – Jacksonville head coach Mike Mularkey went for the two point conversion and the win. The Jags made that conversion and won the game by a single point; a great result for line shoppers and a lousy result for the house.

This is not unusual in the slightest. And the lesson here is perfectly clear. The value of pointspreads like 1, 1.5, and 2 increase in August, while the value of the almighty -3 declines rather precipitously. Four games were decided by a single point in Week 1 last year, and that Browns-Lions game was decided by two. We didn’t see a single one of the first 16 preseason games in 2012 finish with a three point final margin.  It was a similar story in 2011, without a single three point decision in the first two weeks of preseason action.

Desktop View: Switch to Mobile View