Some of the best sports handicappers on the planet tend to steer clear of a lot of positions in NFL betting action. Some choose to stay away from the preseason as well for various reasons.
The sharp bettors know where there are opportunities to make some great money on some of the worst football games of the year.
Keeping track of NFL preseason betting trends can make you a ton of money if you track them properly are prepare for changes on the fly as years go on.
Debunking Preseason Unders
The common thought amongst NFL bettors is that preseason games are tremendously low scoring affairs. It’s true that the average preseason game features a ton of ugly play, as third and fourth-string players aren’t going to be as efficient as the starters, nor will they be asked to do as much by their coaches. Wide receivers would be dumb to put themselves in a negative outcome all-out position.
However, things are clearly changing at this point. The average preseason game isn’t going to feature a total of just 33 any longer, though it has taken the oddsmakers a bit of time to catch up. Those numbers really didn’t jump all that much in 2010 and 2011, but perhaps they should have.
Tracking the Totals
Please note these stats are from “Covers” but we do not endorse this site. The 2010 preseason featured a 37-28 record for ‘over’ bettors. In the 2011 preseason, blindly betting the ‘over’ in every game would have netted a 33-30-1 record. 2012 was no different, as the ‘over’ cashed to the tune of a 35-28-2 mark.
But in fact, it wasn’t until the 2013 season that the oddsmakers finally really adjusted. There wasn’t a game in Week 1 of the preseason with a total of less than 34, and that’s something that there is no historical data to support. In spite of the fact that the totals were high though, the oddsmakers were burned by ‘over’ bettors in the first week (plus the Hall of Fame Game). The total record was 12-5.
Just one week later, the linesmakers made their most drastic adjustment we have ever seen in the NFL. Every total opened at 38 or greater, and more than half the games featured totals of at least 40.
There is a heck of a lot of justification for the rise as well. The average game in Week 1 of the 2013 preseason, which is historically right there with Week 4 as the lowest scoring week of the preseason featured 39.9 points per game.
Why Over is the Word
From a handicapping standpoint, just one week of results clearly doesn’t make a trend. So why did the oddsmakers make such a drastic reaction in 2013? Finally, the oddsmakers realized what expert NFL handicappers started to realize in 2010.
Simply put, there is a lot more passing in football at this point. There is so much pressure on an organization to groom a quarterback, and the end result is that even the second, third, and in some cases, fourth string quarterbacks are going to be asked to throw the football. Some will succeed against lousy secondaries. Some will fail miserably.
The best example we have of this is the game between the Buffalo Bills and the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1 in 2013. In that game, Head Coach Doug Marrone used his two rookie quarterbacks, EJ Manuel and Jeff Tuel for a half. The two quarterbacks combined to go 35-of-44 for 315 yards with three touchdowns. Even though Buffalo was comfortably ahead in the whole second half of the game, Marrone still let Tuel throw the ball 23 times.
On the flip side, the Colts turned the ball over to QB Chandler Harnish in the second half. Harnish, a rookie from Northern Illinois, only went 14-of-33 for 109 yards with an interception.
So why did this game feature 64 total points? With Harnish under center, the Colts ran just 18 plays on six drives from the start of the third quarter through just before the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter. Only one of those drives took more than 58 seconds off of the clock. When you’re going three-and-out, the number of plays that can be run in a game can get outrageous, especially when both sides are doing more throwing the football than anything else.
Some coaches take the preseason a heck of a lot more serious than others. The typical rule of thumb is that the younger coaches who have never coached before in the preseason are eager for their first victory, though that isn’t nearly a trend to follow religiously. That said, there are veterans that have been around for quite some time that you should always be watching out for.
Here is a site I follow for the database of ATS and over/under records for all 32 coaches in the NFL going into the 2013 preseason, and it is a database that should be referred to often.
Using Coaches From 2013 For Examples
The best NFL handicappers know that Mike Shanahan is always taking his preseason seriously. Through one week of the 2013 preseason, Shanahan is 51-30 SU and 45-34-2 ATS over the course of his 81 preseason games in his coaching career. Remember too, that Shanahan never really used QB John Elway all that much in preseason games, especially at the end of his career. Even with backups, Shanahan is always seeming to coach for victory, and that has proven to be a consistent winning formula for years and years through his days with the Denver Broncos and now with the Washington Redskins.
In fairness to Jim Schwartz, any form of winning when you’re coaching the Detroit Lions is a good thing. This is a franchise that has never really had any extended success, and a 4-0 preseason is a cause for a celebration. Schwartz is 13-4 SU and 12-5 ATS in his four seasons and one game with the Lions in the preseason in his career, and even though this isn’t a team that is winning all that much in the regular season, Detroit is still a team to back with regularity in the preseason.
Smith hasn’t been around all that long relatively speaking, but he hasn’t done Atlanta Falcons bettors any favors over the course of his time with the team, at least in the preseason. Through one week in the 2013 preseason, the Falcons are just 7-14 SU and 8-11-2 ATS. Smith’s lack of success goes back to his days with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he was the defensive coordinator. There, Smith learned all about losing in the preseason and not really risking putting any of the franchise players in trouble. It’s a lesson for this next man as well.
Turner spent a ton of years with the San Diego Chargers, and the argument could be made that he was largely an underachiever during those years. That said, we’re only talking about preseason betting at this point, and the offensive genius definitely lived up to his billing. The ‘over’ went 36-20 in his 56 preseason games as a head coach.
Now, Turner is honing his skills as the offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns. First-year Head Coach Rob Chudzinski is the man in charge, but this is a perfect case for a head coach to take the following of his veteran coordinators. Don’t be shocked if Cleveland, which easily produced an ‘over’ game in its first preseason game of the year in 2013, becomes an awesome ‘over’ outfit while both Chudzinski and Turner are in town.
Author & Professional: Jim Griffin
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