5 Reasons to Wager on NFL Preseason Games

by Chris Scheeren
on July 17, 2017

NFL football is right around the corner and the NFL Hall of Fame Preseason kickoff barely two weeks away with the Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys meeting in Canton on August 3rd. The full slate starts immediately afterward with the Panthers starting the festivities on Wednesday, August 9th hosting the Houston Texans.

If you are like many sports fans, the wait through the summer months can be a tough one. Baseball tends to drag a bit during the dog days of summer, there are no hoops (save for Summer League and Ice Cube’s Big 3) and in 2017, we don’t even have a World Cup or Olympics to help pass the time. Suffice it to say, MANY of us are eagerly awaiting the return of football.

So it begs the obvious question: Is it safe/smart to wager on preseason games? They are certainly harder to handicap from a layman’s perspective since starters will play sparingly (or not at all) on many occasions. We are left trying to decipher who has an edge when the game devolves into “threes versus threes.” But there are actually some potential profits to be made, provided we use a little disciple and a little discretion and wager smartly.  The old “home team gets three points and bet the better QB” philosophy is going to need a fresh coat of paint if you want to make it through August unscathed…


#1. It’s FOOTBALL, Man!

Let’s be real. It may not be the BEST football, but it is still football and many of us are starving for some pigskin. There are two types of wagering: there is the hardcore analysis, I’m in this to carve out some marginal profits and manage my bankroll, etc. And then there are hobby wagers; a small amount on the NBA Dunk Contest, or Home Run Derby (thank you very much, Aaron Judge +200), wagers placed on an event we are watching on television or attending because we enjoy having a little stake on the action, however large or small that stake might be based on your individual financial comfort zone. Having a couple bucks on an NFL Preseason game certainly makes that fourth quarter roster battle a little more interesting.  There is something exhilarating as you are scouting and scouring for your 12th round Fantasy Draft sleeper and nailing a profitable wager because “I TOLD you third string Arizona backup QB Blaine Gabbert was gonna get it DONE in the preseason!”

And as ridiculous as that may sound, I actually think the QB depth in Arizona, coupled with Bruce Arians inability to turn off the competitive juices, makes Arizona a pretty good preseason wager to watch…

Here are a few other teams with some interesting QB depth for the preseason:

Cleveland: Brock Osweiler and DeShone Kizer- I wouldn’t want either starting (or ‘starter’ for now, Cody Kessler, either) but it is a pretty good #2 for a preseason game

Oakland: Conner Cook and E.J. Manual – EJ has won some NFL games as a veteran starter

Philadelphia: Nick Foles and Matt McGloin

Tampa Bay: Ryan Fitzpatrick (Dude WINS)

New York Giants: Gino Smith and Josh Johnson – laugh if you want, but not a bad backup for a preseason schedule…

#2. Television EVERYWHERE!

A lot of bettors like to watch their play unfold in real time. If that’s the case, you should have no trouble following your NFL Preseason wagers. Televised NFL preseason games have multiplied exponentially the last few seasons and the 2017 slate will be covered extensively. The NFL Network has at least one game, and often two, televised every single night in August when football is occurring. And since it is preseason and the games are staggered, you can get some action every night Wednesday through Sunday in Week One and Thursday through Monday in Week Two and beyond. If MLB Regular Season Game #109 between the Mariners and A’s just doesn’t strike your fancy, you have plenty of NFL Preseason action to choose from.

Even major networks are getting in on the action with ESPN, CBS, NBC, and FOX all televising multiple games.  Add in any local cable networks in your specific area, which get permission to broadcast Preseason Games, and you should be flooded with viewing football opportunities.

#3. There are MAJOR PRESEASON TRENDS. Yes. Seriously. And They Revolve Around COACHES

Let’s face it, every coach views the preseason slightly differently and much of it stems from HOW MUCH is at stake for both the team and the coach from a perception standpoint. There is very little for Coach Bill Bellichek to prove. The preseason is treated as not just ‘unimportant’ but more like a nuisance for the Pats. That said, Bellichek is just slightly over .500 ATS. Sometimes they just win on accident…

Mike Tomlin has a lousy 16-20 ATS preseason record, not a real surprise with so much continuity in the Steelers organization and so little to prove.

Meanwhile, some other coaches just can’t seem to turn it off and seem a little more competitive in the preseason. Coaches like Pete Carroll (27-13 ATS) and Jon Harbaugh (19-13 ATS) have been pretty good wagers. I like the Coach factor FAR more than the “good team” factor when looking at preseason wagering…

#4. The Public Picks the Flashier, Better TEAM

That means WE, the savvy bettors, can swoop in and find some real value.

Look for teams with good #2 and #3 QB’s and with some deep rosters with legit position battles taking place.

Those are teams that are going to excel in the second half and who will be playing harder down the stretch. Average teams who rely nearly entirely on a star QB to be relevant are good teams to fade. The Colts have been one of the worst preseason teams over the last two decades. That makes PERFECT SENSE – they are a mediocre team most years, buoyed by amazing individual quarterback play from Peyton Manning for nearly 15 years, and now Andrew Luck. Remove those two, which a preseason game largely does, and you are left with a pretty below-average NFL team.

Teams with lousy backup quarterbacks will probably struggle in the NFL Preseason. Teams with a lot of contract holdouts or early training camp injuries will be good fades as well, as depth is already thin by the second half of most games and teams with injuries and other extra voids in the roster will be playing fourth and fifth stringers with no real hopes of sticking on an NFL roster.

The overall record of the team the year before is pretty irrelevant, but the perception of “good team” and “bad team” is difficult for the public to ignore. You can get some real value betting against teams you would be far more respectful towards come October.

#5. The Blueprint is Often Public

Unlike the regular season, when coaches protect their game plans like valuable war blueprints and state secrets, the preseason is more of an ‘open book’ test. Pay attention to the pregame chatter. Coaches will tell you how long starters will play, the basic game plan and things they will be looking at, and even whether or not a QB will get in the game or not and for how long. This is particularly important! If, say, the Steelers are going to give Big Ben the entire night off, because he has been their QB since Chuck Noll was the coach and how many reps does his battered giant body really need, and their opponent, say, Atlanta, want to give Julio and Matt Ryan a quarter and a half to shake off some Super Bowl stink, then HUGE edge Atlanta.

If you are going to make a small, responsible wager on a Preseason Game, make sure you listen to the chatter ahead of time, pay attention to some coaches’ interviews, and do a little research. You’ll likely regret it if you don’t…

Overall, betting on preseason games has some risk, but then again, so does betting in general. It’s called ‘gambling’ for a reason; it’s sports, so there are some obvious unexpected results from time to time. But with a little trend monitoring, a little research and a few breaks here and there, there is no reason why betting on preseason football should be any riskier, or less profitable, than betting the regular season.

Enjoy the games! Let’s get ready for some football!!

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