The bulk of the betting action in the NFL is reserved for the regular season and the playoffs. However, given just how big betting on the NFL has become at online sportsbooks and with private bookmakers, there is still quite a bit of interest when it comes to betting on the four weeks of preseason games.
Often referred to as the exhibition season since the games do not count in the standings, most of the actual matchups become very hard to properly handicap. Most head coaches in the NFL are simply looking to get through the four-game schedule with no major injuries to any of the players expected to be on the final 53-man roster. The games are primarily used for evaluating talent and determining the starting roster for Week 1 of the NFL regular season.
If you are going to bet on NFL preseason games, one of the best ways to cash a few winners is on total line bets. The total lines for preseason games are set much lower than the lines for regular season games, but you can still find value for solid plays on the UNDER. The first thing to look at is one team’s overall depth at quarterback verse another team’s overall depth on defense.
Most of the starting quarterbacks in the NFL see limited playing time in the preseason. Many will sit out the first game and last game, play a series or two in the second game and a quarter or two in the third week of the preseason. Teams will little depth at quarterback could easily struggle to score points. This is especially true if they are facing an opponent that is deep on defense. Starters on this side of the ball tend to stay in preseason games a bit longer than offensive players. Add in the fact that every team has defensive players looking to make a name for themselves in the preseason, and it is safe to say that this side of the ball should be farther along than the offense, especially in the first few preseason games.
Another thing to keep in mind is that winning NFL teams with veteran coaches such as the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers could care less about winning games in the preseason. They have their own agenda with these exhibition games, so the final score is usually an afterthought.
Losing teams are always trying to create a winning mentality on the field and in the locker room. Many of teams coming off a very poor season may have a new head coach at the helm, who is set on playing to win in the preseason. Hue Jackson went 1-15 in his first season as head coach of the Cleveland Browns back in 2016. The following year the Browns went a perfect 4-0 both straight-up and against the spread in the preseason before losing all 16 regular season games in 2017. Cleveland has obviously forgotten how to win, so there is some sense of urgency to get a few victories under its belt even if the games do not count in the standings.
The most important strategy for betting the NFL preseason is to pick and choose your spots. You never want to force a bet this time of the year. If you did do your homework and you feel really good about your chances to correctly predict the outcome of a preseason game, then pull the trigger with an actual money wager. If your confidence level is low for any preseason matchup you decide to break down, then do yourself a favor and save that money for another day.