NFL Preseason Handicapping Basics–Part 7: Situations


In NFL regular season betting situations are a big deal including ‘letdown spots’, ‘lookahead spots’, ‘revenge spots’ and so on. While there aren’t as many strong situations in Preseason NFL football there are a few. As with everything else related to preseason football (or sports betting in general for that matter) you shouldn’t be playing these preseason NFL point spread bets blindly. They are, however, a good place to start your handicapping and could be worth a play if the rest of your analysis validates the premise of a specific situation.


This one is pretty simple—it’s a Week One game between one of the two teams that played in the preseason opening Hall of Fame game and a team playing their first preseason game. In most sports, teams that have actual game play ‘under their belt’ are typically good betting positions against opponents that don’t. Even teams that perform poorly in the Hall of Fame game are further along in their regular season preparation than the ‘Game One’ team. In fact, I’d prefer to bet on the team that lost the Hall of Fame game simply because they no doubt went back to camp and worked on the areas that caused their defeat.

Here’s one thing to pay attention to and look out for—if you ever hear a coach say that because of their Hall of Fame game win and/or appearance that they’ll ‘take it easy’ the next week he might be giving his team a de facto bye. If a coach looks to be approaching their Week One game in this manner the advantage of having a game under the belt is largely negated.


Some trends and ‘angles’ don’t make intuitive sense—like a baseball team being 1-10 on a Wednesday. Others make perfect sense and are just logical. This is one of those. In this situation we’re looking for a first year head coach in his first home game with his new team. No matter whether it’s regular season or preseason, a coach knows that he needs to keep the fan base happy. And there’s no better way to do this than winning games, even if the games won’t mean anything once the regular season begins. Coaches have a strong incentive to get their coaching career off ‘on the right foot’ by winning their first home game, even if it is a preseason game. This situation is even better if a team had a losing record a year ago or if the team lost their previous preseason contest. Linesmakers are well aware of this concept and it’s usually priced into the line but given the nature of preseason football play it’s usually still worth betting.


Week Three is considered the ‘dress rehearsal’ week when teams approach the game with a higher degree of seriousness than in the other weeks of the preseason. That’s a generalization of course, but one that is accurate more often than not.

Two great situations to look for are flip sides of the same coin. For teams that lost their first two preseason games this is really their last chance to ‘redeem’ themselves since Week Four usually involves just keeping everyone healthy. No team wants to go undefeated in the preseason (even though there’s very little causal relationship between good preseason performance and regular season performance) so betting on 0-2 teams in Week 3 can be a good position.

Alternately, you’ll also want to look for spots to bet against teams that are 2-0 heading into Week 3. These teams are usually happy with their performance and the undefeated record is an indication that everything is going well in training camp. It’s not uncommon for teams in this situation to ‘take their foot off the gas’ or to protect starters from injury with the regular season on deck.


Another ‘no team wants to finish the preseason winless’ play. What’s interesting about this situation is that it is much more effective for teams that expect to lose during the preseason than for winning teams. Good teams are better able to put the preseason in proper context. They’re more likely to not care about their preseason record and look ahead to Week 1 of the regular season. Teams with losing records are typically much more concerned about a winless preseason. This is especially true if they’ve got a new coaching regime in their first year.