NFL FOOTBALL BETTING—THE EASIEST WAY TO WIN PRESEASON BETS
There’s a strange disconnect about what the mainstream sports media and general public think they know about sports betting and the reality of it. Nowhere is this better illustrated than the prevailing public opinion on betting NFL Preseason games. You’ll frequently hear mainstream sports media types chortle at the idea of wagering on ‘games that don’t matter’, suggesting it’s a sign of degenerate behavior. Several months later you’ll hear the same ‘talking heads’ reporting on Super Bowl betting with an almost comical degree of seriousness.
The general public, mainstream sports media and a surprising number of actual sports bettors simply don’t understand what ‘sharps’ are trying to do. It’s amazing, but this misconception is pervasive throughout US sports betting. It’s not about ‘picking winners’ whether it’s the Super Bowl or the preseason Hall of Fame game. The primary job of a successful sports bettor is to find value. If he does so and bets accordingly, the wins and profits fall into place. On the other hand, if a bettor isn’t cognizant of the prices he’s laying and line value he’s getting he can pick all kinds of winners and still lose money.
It’s obvious that the general public and mainstream sports media is oblivious to the reality of sports betting. What I’ve always found surprising is how many experienced (though not necessarily ‘sharp’) bettors lose sight of the ‘meta’ when it comes to NFL preseason action. The most frequent critique of betting preseason football is that it’s hard to evaluate statistically (true) and that the games are ‘too chaotic (also true). Both of these realities of NFL exhibition games are true but neither negates a handicapper’s ability to find line value.
A more frequent refrain is one that sports bettors share with the general public: “Why should you bet on games that ‘don’t count’?” The public’s ignorance is unfortunate but excusable. Anyone that thinks they’re a ‘serious’ sports bettor should know better. One problem is that to say they ‘don’t count’ is a very myopic definition of what is going on. They might not count in the standings, but to a third string safety who is riding a fine line between playing in the NFL and working at Home Depot they most definitely matter. There are plenty of other components of NFL preseason games that definitely matter and can be used for handicapping. It takes work to find and evaluate these narratives but they are there.
The bigger reason that some handicappers disdain preseason football is the same reason that many in the general public do—they don’t find it ‘entertaining’. This can be a very dangerous tendency for a sports bettor. Once again, the trick is finding line value. You can do that in a sport you hate, that you don’t like to watch and in games that ‘don’t matter’. The sooner a sports bettor gets past the ‘picking winners’ fallacy and starts to understand that it’s all about value the sooner he’ll start to build his bankroll.
FINDING VALUE IN PRESEASON NFL FOOTBALL
So how do you find value in preseason NFL football? It never hurts to be a contrarian in sports betting and that also applies here. In fact, in my opinion you can hurt yourself and your contrarian tendencies by putting too much effort into breaking down games. Once you start doing that you start considering the regular season success (or lack thereof) of the teams involved. That’s a slippery slope to a lot of ‘bad beats’ and a lot of money out of your pocket. The recreational bettors can’t separate what a team is capable of in the regular season from the realities of preseason. That fundamental mistake has the ‘squares’ beat before the opening kick off.
That brings us to my ‘quick and dirty’ way to successfully bet NFL preseason games. It’s a short cut to thinking like a contrarian, eliminating the bias of a team’s past performance and almost always getting line value. All you have to do is look at a game as if it were a regular season game, consider how you’d bet it—and then do the exact opposite. If Jacksonville is a +3 road dog at New England in the regular season the logical position would be to play the Patriots. If they meet in the regular season, you take the Jaguars plus the points.
By now you should be connecting the dots on why this works but another important reason is that the majority of bettors handicap and bet preseason NFL like it’s the regular season, at least to some extent. For that reason, the bookmakers have to ‘shade’ the lines to reflect this public perception. So by using this ‘Opposite Strategy’ you more often than not end up playing the contrarian side and get line value. You’re also eliminating the impact of a team’s regular season performance detrimentally impacting your objective perception by acknowledging it and countering it. Think of it as ‘Sports Betting Judo’.
This might seem too easy. And to be sure, best case scenario would combine this contrarian attitude with some more traditional handicapping components. But we promised easy and unless you’re willing to put in the work you can do much worse than using this tactic to put yourself against the public, the ‘shading’ of the betting line and your own inherent biases about which teams are good and which teams are bad.