The NFL preseason kicked off on Sunday with the NFL Hall of Fame game that pitted the New York Giants against the Buffalo Bills. Tomorrow will be the first night of the preseason schedule, with games airing through the end of August. The regular NFL season begins Sept. 4.
The NFL preseason is not only a great way to gear up for the regular season — it’s also an important time for fantasy footballers and bettors to see teams and players in action and get a head start on finding the best bets throughout the NFL regular season.
Betting on the NFL preseason can be a lucrative way to make some extra money if you know what you’re doing; plus, betting on the games can raise the stakes and make tuning in more fun. This guide to NFL preseason betting will help you get a winning edge and grow your savings.
How Much Does the NFL Preseason Matter?
The NFL preseason is not always the best indicator for the outcome of the regular season. Since NFL preseason games don’t count toward a team’s wins and losses, coaches likely won’t be running their best plays and star players will likely sit out, not wanting to risk injury before the regular season.
But that doesn’t mean that the preseason exhibition games aren’t important; they are key to the process of finalizing team rosters. Coaches get to see how their players, new draftees and free agents work together and perform on the field. They can then use this information to fine tune their rosters down to 53 players that work well together before the regular season begins.
In terms of NFL preseason betting, the preseason can be a way to make some extra money, though the strategy required to win will vary compared to the regular season, according to Jack Jones of BetFirm.com.
Here Are the NFL Preseason Bets You Can Place
The NFL preseason can be a great time for bettors to warm up and get ahead for the regular season. Here are some bets available for NFL preseason games, as well as NFL prop bets for the regular season that might only be open during the preseason.
NFL Preseason Betting Lines: Money Lines, Spreads and Totals
If you’re interested in putting money down on the preseason, these are the most common NFL preseason bets you can place:
- Money line: These bets are straightforward, placing money on which team will win or lose the game. You’ll have to risk more money to bet on the team likely to win and less on the weaker team.
- Spread: The house sets which team is likely to win, and by how many points. Bettors then place bets on whether the favored team will score more or less points than guessed.
- Total: The house sets a guess for the total combined number of points scored during the game by both teams. Bettors put down money on the teams scoring over or under that number.
Betting is open for the first week of preseason games, and a look at OddsShark.com shows that the NFL preseason betting lines currently look pretty even, with no clear favorites.
NFL Prop Bets: Team and Player Props for the NFL Regular Season
Here are the NFL player props for individual NFL players for the regular season that are currently open to put money on, from Bovada:
- MVP: If you have a strong idea of who’s going to end up being the NFL’s Most Valuable Player of the 2014 season, you’ll be ahead of the curve by placing your bet now. Peyton Manning is the favorite, with 3-1 odds, while Aaron Rodgers (6-1), Drew Brees (8-1) and Tom Brady (9-1) are the runners-up.
- Lead for passing: Put money down on which NFL quarterback will lead the league for total passing yards for the season. The three with the best odds are Drew Brees (11-4), Peyton Manning (11-4) and Aaron Rodgers (7-1).
- Lead for rushing yards: Or bet on which NFL player will run up the most rushing yards during the regular season. Athletes with the best odds for this category are Adrian Peterson (4-1), LeSean McCoy (9-2) and Jamaal Charles (7-1).
- Lead for receiving yards: Which receiver will leave the others looking like butter fingers? Top picks are Calvin Johnson (12-5), Dez Bryant (7-1), Demaryius Thomas (15-2) and Julio Jones (15-2).
- Offensive Rookie of the Year: The NFL’s newest players have a lot of untested potential, making this one of the most exciting betting categories. Sammy Watkins (9-2), Johnny Manziel (6-1) and Teddy Bridgewater (15-2) have the best odds of this year’s offensive rookies.
You can also place a NFL prop bet on your favorite team. The NFL team prop bets are now open on Bovada for the following:
- Regular Season Win Totals: This is an over/under bet for total season wins for the 2014 season. The Denver Broncos are expected to round up the most wins with an over/under of 11.5, while the Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars tie for lowest expected wins with an over/under of 5.
- Playoffs: Which NFL teams will make it to the playoffs? You can back up your guess with a bet, with the New England Patriots (-450), Denver Broncos (-450) and Seattle Seahawks (-325) named as the safest bets in this category
Tips for NFL Preseason Betting
So what factors should NFL fans consider before betting on the NFL preseason?
Look at past preseason records. One of the best indicators of whether a team will win or lose preseason games is to look at its past preseason wins and losses, according to WalterFootball.com. While some coaches simply use the preseason as a time to shuffle their rosters and see players in action, other coaches place a high premium on preseason wins and will make a point to put their best teams forward.
Coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks falls into the latter group. “We take these games very seriously,” Carroll said following the 2013 NFL preseason, according to ESPN. “We’re trying to build a mentality around here of winning and understanding how you win. It’s learning the lessons that it takes and the discipline it takes to always show your best every time you go out there.”
This attitude has helped Coach Carroll lead the Seahawks to a winning streak of seven preseason games — dating back to 2011. The Seahawks are a great example of a team that is a better bet because it values the preseason and is interested in winning.
Bet on teams with a deep lineup. Jones points out that players on teams with more good players will have more to prove during the preseason, and will be playing at a higher level to try and secure a starting position.
Pay attention to which teams are stacking losses. “Coaches and players typically want to at least get one win under their belt before the real games start,” said Jones, so teams that lose their first two preseason games will probably be playing harder in the last two.
When in doubt, take the over in points. An analysis by Sports Insights found that “over” wins are more likely during the preseason (55 percent) than the regular season (51.2 percent). If you’re on the fence about a total or spread bet, you’ll have slightly improved chances if you take the over — especially on teams that have strong offenses.
Photo credit: Matthew Paulson