No sports in the world gather as much attention as the NFL. Yes, even the preseason. Starters rest, the quality is not as high, and no one cares.
However, bettors have been itching for five long months to bet on some good old football.
While fans care about their teams and favorite players, handicappers care about money. They go around the internet looking for clues, trends, and data on the teams.
They also go line shopping—it’s all about making the bankroll grow.
The question is, how do you bet on games that are so reckless and unpredictable? Keep reading below to get an NFL preseason betting guide with tips!
It all starts with the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. This game is during the first week of August. It kicks off the preseason with one team from the AFC and another from the NFC.
The next month’s slate has games on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. All teams play a total of three preseason games. The time of these games is at night, not because of their ‘primetime’ quality, but because of the weather.
Another fun fact is divisional rivals don’t get to play each other in the preseason. The preseason helps the coaching staff to evaluate, test, and try new players.
Hence, undrafted rookies, new low-tier free agents, and practice squad members give their all to get a spot on the official roster. This is where they get their first chance at exposing their talent to other teams. Their job is hanging by a thread.
The lines move in the NFL preseason, so it is important to keep an eye on line shifts. Oddsmakers will get the lines wrong more often than not and the point spreads are set at 3, or very close to it.
This happens because the oddsmakers are not sure of who is playing, or how long they’re playing. Team performances are wildly random in preseason games.
Take these three points into consideration:
These three points are not only for your consideration as a bettor. It also matters to oddsmakers when putting point spreads online. The betting options are the same as the regular season. However, the sportsbooks reduce their limits.
Point spreads, totals, and moneylines are the menu for bettors. Of course, top sportsbooks like FanDuel and DraftKings will offer live betting. Some will have prop bets available, although the markets are very limited.
The point spread is one of the most popular wagers in football. You bet on a team covering a set number of points. If they do, you get the payout.
Usually, the payouts are at a standard odds number of -110. The 10% of the winner bets go to the bookmakers. This percentage is the vig, or juice, and translates to the commission the book takes. 100% of losing bets stay with the sportsbooks.
For example, let’s take this year’s Hall of Fame Game. The Steelers were -2.5 favorites. This means if you bet on it, they had to win by over two points to get the payout.
If your wager was on behalf of Dallas, you needed the Cowboys to win or lose by less than three points. The game ended in a Pittsburgh 16-3 win. This means Steeler’s bettors got the payout. The spread payout is set at the standard -110 odds for both underdogs and favorites.
Betting on the over/under for the game is a wager that relies on the combined points scored in the game. Using the example above, the totals number was 31.5 points.
In this case, the under bettors got the win and the payout. Betting on totals is tricky since you’re watching bad offenses, but also bad defenses. A good enough offensive playbook can make points rain. Likewise, bad talent could show a game with lots of punts and very few scoring drives.
The moneyline bet is the purest form of betting. You pick the team that wins the game outright. No point spreads, only the win. If you pick it right, then you get to cash out.
This year, the Steelers were favorites to win at -145, meaning you would bet $145 to get $100 as profit. For the Cowboys, they were at +125, slight underdogs. A $100 bet would see a profit of $125. As you now know, it was Pittsburgh who won the game.
States that have legalized sports betting allow NFL preseason to be on the wagering menu. You can find the current NFL odds for preseason betting at sportsbooks like DraftKings, FanDuel, and many more.
The goal when betting is to get the W. As the saying goes, “money talks.” To do it on a more consistent basis, you need to research. Doing your homework on the teams, the game plans, players and matchups helps to get you the big bucks.
However, you need to know that preseason betting is different from regular season betting. The games are less tactical, the game plans are very rudimentary, and winning is not the priority.
The coaches want to see who gets into the final roster, and who gets cut. Execution trumps outcome in the preseason.
Research could show you preseason stats that are almost unthinkable. For example, after the 2019 Hall of Fame Game, where the Broncos won 14-10 against the Falcons, Atlanta went into meltdown results in the preseason.
Former HC Dan Quinn lost nine consecutive preseason games, both straight up and against the spread.
A big tip is researching the NFL coaches’ preseason records. Also, read beat writers and local websites that cover the training camps. You may find how much the starters will play, or how the roster will rotate within games.
A key ingredient to preseason success is waiting for the lines to move. This happens a lot due to sharp bettors taking a side, forcing the books to adjust. In 2019, the Broncos opened as slight underdogs and closed at -2.5 point favorites on game day. Waiting to see how the lines shift is a good strategy in the NFL preseason.
The good thing is, the betting public isn’t always interested in the NFL preseason. Sharp bettors, yes, that’s smart money. Try going along with sharp bettors instead of fading line moves.
Another stat you may want to consider is that teams actively try to avoid overtime. So, if the option to tie is there, don’t be surprised if teams instead of going for the tying-FG go for a TD. Thus, a three-point betting line carries less significance.
The NFL Network broadcasts 14 preseason games live. They also show replays of all 65 preseason games.
Among live streaming services, FuboTV (while betting with their sportsbook), PlayStation Vue, and Sling TV all have the NFL Network services. Plus, they all offer free trial periods, and you can watch them on TV as long as you have a Smart TV or a streaming device.