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Five Essential Tips For Betting The NFL Preseason

The NFL preseason is practically a different sport from the NFL regular season. That means it’s a completely different approach to handicapping it. 

With that in mind, here are some tips that will help you win more often when betting the NFL preseason:  

Bet underdogs

If you simply took the underdog in every game, you’d be up money in the NFL preseason. That’s going back to 1995, which is as far as our OddsShark database goes. 

Underdogs are 753-653-46 (53.5 percent) against the spread since then, which is well above the break-even mark in sports betting of 52.4 percent. Dogs also went 57.6 percent in 2017 (34-25-1) and 53 percent over the last five preseasons combined (159-141-8). Just about any way you break it up, taking the points has been a consistent moneymaker in the preseason. 

It makes sense. Better teams typically have their rosters put together going into the preseason and have little motivation for winning these exhibition contests. It leaves oddsmakers in a tricky spot, though, because their talent levels dictate them as favorites. 

Focus on the news, not the numbers 

Normally I’d say look at the data first and the news last when you’re handicapping just about any sport. With the NFL preseason, it’s the exact opposite. 

In the NFL preseason, we’re looking for how long the starters will play in a game, what the motivations are and how teams are performing in practice. Those are all items you learn about by reading and watching news. 

So clean off your reading specs and get ready to comb through the team beat reports. This is the stuff that matters during the pretend season. 

Follow the money

I give more weight to preseason line moves than I do to regular-season ones. The NFL preseason is a time where professional bettors shine because they regularly have access to information the general public doesn’t. 

That's why the limits on these games are low – often only $500 per game – but these are still moneymaking opportunities for bettors in the know as they take advantage of bad lines. This doesn’t happen as often during the regular season and though the limits might be higher, the lines are also much sharper. 

Bet on coaches

Certain coaches take winning in the preseason more seriously than others. It’s not a bad strategy to just bet on or bet against certain teams throughout August. 

John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens are one of those teams. Harbaugh doesn’t like to lose whether it’s horseshoes or fake football games and the Ravens enter the 2018 preseason on runs of 9-0 straight up and 9-1 against the spread. The Ravens are 16-5 against the spread over the past five years prior to 2018 in exhibition. 

The Seahawks and Pete Carroll are the same way. They’re 15-5 ATS over the past five preseasons heading into 2018 and 11-2 SU and ATS in their last 13 at home. 

Mike Tomlin and the Steelers are a completely different story. They’re 6-15 against the spread over the past five preseasons and they’re often far more concerned about a few position battles and staying healthy in August than they are about winning games. 

Manage your money

I strongly urge the new bettor to separate his NFL preseason betting money from his NFL regular-season betting money. 

Like I said, these are basically two separate sports. I’d suggest opening a separate account and betting a little less on the preseason just to keep a healthy bankroll for the fall, which is when most bettors prefer to bet.

Bet smartly, bet responsibly. And use these tips to help you win more often in NFL preseasons to come.  

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