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Handicapping the NFL Pre-season

It never ceases to amaze me just how many sports bettors pass when it comes to wagering on NFL preseason games, the reason probably has more to do with past preseason wagering losses than anything else, in the big picture most simply do not understand that you can not handicap the NFL preseason using the same methods that you use when handicapping NFL regular season games.

You must approach NFL preseason handicapping from a totally different perspective and actually pretend that you are the head coach of the team that you are handicapping, as a head coach in preseason action you must have pre-defined goals of what you want to accomplish during the preseason.

Above all you must never forget that the NFL preseason is actually practice and "Tune up" time for each team to work on their weaknesses from the previous season and of course to take a look at each player on their roster and especially the players that are fighting for starting and backup positions, remember that as a HC you must also whittle down the roster as you go.

I mentioned above that as a HC you really want to use the preseason to practice and perfect any and all changes you made during the offseason in order to fix whatever weaknesses your team had, a simple way to do this is by taking a look at how your team ranked offensively and defensively from the previous regular season.

For example, at the conclusion of the 2004 regular season the final statistics showed Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Miami, and Oakland ranked 29th, 30th, 31st, and 32nd respectively in offensive rushing yards, to correct this the Bucs drafted RB Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, the Niners drafted RB Frank Gore, the Dolphins drafted RB Ronnie Brown and the Raiders made a key free agent pickup of former Jet RB Lamont Jordan.

So, now that we know that these four teams finished in the bottom four slots with regard to total rushing yardage in 2004, and we also know that each team has taken steps to correct this weakness for the upcoming 2005 season, doesn't it make sense that these four teams will in all likelihood want to practice their running game during the preseason?

The Bears allowed a whopping 66 sacks last year while the Rams allowed the next highest amount of sacks with a total of 59, this of course means that we can probably expect to see a lot of personnel shifting and experimentation along the offensive line for these two teams during the preseason.

Kansas City, Oakland, Tennessee, and Green Bay statistically ranked 32nd, 31st, 30th, and 29th in defensive yardage per pass allowed in 2004, meaning that their deep pass defense was terrible last year, thus I would look for a lot of new schemes and new players to be utilized in the defensive secondary of these four teams during the 2005 NFL preseason.

New Orleans, Miami, St Louis, and Cleveland finished 2004 ranked 29th, 30th, 31st, and 32nd respectively in defensive rushing yards allowed, each of these four teams allowed a whopping 140 yards or more on average to their opponents per game last year, thus you would expect to see these four teams use different people or different combinations of people along their defensive line during the preseason and/or use different blocking schemes or a different style of defense.

On the flip side however, keep in mind that the opposite is just as true with regard to the teams that finished at the top of each offensive and defensive category, these teams will probably be using the same starters from last season and thus will give the backups more playing and practice time during the preseason.

Another key strategy I like to use in preseason action is to know what the QB rotation will be for each team in any given contest, usually this information can be found in the local newspaper of whatever city that team plays in at least a couple of days prior to the preseason game taking place.

If a team has a strong starting QB but a so-so backup QB and rookie third and fourth stringers and they are playing a team that also has a strong QB along with a pretty good backup, a decent third string journeyman and possibly a rookie fourth stringer you can bet that I am going to back the team with the better QB rotation and especially if there are a few other reasons to back this team as well.

If you can pin point a team that has a QB "controversy" going on, meaning a team that has two QB's vying for the starting job, this can lead to many winning opportunities because of the fact that the HC will want to be viewed as being fair by giving each QB equal playing time with the starting offensive line and starting RB's and WR's which of course means that this teams offensive starters will be on the field longer than the other teams defensive starters.

Once you have grown accustomed to analyzing each team in any given preseason match up from the stand point of what each HC wants to accomplish as I have outlined above you will invariably start to notice many winning situations either by wagering on the side or the total in that affair.

In closing, always remember that betting the NFL preseason requires you to recognize a team's needs and also requires an understanding of what a particular HC wants to accomplish before Week One of the regular season rolls around.

Keep in mind that HC's want to look at the "Fresh Blood", meaning that teams ranked high in defensive categories from the previous regular season can be involved in very high scoring preseason games, and consequently teams known for high scoring contests can be involved in defensive showdowns because in each instance new players are being looked at.

Remember that passing teams can suddenly become running teams and running teams can suddenly become passing teams, during the NFL preseason teams tend to take a departure from their normal game plans in order to experiment which is why so many bettors lose money trying to handicap the NFL preseason as if it was a regular season contest and thus are convinced there is simply no way to handicap the preseason, but we know better don't we?

Jim Campbell is one of the nations most respected Sports Handicappers, he specializes in College and Pro Football, you can visit Jim at his website located at for all of your handicapping needs including free play selections, College and NFL stats, trends and award winning analysis on upcoming games.

With over 30 plus years experience in the handicapping profession Jim has built a solid reputation, his web based handicapping service at as been in existence since 1997 and year after year proves to be one of the very best handicapping services in America.


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