NFL Betting Tip: HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks’ Creates Opportunity for Preseason Gamblers

NFL Betting Tip: HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks’ Creates Opportunity for Preseason Gamblers article feature image

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden

  • "HBO's Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Oakland Raiders" premieres Tuesday (10 p.m. ET).
  • We analyze how NFL preseason bettors can take advantage of the attention given to teams that appear on the reality show.

HBO’s “Hard Knocks” returns on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET) and this year’s edition features the Oakland Raiders — the first time the franchise has been on the show. Everyone’s favorite football miniseries gives viewers unprecedented access to an NFL team as it prepares for the upcoming season.

There will be no shortage of entertaining storylines as the Raiders prepare for the team’s final season in Oakland. Jon Gruden and Antonio Brown are the big names, but Richie Incognito and Vontaze Burfict are controversial players that are trying to make the roster.

Teams are often concerned that the popular behind-the-scenes series will be a distraction.

The Browns’ new coach Freddie Kitchens offered this on Cleveland’s experience being last year’s subject, “If you’re truly asking the players to be all about the team, I would say ‘Hard Knocks’ makes it very difficult to do. Because those cameras are always looking for someone to make a star out of.’’

The Raiders went 4-12 in 2018 and Gruden, in his first season with the franchise, was routinely bashed for trading Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. Oakland has only one winning campaign in the past 16 seasons. Perhaps staring in a reality television show isn’t what the team needs.

However, a case can be made that the cameras do not interfere with a squad’s training camp. Seven of the past nine franchises to appear on “Hard Knocks” have equaled or improved their season record from the year prior and four made the playoffs.

It should be noted those results focus on the regular season, when the cameras are gone. There is some evidence that teams struggle in the preseason during the filming of the show.

Since 2007, teams featured on “Hard Knocks” have gone 17-27 against the spread (ATS) in the preseason — a $100 bettor would be down $1,086 wagering on these teams.

These results are different than how the same teams perform in the preseason the years before and after.

Teams in the year before participating on the series, when there weren’t distractions of the TV crews, have gone 23-21 ATS in the preseason. The preseason after “Hard Knocks” the teams were a combined 20-21 ATS.

Combined, teams have covered the spread about 50.0% of the time in the preseason before and after the show. This is a small sample, but it appears franchises perform worse ATS in the preseason the year they are on “Hard Knocks.”

Are the cameras a distraction? Yes, but not how you imagine. The NFL is the most popular sport in America, players and coaches are accustomed to the attention.

My theory is because HBO does a great job of making them likable, which in turn leads to more casual fans wanting to bet them. When a team is popular, bookmakers inflate their lines anticipating increased handle from recreational gamblers.

In the preseason before being on “Hard Knocks,” the team’s average spread was +0.43 points. The preseason the teams star on HBO their average spread increases to -0.49 points. That is nearly a 1-point line move, which is a lot in the preseason.

Since 2004, 67.0% (646 of 964) of preseason games feature a spread of three or fewer points.

On Tuesday night, Gruden will come off as charming and Brown’s personality will shine through as HBO makes us fall for the Raiders. The public will let the story telling on “Hard Knocks” influence their betting, but sharp gamblers can gain an edge by fading the teams participating in the reality series.

The larger spreads for teams on “Hard Knocks” makes it more difficult for them to cover.

Since 2007, bettors that went against the team on the show have gone 27-17 (61.4%) ATS, returning a profit of $897 for a $100 gambler.

Oakland’s first preseason game is Saturday (8 p.m. ET). The Raiders are 3.5-point favorites against the Los Angeles Rams.

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