The first full week of the 2018 NFL preseason kicks off Thursday with a 12-game slate. Many casual fans refuse to watch, let alone bet on exhibition games. However, these glorified scrimmages provide opportunistic bettors a chance to build their bankroll before the regular season begins.
One thing bettors should know about preseason games is that playoff teams from the previous season have been more profitable than squads that didn’t play past Week 17. Since 2004, playoff teams are up +8.38 units while non-playoff teams have cost gamblers -51.61 units.
Playoff teams have more value when their opponent missed the postseason. Since 2004, playoff teams are 224-200-14 (53%) ATS (+13.89 units) in this situation.
There are a handful of reasons playoff teams have an advantage. For starters, they likely have more talent since they won enough games to reach the postseason the previous year. Playoff teams also have more continuity (players/coaches) from season to season. Due to offseason front office, coaching and personnel changes as bad teams attempt to improve, many non-playoff teams spend the preseason trying to learn the playbook and adjust to new coaching schemes.
There are four games Thursday featuring a playoff team vs. a non-playoff team:
- Los Angeles Rams at Baltimore Ravens (-3)
- Washington Redskins at New England Patriots (-3(
- Tennessee Titans at Green Pay Packers (pk)
- Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs (-2.5)
In the preseason, underdogs and road teams have provided bettors with edges. Since 2004, playoff teams that are underdogs on the road against a non-playoff team have gone 92-63-9 (59%) ATS. A $100 bettor would have returned a profit of $2,549 following this system.
Only one of Thursday’s preseason games matches this system: The Los Angeles Rams are 3-point underdogs in Baltimore (7:30 p.m. ET).
The Ravens do have some advantages in this matchup. This will be Baltimore’s second preseason game after playing in the Hall of Fame Game. The Ravens have three capable quarterbacks in Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III and a coach that has been one of the most profitable in the preseason (John Harbaugh, 26-14-1 ATS, +10.94 units).
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However, the quarterback situation isn’t as good as it looks on paper. Flacco is paid like a top-tier passer but doesn’t perform at the level, Jackson is an unproven rookie and RG3 isn’t guaranteed a spot on the roster. Plus, Harbaugh’s excellent preseason coaching record wasn’t enough to cover the spread against the Chicago Bears last week.
Los Angeles has more talent and history on their side as an underdog playoff team on the road facing a non-playoff opponent. The public is also on Baltimore, which adds even more value to LA Teams matching this system getting less than 50% of spread tickets have covered the spread 66% of the time (46-24-4 ATS).
The Play: Rams +3