NFL Preseason Betting Tips: 7 Profitable Strategies for Week 1

NFL Preseason Betting Tips: 7 Profitable Strategies for Week 1 article feature image

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Detroit Lions linebacker Eli Harold (57) sacks New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12)

  • Betting on the NFL preseason provides an opportunity to build your bankroll before the regular season kicks off.
  • Follow these seven tips to a profitable 2019 preseason.

It has been 179 days since NFL bettors have been able to wager on a game. That streak will end on Thursday when the Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos kickoff the preseason in the Hall of Fame Game (8 p.m. ET, NBC).

It is not regular season football, but still draws plenty of betting attention. Some will disparage gamblers who get down on NFL preseason games, even call them degenerates. But smart bettors understand these exhibition games are an opportunity to build their bankrolls for the regular season.

With that in mind, here are seven tips for betting on the NFL preseason.

NFL Preseason Betting Tips

1. Fade the Public

Betting against the public is a popular strategy in other sports and it has proven profitable in NFL preseason games. Here are the results of fading the public since 2004 using data from Bet Labs:

NFL preseason games are not heavily bet, at least not compared to regular season contests. As a result, lopsided action will cause oddsmakers to adjust the lines. If the betting lines move too much this can lead to value betting against the public.

2. Know Your Coaches

Every coach has a different approach to the preseason. Some treat these exhibition contests as extended practices with an opportunity to evaluate talent and install new plays. Others try to create a culture of winning and will pay attention to the scoreboard.

Understanding a coach’s mindset entering a preseason game can give bettors an edge. Here are the most and least profitable active coaches in our database.

Most profitable active preseason coaches:

  • John Harbaugh: 29-15-1 ATS, +12.8 units
  • Pete Carroll: 23-12-1 ATS, +9.46
  • Mike Zimmer: 14-7 ATS, +6.7
  • Jon Gruden: 14-8-2 ATS, +4.9
  • Frank Reich: 4-0 ATS, +4.0

Least profitable active preseason coaches:

  • Mike Vrabel: 0-4 ATS, -4.0 units
  • Andy Reid: 28-32-1 ATS, -5.0
  • Bill Belichick: 25-31-4 ATS, -7.6
  • Dan Quinn: 4-12 ATS, -8.3
  • Jason Garrett: 11-20-2 ATS, -9.3

3. Buying Big Underdogs

All underdogs in the preseason have gone 488-447-28 (52.2%) against the spread (ATS) since 2004. Players and coaches don’t always take preseason games seriously, which has historically made underdogs profitable bets.

Big underdogs, six or more points, have been the best bets. Though, such large spreads are not common in the preseason these days. In the past three years, only five games have featured a spread of six or more points — the underdogs went 3-2 ATS.

This year there are no spreads of six or more points posted in Week 1 of the preseason.

4. Follow Reverse Line Movement

What is reverse line movement? This is when the betting line moves in the opposite direction of the betting percentages. For example: A team is getting only 40% of spread tickets, but their line moves from -3 to -4. This is often an indication of sharp action.

In the NFL preseason, it has been profitable to wager on teams receiving less than 50% of spread tickets when the line moves in their direction. By following this strategy, we can be on the same side as the professional bettors.

5. Overs in Low Total Games

Low-total, 35 or fewer points, preseason games are rare. In the Bet Labs database less than 25% of exhibition games feature such a total. Casual bettors love wagering on the over, except in these games. Often matchups featuring a small over/under involve poor offenses, great defenses or both.

There have been 238 preseason games with a total of 35 or fewer points since 2004. In only 109 (45.8%) games were a majority of tickets on the over. With the public often on the under in low-total games a contrarian strategy is to zig when the public zags and bet the over.

Historically, the over in low-total preseason games has been profitable. A simple explanation is that it is just easier for a game to go over when there are fewer points required to be scored.

6. Knowledge Is Power

Having a firm grasp on player usage rates, injury information and coaching strategies are critical in the preseason. Bettors who can stay on top of player information gain a big advantage against the sportsbooks.

For up-to-the-minute NFL information be sure to follow The Action Network’s NFL analysts on Twitter, including Adam Levitan, Ian Hartitz, and the FantasyLabs NFL account.

7. Track Your Bets

You’ve done the research, now see how your bets are performing. Track all of your plays using The Action Network App. Not only is the app free to download but it allows you to follow expert picks, connect with friends, get insider analysis, view live odds and more.

Good luck and remember to follow these seven tips to have a profitable NFL preseason.

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