After a long six months, the wait is almost over and football season is looming. For millions of sports fans, there is nothing better than the start of football season, and the NFL preseason serves all the starved, eager fans.
In fact, it’s become so popular that the first game this year, Dallas Cowboys vs. Los Angeles Rams, was the highest-rated cable TV broadcast that week, and the excitement doesn’t stop there. Fans, analysts, line-makers and more are watching closely, trying to decipher the preseason action and eagerly anticipating the first games of the regular season.
Tips for interpreting preseason games
Overall preseason performance is very rarely, if ever, a reliable indicator of what’s to come during the regular season. However, this doesn’t mean fans and handicappers shouldn’t pay attention.
While the wins and losses during the preseason are usually meaningless, there is other valuable information that can be gleaned. As long as you’re keeping a level head about it, context and perspective help when evaluating preseason play. Here are some important considerations:
• Remember that teams are testing the waters: For coaches, preseason is a time to test plays, analyze players, finalize line-ups and scope out other teams. The main goal of the preseason is to prepare for a successful regular season, not to win games.
This means coaches often are more focused on the team’s weak spots during preseason than they are at showing their strengths. Coaches may also be tinkering with game strategy, plays and testing player positioning within the lineup.
• Factor in a team’s performance the previous year: Look to last season’s stats and rankings for clues about a team’s goals for the upcoming season.
Did it suffer with a weak defensive line? Was its quarterback strong but the offensive line inconsistent? Were its starters plagued with injuries throughout the season? Consider the key elements that the team needed to fix last season, and then see what has been done to address those concerns leading into this season.
• Keep your eye on the injury report: There often are a couple of disappointing, season-altering injuries that occur during preseason.
• Don’t get attached to any newly drafted players too soon: That promising young linebacker might not be able to stand up to the pressure or professionalism of regular-season games, so stay optimistic about strong preseason performances, but don’t let it inform any future bets just yet.
• Watch the quarterbacks: Teams with undecided starting positions can reveal a lot during the preseason. This is especially true when a coach needs to decide between two potential starting quarterbacks.
In this instance, you’re likely to see both quarterbacks playing their best to nab the position, and the coach is more likely to play a strong offensive lineup to see how each QB fares within the mix.
Tips for making bets during the regular season
Watching football isn’t the only reason so many people are marking off the days until the NFL season opener Sept. 8; it’s betting on the sport, as well.
Professional football is far and away the most popular sport wagered at the books, and both handicappers and amateur bettors have been eagerly waiting for the lines to open again. The good news is that futures bets are available, and deciding those wagers now can be profitable later.
Futures bets are wagers you can make on the team’s performance for the season, including the outcomes of the playoffs and the Super Bowl. Wagering on futures is often easiest during the season because you’ll have a clearer sense of how each team is playing. However, the earlier you make these bets, the better your odds will be, so late in the preseason/early in the regular season is the ideal time, if you’re feeling confident.
If you’re ready to make your future bets early, here’s what to remember:
The lines can change a lot in the next few weeks
The odds for the next Super Bowl winner are usually released not long after the league’s champion is crowned, so as the preseason wraps up and the regular season begins, they’re likely to adjust accordingly. Injuries, free-agent signings, powerful underdog performances and more can affect the lines during this time.
There are pros and cons to betting safe favorites
Slating the New England Patriots to win the AFC East championship is a comfortable bet for many people; they are a 9-to-2 favorite. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best futures bet. Wagering on an overwhelming favorite this early won’t yield an especially high payout, but betting an underdog team early will.
Check the other lines
Consult the other future lines available such as division winners, conference championships and total wins before making a future bet on the Super Bowl. Looking at the other odds can help inform your decision and give you a different perspective on how people are betting the rest of the season will play out. The futures lines for the Super Bowl are compelling on their own and the other lines can help pad that information.