Before the NFL preseason kicked off, ESPN host Trey Wingo tweeted, “If anyone is actually betting a preseason game… seek immediate help. No one has a CLUE about who will be on the field.. how it’s being called.. Etc.”
Professional sports bettors and Las Vegas oddsmakers beg to differ.
“There’s a reason why the preseason limits are a tenth of what we take in the regular season,” Westgate sportsbook manager Ed Salmons said. “If the preseason was for degenerates, the limits would be as big as they are for the regular season.”
Salmons estimates that 50 to 60 percent of the money wagered on the preseason is from sharp bettors, who correctly called Denver’s 14-10 win and cover over Atlanta in the Aug. 1 Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.
Coaches and quarterbacks are the biggest keys to cashing tickets in the preseason. In general, it’s wise to back teams with quarterback competitions and coaches motivated to win, including those in their first year with a team.
Broncos rookie coach Vic Fangio falls into the latter category and beat a Falcons coach in Dan Quinn who fell to 0-9 in his past nine preseason games.
“There are certain coaches who want to win in the preseason and certain coaches who can’t care less,” professional sports bettor Jeff Whitelaw said. “There are all kinds of ways to play it, but there are definitely a lot of tremendous opportunities in the preseason.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh is 13-0 in the past three preseasons and 30-15 ATS overall. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is 14-7 ATS, and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is 33-16 ATS, though Seattle went 0-4 last preseason. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is 11-21-1 ATS in the preseason.
Redskins (-1½) over BROWNS, Thursday
Whitelaw played the Redskins over the Browns in Thursday’s game mostly because of Washington’s QB rotation of veterans Colt McCoy and Case Keenum and rookie Dwayne Haskins.
“The Redskins have a quarterback competition, and that’s what you really want,” he said. “You’re basically getting two ex-starting quarterbacks, not great ones, but most of Cleveland’s guys aren’t even going to step on the field.”
Washington is a 1½-point favorite after opening as a 2½-point underdog.
“It makes sense,” Salmons said. “If you look through the quarterback rotations, Washington is a team really built to win in the preseason. I’d be amazed if Baker Mayfield even plays in this game.”
DOLPHINS (-3½) over Falcons, Thursday
Likewise, the Dolphins are in a good spot against the Falcons, who lost Hall of Fame Game standout QB Kurt Benkert and replaced him with former Alliance of American Football QB Matt Simms. Miami, a 3½-point favorite, has a quarterback battle between veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen.
“Both of those guys want to impress in this game,” Salmons said. “I can’t imagine Matt Ryan will play at all for Atlanta, and backup Matt Schaub looks terrible. You pretty much have to beat a kid they just signed off the street.”
RAIDERS (-5½) over Rams, Saturday
49ERS (-4) over Cowboys, Saturday
Salmons noted that not one Rams offensive starter appeared in a preseason game last year.
“I would think the Raiders would want to win this game just to start feeling like winners,” he said. “It’s the same thing with the 49ers-Dallas game. (Garrett) has never given a crap about a preseason game. I feel the 49ers want to win just to get a winning attitude in the locker room.
“Usually when you see spots where coaches are trying to win, they usually win. That’s why those games have the highest spreads.”
Whitelaw also likes Oakland, partly because he doesn’t expect any key Rams to play.
“Some of these teams don’t even show up,” he said. “(Raiders quarterback Derek) Carr is supposed to play, and Oakland’s going to play a little bit more of their regulars.”
While most preseason games are decided by third-stringers, handicapper Doug Fitz has found a first-half betting system that he said is 60-36-1 ATS, 16-5 ATS in Week 1. The system calls for a play on a home team favored from 3 to 4½ points in the first half that didn’t make the playoffs the previous season. Oakland might fit that formula when first-half lines are posted.
“I don’t buy into any of these systems if they don’t make sense to me,” said Fitz (Systemplays.com). “But I can see the logic in this one. You’ve got a team that hasn’t made the playoffs last year that obviously wants to get off on the right foot.”
Salmons said Right Angle Sports, a well-respected sports service that typically moves the line with its plays, gave out picks on the Colts, Broncos and Jaguars-Ravens under.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournbet shameal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.
NFL preseason betting
Records from OddsShark
Best ATS records
Frank Reich 4-0
Pete Carroll 33-16
John Harbaugh 30-15
Mike Zimmer 14-7
Bill O’Brien 11-7-1
Jon Gruden 18-12-3
Worst ATS records
Jason Garrett 11-21-1
Dan Quinn 4-13
Best over record
Adam Gase 8-3-1
Best under records
Bill O’Brien 13-6
Dan Quinn 10-5-1
Jay Gruden 13-7
Mike Tomlin 30-20