NFL Betting Guides

A Blueprint For A Winning NFL Preseason Betting Strategy

Many football fans have their blinders on when preseason games are going. It’s often insipid action with some teams looking hungry and focused, while others are merely pushing paper.

The truth is that while casual bettors often sit out the exhibition action, sharp sports bettors love to get involved in preseason betting. That’s because those who do their homework can be rewarded handsomely at this point of the year.

Whether you’re new to it or simply trying to sharpen your skills, here are the keys to a winning NFL preseason betting strategy.

A Blueprint For A Winning NFL Preseason Betting Strategy
A Blueprint For A Winning NFL Preseason Betting Strategy

Check The Coaching Records

When you’re diving into NFL preseason betting, the first place to start your handicapping is with the coach’s records. That’s because there’s a very clear history of trends where coaches are either putting a lot of stock into preseason games and trying to pick up exhibition wins, and coaches who don’t care whatsoever.

For example, take a look at longtime New England Patriots bench boss Bill Belichick. Entering the 2023 preseason, he has a record of 50-38 in preseason games. Or take a look at Baltimore Ravens longtime coach John Harbaugh, who is a whopping 43-12 in preseason contests. Can you see a trend there?

On the other hand, Doug Pederson’s teams are just 8-12 in preseason games and just 1-7 in their last eight. Ron Rivera has been a head coach for many years and is just 21-21 overall. It’s pretty clear that they don’t push their teams to overexert themselves in these contests.

Before making your bet, you want to see the trends of these coaches and this will give you an indication of the mindset overall. After that, you can take a look at the coaching breakdowns from week-to-week.

Again, remember that the preseason dynamics have changed recently after the league went from four weeks to three weeks. And remember, Week 3 used to be the one that coaches cared about the most. Knowing the week-to-week numbers, you can start to unearth some trends. For example, Pete Carroll’s teams are 8-4 in Week 3 of the preseason but are a combined 18-16 in all other weeks. Belichick’s teams are 29-16 in Weeks 1 and 2, and are a combined 19-22 in the other two weeks of action. Andy Reid’s teams only have a winning record in one week of the preseason: Week 3. They’re 14-9 in Week 3 and are below .500 in each of the other three weeks (combined 30-37 in Weeks 1, 2 and 4).

Make sure to examine the numbers as this will give you a clue as it relates to motivation. Effort, intensity and interest to win is a big part of handicapping the NFL preseason. Knowing these trends will get you moving in the right direction.

What Week Is It?

There are now just three weeks of preseason football (along with a Hall of Fame Game that’s on a week by itself) but you have to note which week it is. Based on that, the teams exert different amounts of effort.

Generally speaking, starters play very little in the first week of the preseason. In the past, teams would ramp up in Week 2, play their starters the longest in Week 3 and then rest their key players in Week 4. With just three weeks, the dynamics have changed a little bit. Just remember that teams generally don’t go so hard in Week 1 and then ramp things up from there. That’s important because when you’re handicapping the games, the amount of snaps for the starters is a factor.

Training Camp Battles

Arguably the biggest challenge with handicapping preseason games is the knowing the motivation of the teams and players. The last thing you want is to bet on a team thinking that they’re going to be focused and ready, only to realize they’re mailing it in.

One dynamic that tends to be one you can rely on is training camp battles. Players who are either fighting for their roster spot or fighting to be the starter tend to have some fire in their belly. For example, if a team has a veteran quarterback but spent a first-round pick, the rookie is going to be motivated to show what they’ve got and the veteran will have to play well in the preseason to keep their job. Another example is two running backs fighting to be the main runner come Week 1 means they’ll be competitive. That’s the type of motivation you’d like to see.

Many local reporters track training camp every day. Almost all of the fantasy sites parse those reports into bite-size pieces that’s easier and faster to read. Whatever your preference, read those details to see which players and battles could be hotly contested because that enthusiasm will help you handicap the game.

Depth Charts

One of the main goals of training camp and preseason football is for teams to figure out what their depth charts are going to look like. With so many second and third-stringers coming into the game in the preseason games, you have to be aware of who is in line to play. Understanding the depth of the roster is what is going to lead to success in betting these exhibition games.

What you’ll want to do is check out websites like or to find the latest depth charts. Many sharp bettors feel like the mainstream sites like ESPN are a step behind the fantasy sites or Ourlads in terms of depth charts. You’ll want to look at several options to gather as much intel as you can.

Once you have a look, you’ll want to see who is the starter, who is the backup and who is coming in behind that. Remember, starters don’t always play in the preseason, so just because a team has Tom Brady at the top of the depth chart won’t necessarily help you win a bet. He might play a series or he might not play at all. What you need to know is who are the backups because they’ll be sucking up most of the playing time. Once you have a better grasp of that, you’ll be better able to handicap the game.

One thing that sharp bettors look for is depth charts with quality behind the starters. While that might seem obvious, a good example is a team with quarterbacks that have started regular season games before. For example, let’s say a team had a quality second-year quarterback as their starter and two backup quarterbacks that have made NFL starts in their careers. The youngster might only get a series or two but the other two quarterbacks have started regular season games. They should be reliable in preseason action against a much lower level of competition. The flipside is a team with a veteran, a late-round rookie and someone who was just signed this week. That rotation is much harder to trust for preseason betting.

It’s The Skill Positions That Matter

It’s easy to overthink NFL preseason betting because some bettors think they have to account for offense and defense and special teams, and all sorts of new faces. At the end of the day, what really matters is the rotations at the skill positions: quarterback and running back, and sometimes wide receivers. Sure, the defense is important but it’s hard to really figure out the impact the depth on the defensive line will have. Understanding the impact of a good running back rotation is much easier and impactful.

If you’re thinking about quarterbacks, teams that have a competition going between a 1A and 1B is ideal. Both are going to be motivated and both will likely get a good look. With running backs, many teams deploy three or four running backs in regular season action. That means you’ll want to upgrade a team that normally uses four guys and is going to give each a share of the carries in a preseason game. That’s a strong rotation. A team that’s dealing with injuries and is just bringing in bodies off the street is a team that’s harder to trust.

In terms of wide receivers, they have less impact but nowadays, teams look to pass a lot. The same theory applies, though. Teams loaded with high draft pick rookies or veterans who have played in-game is more of what you want to bet on. They should thrive against lesser competition. What you’ll want to be careful with is rotations where the pass catchers haven’t generated hype in training camp or developed much of a resume in the regular season.

Check The Line Movement

Line movement is important to track in relation to any NFL game because it gives you a good indication of what the sharps and public are doing. Their opinions matter. When it comes to preseason, though, it’s more heavily skewed to sharps betting on the lines because the casuals are not as involved as they will be in the preseason. More importantly, sharps feel like they can get a good edge on the house as they can research the rotations and know the motivations better than many oddsmakers, so they are happy to bet the exhibition games.

That means that as a bettor, you want to be watching the line movement on these games as that will tip you off as to where the sharp money is. If you see a game open at a PICK and close at -3, that’s not the public that’s moving that action. In the preseason, that’s mostly sharp money.

Sharps win for a living, so knowing where their money can guide your NFL preseason betting strategy.

Injury Reports

Some bettors make the assumption that because it’s preseason, that rosters are at full strength. That can be a mistake you don’t want to make.

Yes, generally speaking, teams are much healthier in the preseason than they are in the regular season but it’s always important to double-check. Outlier has all of the latest injuries tracked inside the game matchups, so make sure you check-in there. You don’t want to be surprised later.

Since the games don’t mean a whole heck of a lot, teams will opt to keep players out if there are any risks. The regular season is long and grueling, so teams will err on the side of caution. If a key player is out, that will obviously impact depth charts, rotation and general effort. That’s why you can’t overlook this aspect of the game.

Bet Your Way To Preseason Success

Many bettors will steer clear of the exhibition games but just know that the sharps do not. The main reason for it is because if you pay attention to the local news, track the depth charts and know the rotations, you can find good value on the board. Follow this blueprint and you’ll find your way to some preseason profits.

Outlier Team
August 4, 2023
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