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Preseason Football Tips

   by Bryan Leonard - 08/18/2008

Sports handicappers can't beat this time of year: Baseball pennant races in full swing, college football on the horizon and preseason NFL action is already underway! Contrary to what some might think, there are numerous wagering opportunities with exhibition football, you just have to know what to look for. Not every game offers betting edges, of course, but many do. Here are some tips to help locate some NFL preseason edges against the spread.

Travel time: This is something that is easily overlooked, but it can offer significant clues as to whether a team is ready to play. Teams that are home have many advantages: Practicing close to home, not having to deal with airport traffic, hotels, flights, etc. Familiarity with practice facilities and their home stadiums, being close to their family and friends. Look at all the problems the New Orleans Saints had to deal with three years ago. They ended up playing 16 road games, really, after hurricane Katrina, and won 3 games while losing 13. Two years ago they didn't have that albatross and ended up in the NFC title game.

Even preseason games can offer this problem. Three years ago the Colts opened up play in Tokyo, Japan. Talk about a long flight! The Colts ended up going 0-4 straight up and against the spread after that opening preseason game overseas.

Aging Veterans: Some teams have a lot of young, hungry kids. You can guess that those guys will play much harder in preseason than veterans, as they are fighting for jobs. Not just jobs on THAT team, but in the event they are cut, they want to impress enough so that other teams might have an interest later on. Teams with veteran starters, however, are less likely to play hard and many times coaches will hold out veterans to avoid injury.

Colts coach Tony Dungy has a recent history of taking it easy on his veterans in August, on a 2-11 SU/ATS exhibition run. Minnesota coach Brad Childress has been a tyrant in preseason the last two years, but dramatically altered his approach for 2008. Rather than overwork his players with day after day of hitting, Childress has allowed his team to practice in shorts and shoulder pads early in camp. It will be interesting to see if the team performs differently or not.

Limited minutes: The first two weeks of the preseason, teams will play their starters only limited minutes, if at all. This means looking at depth and experience, especially at the quarterback position. In addition, sometimes one team will play its starter very limited minutes, but the opponent will go with the starters more. We saw this two years ago, when the Browns were playing their first preseason game while the Eagles were playing their second. Philly was at home, too, and off a poor performance against Oakland. Philly dominated in a 20-3 win and cover.

I hade a play on that game, as well, and used both of those above factors in choosing Philly: 'On defense the Browns best players are aging veterans Ted Washington and Willie McGinest. They likely will play very limited minutes. At this point the Browns just want to get out of the game healthy and judge some talent. The Eagles on the other hand have something to prove after their disastrous season a year ago.'

Camp Play: Keep track of how teams are performing during practice all week. The Raiders, for example, have an abundance of youth at quarterback, as do the Vikings, Ravens and Falcons. Poor practice play isn't likely to turn into great exhibition play.

Home/road situation: A team in preseason can play poorly on the road with the only intent to stay healthy and get out of town. Teams at home, even in preseason, are more likely to play harder, with more enthusiasm. Teams off a bad road game coming home are worth a look, as well, especially if the coach was unhappy or is chewing the team out.

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