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Preseason Betting Observations From Week 1

   by Hollywood Sports - 08/17/2011

The opening week of the NFL Preseason was perhaps the most unique one in the history of professional football considering that most of these games were played with less than two weeks of practice from the end of the lockout of the players to the kickoff of the Week One games. To compound matters, most new free agents and rookies had little more than a week to learn their new team's playbook. Was there anything to learn from the lack of normal preparation time and zero OTAs during the offseason? Lets go by the numbers first. Except for Kansas City who opened at a favorite before becoming a small dog against Tampa Bay, every home team was favored at kickoff (from the 35-yard line except for the Bears). Ten of these home teams covered the spread -- and with the Buccaneers 25-0 dismantling of the Chiefs, the chalk was a hearty 11-5 ATS in Week One. Perhaps the underdogs were installed as such because they faced the biggest hurdles in catching up to speed? More on that soon. Only one team -- the Broncos -- covered the spread while losing by a 24-23 score to Dallas. Those results may be indicative of the fact that only one team -- a Peyton Manning-less Indianapolis Colts -- were underdogs who were getting more than four points last week. Nine of these sixteen games went Over the Total -- and that result could have easily been an even 8-8 if the Texans did not score a last minute touchdown to pull out their 20-16 win over the Jets and a narrow cover Over the 34/34.5 Total.

The angle I was most interested in was assessing what impact if any the limited practice time would have on teams with new head coaches. Six NFL teams hired new coaches in the offseason who did not have the opportunity to work with their club given the lockout: Carolina, Cleveland, Denver, Oakland, San Francisco and Tennessee (note: this list does not include Dallas and Minnesota since those coaches served on an interim basis during the regular season last year). I (cautiously) reasoned that the challenge of less than two weeks of initial exposure to the new philosophies of these coaches would be detrimental to these teams. Thankfully, this was certainly the case for the 49ers who were overwhelmed from a Saints' team one year removed from being the Super Bowl Champs. However, new head coaches were 3-3 straight-up in Week One while seeing a 4-2 ATS record with Jon Fox's Broncos narrowly covering the spread in Dallas. A deeper look into the results for new offensive and defensive coordinators is even more interesting. By my calculations (and I may be missing someone), there are a total of six new offensive coordinators this year in Cincinnati, Kansas City, Miami, Minnesota, Seattle and St. Louis. These new offensive coordinators were an even 3-3 both straight-up and ATS. What about new defensive coordinators? I spot four new d-coordinators in Baltimore, Dallas, Houston and San Diego. The results? These coaches saw their teams go 2-2 and 1-3 ATS given that Cowboys' win but non-cover. Any conclusions: despite my intuitive expectations, coaches with new systems were not negatively impacted -- in a generic way -- by the limited amount of practice and preparation time imposed by the lockout of the players. Perhaps there are more specific variables that help explain why some new coaches were successful while others were not. That may be worth looking at.

It will be interesting to examine these new coaches and their results this week since the additional week of practice is still not close to replicating what players in new systems have experienced at this point of the preseason training camp. Will losing teams from last week with new coaches/systems be more likely to bounce-back? Was every NFL team negatively impacted from just two weeks of practice last week -- and the extra-week of practice now will disproportionally help the more established clubs in Week Two? One thing we do know that is a bit unusual for the preseason: after only one team being listed as an underdog of more than 4 points in Week One, five teams are bigger than 4-point dogs this week. It should be interesting. Best of luck -- Frank.

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