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by Al McMordie - 08/17/2006
We just started the preseason and already betting angles and trends are popping out. Granted, preseason football doesnâ€™t mean much for the teams, especially the first week. Starters barely play, and the key is to evaluate the kids and to avoid injuries. However, from a betting standpoint, there is a lot more taking place to the trained eye.
For one, there hasnâ€™t been much scoring. This is common, as game plans are basic. Even Detroit with new offensive coordinator Mad Mike Martz didnâ€™t play flashy on offense. Martz admitted he wasnâ€™t going to show much in the first exhibition game against Denver Friday. And they didnâ€™t, with 20 points on less than 130 passing yards. When he was coach of the Rams, 130 passing yards might represent a good quarter! But not in preseason.
Notice that games have gone 11-4-1 under the total. Itâ€™s a combination of good defense plus conservative playcalling that has the unders rolling at huge clip. The Carolina/Buffalo game was typical of preseason. Carolina scored 14-0, at home, in the first quarter, with the starters putting on a show for the home fans (who are paying full ticket prices). After that, they didnâ€™t score again.
Carolina's reserves didn't fare well, as Casey Cramer and Efrem Hill both lost fumbles. Buffalo's quarterback troubles appeared no closer to a resolution. QBs Kelly Holcomb and J.P. Losman both struggled for the Bills.
Another thing that stands out is that the home team is 11-5 straight up. The last two NFL Week 1 preseasons the home team is 18-13-1 against the spread. Yes, thereâ€™s no place like home, Dorothy. This isnâ€™t a shock, either, as since preseason games mean so little, itâ€™s not surprising that one tiny edge â€“ home field â€“ could tip the balance ATS in favor of one club. After all, fans are paying top dollar to see teams in preseason. And with the NFL so popular and only once a week, teams are getting good crowds for games. Itâ€™s not surprising to see players and coaches delighted to put out a little extra effort and they are playing well thus far at home.
There are a lot of new head coaches, too, and another angle to keep up on is that new head coaches at home or at a neutral site are 4-1 straight up and 3-2 against the spread. Yes, new coaches want to impress the home fans and management that hired them, as if to show they are the right men for the job. New coach Art Shell won the Hall of Fame game, the Rams new coach (Scott Linehan) beat Indy (though they failed to cover), Houstonâ€™s new coach thrashed the disinterested Chiefs, 24-14, and the Lions new coach, Rod Marinelli, beat Denver as a home dog, 20-13. Think the Detroit fans are sick of losing? Even a preseason game suddenly has some meaning, which is important to look for when wagering.
This is nothing new. Last season in August, new head coaches Romeo Crennel (Cleveland) and Mike Nolan (San Francisco) went 7-1 against the spread in preseason. "Hey, when you win only two games and go through what we did last season, you feel good about a win â€” any win," Houston cornerback Dunta Robinson said this weekend. New Houston coach Gary Kubiak added, "I was more nervous Thursday and Friday than today. I think the coaches needed this game more than anybody." Interesting, isnâ€™t it? The game is meaningless in the standings and in the grand scheme of things. But after a 2-14 season and a new coach coming in, you get the sense the new coach REALLY wanted a good performance and a win. Keep tabs on the new coaches and when they are playing at home this August. There are betting edges to be found, you just have to know what to look for. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie