Posted Monday, April 04, 2011 10:47 AM
Posted Tuesday, September 07, 2010 08:45 PM
It is impossible to know what lies ahead in the future, however taking a look back in history is always a fascinating way to understand what happened or could be learned about events that shaped people’s lives. Forget the Fab Five documentary about Michigan on ESPN; the Disney movie about the Butler Bulldogs will be far more entertaining.
In five or 10 years will Brad Stevens be considered the smartest basketball coach since John Wooden, with Butler having taken the place of DePaul in the Big East and the Bulldogs playing before packed houses at the Conseco Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers?
Will Butler and Stevens make Gonzaga look like a quaint story, as they moved from mid-major to major powerhouse of the Big East and become perennial Top 10 preseason pick?
Can Stevens become such a force on the college basketball landscape that Butler replaces Duke and North Carolina as the place to play for the finest high school players in the country?
Those are all seemingly ridiculous questions to contemplate, UNLESS, Butler defeats Connecticut on Monday night for the national championship.
After five games of this NCAA Tournament, Butler has earned a movable label that every broadcaster and analyst wants to place a stamp on.
Some will chime in the Bulldogs are a tenacious defensive team that offers no quarter, yet Pittsburgh shot 56.5 percent against this group and Florida scored at will in the paint until the Gators guards got nervous and started hoisting up three’s like an Irishman drinking beer on St. Patrick’s Day.
Others will point to how fundamentally sound Stevens’ team is in rebounding the ball and controlling the glass, yet they were out-rebounded by 11 by Pitt and only had an edge of three over Old Dominion in the first game of the tournament.
Opposing coaches will lament how physical the Bulldogs are (albeit, lack of fouls called on Butler), while they wish they could get their players to play as hard as this team from Indianapolis does game after game.
Steve Kerr is a very astute basketball analyst and he made an early reference in Butler’s Final Four matchup against Virginia Commonwealth that the Rams were better at every position on the floor except for point guard Shelvin Mack. Kerr deserved to be forgiven for having a Tim McCarver moment (stating the obvious), since Butler is ALWAYS facing a superior team with better athletes accept for most Horizon League encounters and the occasional guaranteed win on the schedule vs. a truly inferior opponent.
For my money, Brad Stevens is the best college coach in basketball right now. He made an up and coming Butler program a back to back NCAA tournament finalist. His genius is he doesn’t get greedy as a tactician; he’s able to breakdown film expertly and takes away the most important aspect of foes.
In this tournament alone, his club took away Old Dominion’s offensive rebounding, didn’t let Pittsburgh’s guards become a huge factor, had defenders contest each Wisconsin shot and made Florida hit the panic button with late comeback with superior execution.
On Saturday, Butler did what five other teams in the tourney couldn’t do, stop VCU’s Joey Rodriguez from penetrating into lane area and on those occasions when he did, they covered up the Rams three-point shooters, making Rodriquez a reluctant shot-taker.
Can Butler really stop Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb from scoring and dishing assists? Will the Bulldogs Matt Howard and Andrew Smith really be able to hold off Connecticut bigs like Alex Oriakhi and Charles Okwandu from dominating the glass like they did against Kentucky? Will Mack be able to overpower defense demon Shabazz Napier?
Connecticut is the obvious choice, favored by 3.5-points, having the more talented players on the floor led by Walker, who’s become the most prominent name in this event since Danny Manning and the Miracles from Kansas in 1988. The Huskies are well documented 13-0 and 12-1 ATS on neutral floors this season and a win elevates Jim Calhoun among the greats with three NCAA titles.
But betting against Butler isn’t practical, since they are roughly two to three inches on a 50+ foot heave from defending their own basketball championship. The Bulldogs are improbable 10-1 SU and ATS in this event the past two years. Stevens has cultivated what every coach, CEO of a corporation or sales manager would love to have, a TEAM which is better than the sum of its parts.
Butler knows how to win close games and barring unforeseen circumstances, will give UConn all they can handle and possibly a lot more on Monday night, looking for their one shining moment.
Posted Thursday, August 26, 2010 04:21 PM
By Doug Upstone
The NFL grades their talent differently than college football. Here we have scouts using a sophisticated grading system that has very specific details relating to the particular player. The information breaks down this way, blue, red and purple for grades and I utilize it in this manner: Blue is worth three points, red worth two points and purple earns a single digit.
When a team has a blue player, this means this individual is a proven All-Pro caliber player, generally year after year. This group would include a Drew Brees, Chris Johnson and a Larry Fitzgerald along with many others at all the different positions on the gridiron.
A red player is someone who would be the next level down, a very good player who is capable of elevating his game to All-Pro status with the right circumstances. Others that fit this profile are overachievers like a Donald Driver of Green Bay or the Giants defensive tackle Justin Tuck, who maximizes their abilities.
The purple player is an above average player, who definitely contributes to the success of his team, but lacks the star quality to be a difference-maker week-in, week-out.
NFL talent scouts also hand out grades for average and below average players, however winning in the National Football League is all about having play-makers and putting them into the right positions to achieve success.
Similar to the college football article I write, this is something I’ve worked on for years and use a variety of sources to uncover useful material for this piece. The sources are extremely reliable and consistent. I’d like to point out no personal views are used in determining a NFL players rating, just the interpretation of the material. All 22 positions on the field are graded, along the place-kickers, punters and return specialists like a Josh Cribbs, who can make a meaningful impact on a contest.
Also, no rookies are included in the study, since it would be only speculation on how they would actually perform. Similar to the college football piece, I’ve tallied what all the so-called experts think who should finish where and they are listed in the division standings.
Let’s take a look at the NFC South as an example, the home of the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. Here is the breakdown of the four teams and at the top is total points based on division strength.
NFC South -81 points
New Orleans (1) - 26
Carolina (3) – 23
Atlanta (2) – 21
Tampa Bay (4) – 11
Analysis –The Saints have blue-chippers like Brees and OG Jahri Evans, but where the strength of this team is the other 10 quality starting players that led them to be true Super Bowl champions. The entire off-season has been about enjoying being champs, but Sean Payton is preaching no letdown. Carolina’s higher figure comes from quality offensive linemen and their dynamic duo at running back with DeAngelo Williams and James Stewart. Quarterback and weakening defense are both issues for the Panthers. Atlanta is liked by many football insiders and don’t forget, no NFC South champion has repeated in its eight years of existence, are the Falcons ready to fly? The whole fire John Gruden because he wants too much power has certainly worked out in Tampa Bay.
NFC East -93 points
Dallas (1) – 29
New York Giants (2) – 22
Philadelphia (3) – 21
Washington (4) -21
Analysis – Football’s most balanced division continues to roll along, just with a bit more uncertainty. Dallas should be the best club again with 4-blues, 6-reds and 5-purples, proving their depth is consistent across the entire team. The Giants are the only team in the division without a blue player, however are loaded with nine reds, showing they still have an upside if a number of them have above average seasons. Philadelphia figures to be weaker at quarterback and Washington stronger, with Donavan McNabb changing uniforms. With McNabb angry (inwardly) and coach Mike Shanahan wanting to again prove to his former employer they made a mistake in firing him, the Redskins could be very dangerous.
NFC North -86 points
Minnesota (1) – 34
Green Bay (2) – 27
Chicago (3) – 18
Detroit (4) -7
Analysis – With Brett Favre, Minnesota is the most talented squad in the NFC. No question Favre makes them better and coming so close to making it to Super Bowl only adds motivation for team trying to show the world they destined for greatness. Green Bay is expected to be hot on the Vikings heels with Aaron Rodgers and formidable offense. The defense was a huge surprise last season, but can Charles Woodson still play at such a high level in his 13th season and how much will Johnny Jolly’s loss hurt DC Don Capers crew? Word out of Chi-town is the Bears have to make the playoffs or no love will be given to Lovie Smith, having to find work somewhere else. The mess Matt Millen left behind will take more time to fix than the city’s auto industry.
NFC West -68 points
Arizona (2) – 24
San Francisco (1) – 22
St. Louis (4) – 13
Seattle (3) -9
Analysis – With no Kurt Warner, many believe the balance of power will shift towards San Francisco in the NFC West, though Arizona still has a great deal of firepower offensively, it’s a matter of how quickly Derek Alexander and reshuffled offensive line comes together. The Cardinals will also be breaking in a number of new defensive players. Alex Smith finally showed everyone he is the 49ers best signal caller, which happened to correspond by offensive line offering protection and having weapons on the perimeter to throw to. After 5-1 record in the division a season ago, San Fran feels ready to take charge. Seattle and St. Louis fit the bill as also-rans, with the Seahawks having more average players on their squad and the Rams having a few players that could blossom into stars, yet with more than enough others slots to fill.
AFC East -81 points
New York Jets (1) – 28
New England (2) – 24
Miami (3) – 18
Buffalo (4) -11
Analysis – In the Chinese calendar, this year is known as the Year of the Jet. OK, not really, but head coach Rex Ryan and enough prognosticators are picking New York to show up in Dallas as the AFC Super Bowl representative. It is well justified with the likes of blue-rated players like Derrelle Revis and Nick Mangold and QB Mark Sanchez has stellar supporting cast with Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards on the flanks. Coach Ryan will continue to push the blitz button and has another strong corner in Antonio Cromartie. Bill Belichick and New England are trying to rebuild on the run and though this team is not a true Super Bowl contender, they still have Tom Brady and a developing crew of youngsters. Miami overachieved in 2008, came back to reality last season and wants to think they are poised to be the upstart in the AFC. The hiring of Chan Gailey as head coach in Buffalo has drawn as much excitement as a bran muffin.
AFC North -97 points
Baltimore (1) – 36
Pittsburgh (2) – 28
Cincinnati (3) – 18
Cleveland (4) -15
Analysis – The Baltimore Ravens appeared loaded. The Ravens have the highest ranking in the NFL with better than average players and they have a whopping dozen “red” players. (No other team has 10) With Ben Roethlisberger out four games, this year’s more talented version of Baltimore should win the division, with its sight on bigger goals. Even with Big Ben, Pittsburgh doesn’t have as many studs as the Ravens; but should still be a serious postseason contender if they don’t bury themselves in a hole without Roethlisberger. Cincinnati made the playoffs last year and needs to open up the offensive playbook, after having one of the most conservative attacks in the league. The defense lost a few very good players to injury and could give even a better accounting in 2010. Carson Palmer needs career resurgence to get the ball to Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. A four-game winning streak at the end of the season brought hope to Cleveland, however a new offense will take time to implement and there are more new faces on defense.
AFC South -75 points
Indianapolis (1) – 25
Houston (2) – 21
Tennessee (3) – 19
Jacksonville (4) -10
Analysis – Anybody want to bet against Indianapolis to not win the AFC South? The Colts were the winningest team of the decade at 115-45, with Peyton Manning the one constant. Indianapolis epitomizes the salary-cap era of football, have stars where you to need them and fill in the rest with good lower salaried employees. It’s hard to find fault with a team that was 14-0 before giving away last two games for losses and made it to the Super Bowl. Nevertheless, at least three games should have been losses and the most important parts of the offensive coaching staff have been changed. Houston knows they have to make the playoffs this year and a defeat of the Colts might be enough to propel them over the top, if the running game improves and the secondary is more consistent. Tennessee is somewhere in the middle, not rebuilding, but not a finished product. How they play in games decided by seven or less points will determine final record. With a losing record, a small fan-base and ordinary players manning several spots on the roster, coach Jack Del Rio needs a miracle.
AFC West -66 points
San Diego (1) – 22
Denver (3) – 18
Oakland (4) – 14
Kansas City (2) -12
Analysis – Just a few years ago, San Diego arguably had the best 53-man roster (includes practice squad members) in the NFL. Somebody was injured, the drop off was hardly noticeable. Not anymore and the Chargers can be thankful they can mask these weaknesses playing in such a dreadful division. Denver might have a few more players than either Kansas City or Oakland, but last season’s 2-8 close to the year might be a view of what is to come in Broncos-land. The Chiefs are in the early stages of recovery and need a few more stimulus packages (good drafts) to be back in division contention. The Raiders are forgettable until they prove otherwise.
Posted Monday, August 16, 2010 10:48 AM
Betting College Football with an Eye on Talent
By Doug Upstone
Several years ago, I started looking at a ways to evaluate college football teams before the season started. The goal was to achieve a method of understanding who the impact players on the football field were and at least presume they will follow thru once the season commences. As we know, everybody’s All-American in August can turn into conference honorable mention by December. The same is true with players relatively unknown, like the New York Giants top pick DE Jason Pierre Paul of South Florida, who burst onto the scene that had previously been dominated by teammate George Selvie.
How this works is I compile information from a wide variety of sources to determine who the best players are going to be in each conference, difference-makers if you will. The reason for using conferences is this is how teams make it to BCS games or bowl tie-ins. How well does this work? From the handicapping point of view it works on futures wagers, to build foundation as to how to perceive teams throughout the year. That is not to say this 100 percent accurate, because nothing is.
The basic point is talent wins games week after week. Granted, motivation and other factors play into betting on college football from week to week, nevertheless, ask any successful coach what is the lifeblood of the program and he’ll tell you it is players that have ability. Even if teams lack focus for a half versus inferior opponent, once they start playing up to capabilities, the more talented team can still win and cover spreads.
Undoubtedly, other aspects come into play like scheduling, when you play teams or injuries. Nonetheless, this is a great tool to blend with others for the upcoming season.
As an added bonus, Impact Football Solutions went thru every preseason publication and website that had preseason predictions and we list in parenthesis how each team is expected to finish based on ranking them all.
ACC – Atlantic
1) Boston College (2) -21 points
2) Florida State (1) -16.5 points
3) Clemson (3) -15 points
4) Maryland (6) – 9 points
5) N.C. State (4) -6 points
6) Wake Forest (5) -1 point
1) North Carolina (3) -28 points
2) Miami-Fl. (2)-16.5 points
3) Virginia Tech (1)-11.5 points
4) Georgia Tech (4)-9 points
5) Virginia (6)- 6.5 points
6) Duke (5) -4 points
ACC Notes- Finding Boston College and North Carolina at the top of any ACC poll would be a shock to most football observers. The Eagles are strong in usual areas like offensive and defensive lines and if Mark Herzlich can make it all the way back from cancer; the Boston College bond on defense will be that much stronger. The Tar Heels on paper are the most complete defensive team in the country. The only weakness is if Butch Davis’ defenders become too satisfied with pressing clipping and tweets about how good they are or if the offense does nothing to help them and keeps them in negative field position continually. Florida State is expected to dominate their division, with the other teams having many holes to be plugged. The U at Miami is liked by many experts, however the offensive line is in flux after allowing 35 sacks and Game 2-5 (at Ohio State, at Pittsburgh, at Clemson and Florida State) might have the Hurricanes mentally and physically worn for a time. Virginia Tech should be very good offensively, but defense is rebuilding. New Virginia head coach Mike London has to fix offense that was 118th in the FBS last season.
1) Pittsburgh (1)-30 points
2) Cincinnati (4)-28.5 points
3) West Virginia (2) -27 points
4) Rutgers (5)-15.5 points
5) Connecticut (3)-15 points
6) South Florida (6)-11 points
7) Syracuse (7)-8 points
8) Louisville (8)-4.5 points
Big East Notes – After a nice run of being the surprise conference in college football, the Big East could take a step backward. Pittsburgh might have been the best team in the league last year, but couldn’t hold on to 31-10 lead at home to Cincinnati to give the Bearcats the Big East crown. The Panthers did suffer fairly heavy personnel losses on both sides of the ball, but still have the greatest amount of star power. Rival West Virginia would seem to pose the greatest challenge and has 16 starters back; however Coach Bill (smiley) Stewart is not a positive. Cincy has many parts back from title team, but can head man Butch Jones duplicate his predecessor’s success again? One club to watch is Connecticut. The defense wasn’t up to typical Huskies standards, however they should be improved. UConn finally has a legit offense and the five losses that were suffered last season were by 15 total points. South Florida was forced to go different direction after Jim Leavitt was fired. Skip Holtz takes over and will want to improve 7-13 (8-12 ATS) close to the season the past three years.
1) TCU (1)-38 points
2) Utah (2)-25.5 points
3) BYU (3)-16 points
4) Air Force (4) -14.5 points
5) Wyoming (5)-13 points
6) San Diego State (6)-11 points
7) New Mexico (9)-10 points
8) Colorado State (7)-7.5 points
9) UNLV (8) -6 points
Mountain West Notes –The upper part of this conference should hold little mystery. TCU is hands down the best squad in Mountain West, maybe being a little better offensively and dropping a notch on defense from last year. Utah will have the Horned Frogs at home in early November, yet at this time it does not appear they have the horses on defense to run with TCU. The BYU talent is definitely down this year, taking them out of true contender range. Air Force and Wyoming both have a chance to go bowling again and each could be good underdogs if they can stay healthy. San Diego State has a capacious number of starters back, nevertheless, until they prove they can at least compete with the MWC big boys, plus win and cover as favorites, honestly, difficult to take seriously. The Aztecs conceded 30 or more points last season and were 0-6 and 1-5 ATS. Why does everyone think UNLV is the sleeping giant of the conference? In a town that has been built on losers, the football Rebels fit right in.
1) Central Florida (1) -22.5 points
2) Southern Miss (2) – 22 points
3) Marshall (3) -14.5 points
4) UAB (5) – 10.5 points
5) East Carolina (4)-7.5 points
6) Memphis (6) -6 points
1) Houston (1) -20.5 points
2) Rice (5) -13 points
3) UTEP (4) -11 points
4) Tulsa (3) – 10 points
5) SMU (2) -6.5 points
6) Tulane (6) -1 point
C-USA Notes – This league is presumed to have one constant and drastic change at the same time. Houston is the overwhelming favorite to win another West division title, but it might not as simple as it looks. Rice, Tulsa and SMU (1-11 to 8-5 was biggest turnaround in FBS) are all believed to be vastly improved, providing more competition than meets the eye. Each has the feel of being able to cover the backdoor or have front door covers on unsuspecting opponents. The East is a different matter. East Carolina lost 30 letterman (most of the 120 FBS teams) and will need brick and mortar to rebuild. That swings open the door for Central Florida and Southern Mississippi to charge thru. The Knights bring back 15 starters from 2009 and are slight favorites over the Golden Eagles. Brett Favre’s alma mater might actually have more naturally gifted players than UCF; nonetheless the offense has to sort out matters before being the anointed team. UAB coach Neil Callaway must really like his handpicked coaching staff. With 11-25 (16-17-1 ATS) record after three years, every assistant for the Blazers starts their fourth year. Hmm.
Big 12 –North
Posted Sunday, August 08, 2010 01:54 PM
Betting on College Football Coaches
By Doug Upstone
For those that love to wager on college football, it comes in handy to know certain tendencies of the head coach. Though virtually every coach could care less about the point spread on any game they are involved in coaching, word will filter down thru various channels that high-profile alumni with large bank accounts wouldn’t mind if the home team covered a spread against a particular opponent. Though no task master will worry about such a trivial matter consciously leading into a contest, given the right set of circumstances late in a game with his team comfortably ahead, but not covering the spread, he might be inclined to run up the score.
Though there is no way to prove a coaches motive, in 1995 coach Tom Osborne of Nebraska had the No.1 team in the country heading into last regular season conflict against Oklahoma at Lincoln. The Cornhuskers were monstrous 34-point favorites and basically was toying with the Sooners, leading 30-0 late in the game. In the final drive, Nebraska went for a first down THREE times on fourth down and eventually scored a touchdown to cover the spread, with 37-0 shutout. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I never would have believed it.
Another example was 2008 when Florida hosted Miami in Gainesville. The Gators were 23-point favorites against the Hurricanes and that night despite dominating the action, led just 23-3 in the final minutes. Urban Meyer could have easily run out the clock deep in Miami territory, but instead had Tim Tebow throw two passes towards end zone before settling for field goal and a Push.
Most bettors might know about the head coach where they reside or even the coaches within the conference. Only a select few would be able to recall all the different variables from all the head coaches in the FBS.
Here is a breakdown of the top coaches in several areas based on latest runs. (Coaches only at present school)
Coaches with best home ATS records-
Troy Calhoun – Air Force 11-4
Kevin Sumlin – Houston 8-2
Chris Ault – Nevada 23-9
Chris Peterson – Boise State 14-7
Urban Meyer - Florida 18-10
Worst –Rodriguez - Michigan 4-9, Dodge - No. Texas 4-9
Notes- The most common denominator about all five of these winning coaches is they are offensive-minded in their approach. Each does it a little differently, yet they all have their own unique style that allows them to separate from others within their given conferences and it permits those betting on sports to have more confidence. Calhoun, Peterson and Meyer look to be the most trustworthy since they have defenses that can also help. This won’t be the last time you see Rich Rod mentioned as Play Against candidate.
Coaches with best road ATS records-
Bo Pelini – Nebraska 9-3
Art Briles – Baylor 8-3
Rick Stockstill – M.T.S. 15-6
Paul Johnson – Georgia Tech 10-4
Houston Nutt – Ole Miss 8-4
Worst –Rich Rod-Michigan 2-7, Fairchild – CSU 3-9
Notes- What every college fan that participates in football betting likes is a tough-minded team that they can trust as a visitor. Invariably, the point spread will be fairly low catching or handing out points in this role and a select few coaches consistently know how to prepare a team for this type of battle. Pelini and Nutt tend to be more emotional, while the other three are business-like in their approach. It doesn’t matter how it gets done, everyone just wants a coach and team that gives them the best opportunity to cash winners.
Coaches with best favorite ATS records-
Troy Calhoun – Air Force 13-4
Rick Stockstill – M.T.S. 15-6
Mike Gundy – Okla. State 19-9
Chris Ault -Nevada 27-15
Jim Tressel – Ohio State 54-38
Worst –Rich Rod-Michigan 2-9, Fitzgerald – Northwestern 4-12
Notes- Any one head coach that can make this list has different qualities. It’s is particularly impressive as football oddsmakers know whom these individuals are and are shading a point or more towards their teams in this particular role. To be able to make this group the team has to be well-prepared and giving effort that exceeds the norm. Curious to watch how Gundy does since the cupboard is rather bare at Stillwater. Two Big Ten coaches make the wrong list, with one more familiar here and with the NCAA rules committee.
Coaches with best underdog ATS records-
Butch Davis – UNC 11-5
Al Golden – Temple 20-12
Mike Price – UTEP 20-13
Jim Grobe – Wake Forest 33-19
Frank Beamer – Virg. Tech 50-34
Worst –Sherman –Texas A&M 4-9, Gundy – Okie State 9-18
Notes- Some coaches on the gridiron just have a knack for selling their squad on playing their best as underdogs. They use every cliché imaginable, “circle the wagons”, “us against the world”, “nobody respects us”, you name it, and they find a way to convince young men to play better than what the linemakers and public perceive they should. Coaches Golden and Beamer will not have many chances to be placed in this position, but they are certainly reliable. Cannot help but notice that how good Gundy is a favorite, yet he is equally as bad as an underdog, which might tell you a little bit about his ability to be a front-runner and maybe not much more.
Best coaches Off a SU Win, ATS records-
Al Golden – Temple 12-5
Rick Stockstill – M.T.S 19-7
Frank Solich – Ohio U. 19-9
Troy Calhoun - Air Force 16-8
Chris Peterson – Boise State 28-16
Worst –Stewart – West Virg. 6-11, Roberts– Ark. State 11-25
Notes- The two biggest surprises on this list are Stockstill and Solich. If Middle Tennessee State can win the Sun Belt Conference and have another bowl win, a bigger payday at a larger university might be in coach Stockstill’s future. Coach Solich doesn’t bring in great recruiting classes to Athens, yet he maximizes the talent on hand and has them believing they should contend for MAC crown each year. Head coach “smiley-face” Stewart hasn’t met a game that his team can’t find a way not to cover. Coach Roberts at Arkansas State flies under the radar with his Arkansas State team terribly up and down.
Best coaches Off a SU Loss, ATS records-
Urban Meyer – Florida 7-2
Jim Tressel – Ohio State 12-5
Bob Stoops – Oklahoma 15-7
Randy Edsall – UConn 31-16
Mack Brown – Texas 15-8
Worst – Fairchild-CSU 3-10, Rich Rod- Michigan 3-9
Notes- Tried to keep this to minimum of at least 10 games, but coach Meyer does not fit this category often, but he has his teams VERY prepared following a defeat. It should be noted four of the five top coaches on this list have won a national championship. Coach Edsall’s character was proven after UConn player Jasper Howard was tragically killed last season. Here is a hot rumor gaining quiet momentum. If the Jacksonville Jaguars have the kind of season as expected, Jack Del Rio will be fired, and Edsall is on very short list right now to be the next guy. Another Rich Rod sighting.
NFL Preseason Football Wagering Strategy
By Doug Upstone
For years I never followed the NFL in the month of August, thought it was a waste of time and absolutely had nothing to do with the regular season. The latter point is still true, just not the first one. Over the last seven years I made more money in the preseason then I would have guessed betting football online. The beauty of exhibition games (NFL hates that term) is their simplicity. I’ve been very fortunate to honestly hit over 63% (44-25) of these plays the last seven years and now I’ll share with you how it happened. Please understand, in hitting a percentage like this, you have to be very selective and really choose your spots. I’ve made a grand total of 69 plays in seven seasons, that is less than three per week. This can be a challenge for those eager to get started and end up making a significant hole before the regular season actually starts.
Just like in the regular season, it is important to know your teams. Not talking about reading hours of information about every given team, rather to know the coaches and the tendencies of the teams. Coaching blunders and superior game plans can alter the outcomes of contests during the regular season. Still a missed tackle by the opposition or unexpected turnovers can change the ultimate final score, no matter what a coach does. In the preseason, a coach can directly impact the scoreboard by substitution patterns and what his goal is for the team beforehand.
Throughout the internet is interesting fact-based cold data, available for you to learn from. For example, two NFC division foes have shown they could care less about winning in the preseason, instead they are interested in building the team and having it ready for the start of the regular season and often you can find out exactly what the game plan is by going to team websites. The squads that match the criteria are Dallas and Philadelphia, both of whom are 18-31 ATS as favorites over an extended period of time.
Week 1 - Know your Coaches
This is extremely important if you have a desire to have extra money BEFORE the regular season starts. Be assured all the oddsmakers know these numbers, it is your duty as well if you expect to profit. With Mike Shanahan in Washington, expect him to continue the same methods that have made him a great coach. As opposed to many head coaches, Shanahan has always placed a value on winning to set the right tone for his team where he has been in charge, his squads have covered over 63 percent of the time the first two weeks of the preseason.
Another important factor is first year coaches. This year we only have three taskmasters that are taking over new teams. Each has been a head coach at this level in the past and will want to establish how they will be running their programs. After going through grueling training camps, each will want to prove to his players that the work has been worth the trouble. Nothing pays off like winning. Historically, these coaches can bring a nice profit in contests where they don’t meet one another. Undoubtedly, these generals will want to bring in their type of players and it will be reminiscent of what legendary baseball manager Casey Stengel once said, “We’ll win soon, just not with these players.”
One last area to consider is coaches in peril. These fellows know their jobs are in jeopardy and have to deliver wins, even if it has to start in August. Among those that could be a good bet this month are Jack Del Rio in Jacksonville and Lovie Smith in Chicago. Both have the wolves howling at their door and early wins and a good camp would quell the noise, at least for the time being.
Week 2 - Be ready to pounce
This is one of the two weeks online football betting strategists can really take advantage of the lines and make large profits at online sports betting outlets. The most important factors this week are prior performance and motivation. These are largely tied together of which you can take advantage. Last season the Dallas Cowboys barely showed a pulse, let alone putting forth any effort and were humbled by Oakland of all teams 31-10 as two-point underdogs in the opener. This didn’t sit well with Wade Phillips and the coaching staff and they put Cowboys players thru the paces. Training camp is hard enough and the last thing any player wants this month is coaches hollering and screaming about effort. Dallas responded very positively and toppled Tennessee 30-10 as field goal favorites.
Likewise, just the opposite can occur as Tom Coughlin of the New York football Giants found out. In an unusually spirited opening contest, the Giants and Carolina went at it and New York won a hard fought game 24-17 as three-point faves. The very next week Coughlin’s club could do nothing right, especially on offense and were handled easily by Chicago 17-3.
Know this, Philadelphia is 10-1 ATS in week 2 and Dallas is 7-1 ATS.
Week 3 –Dress Rehearsal
This has become the most important week of the preseason, at least for coaches to get a real sense of where the team is and if they were on schedule. Starters will play about two-thirds of the game and a semblance of a game plan will be implemented. Many of the same principles still apply about motivation, with a few variations of note.
The coaches and players place additional importance on this week, thus giving a good showing does matter. In the preseason, situational handicapping has relevance, especially for teams losing by 10 or more points the week before. This is noteworthy, with back-ups playing and the games should be fairly evenly matched. Once again coaches will create further accountability through motivational and psychological tactics. In 2005, New England was humbled by the Saints in week 2, losing 37-27. In reading the Boston papers, Coach Belichick made it quite clear another defensive effort of that nature was not acceptable. The Patriots went to the thawed frozen tundra and laid a whipping on Green Bay 27-3.
How this works to your advantage is maybe the coach feels the team is coming along too fast and wants to dial it back. We all know head coaches are control freaks. They want to build you up to tear you down and vice versa. As mentioned in the preseason, these maniacal masters love to put the team thru grueling practices after a weak effort. Others might feel the club is peeking way to early and let them slack a bit after exceptional performance, while closely monitoring they don’t lose their edge. This is part of the other aspect of analyzing situations, teams off blowout wins or losses.
This is where knowing the personality of a head coach is so important. When Mike Holmgren was in charge, he was famous for taking his team on emotional roller-coaster in August, never letting them feel too good or bad about themselves. Super Bowl winning coach Sean Payton is a noted “go for the jugular” type and he served notice last season, as his team was ready and they were 3-0 SU and ATS, outscoring the opposing teams 100-28 before calling off the dogs.
Week 4 – Pick your spots and be ready for the regular season
The final week of the season is nothing more than final preparation for most teams trying only to avoid injury and making final cuts. The Indianapolis Colts are 2-8 ATS in their final preseason tilt, including five straight spread losses. Be cautious in your plays the last week. If you are having a winning preseason, a game or two that you really are sure of is worth the risk. If you are having a so-so or below average time in picking winners before the start of the regular season, save your money for what you care about. This is what you have been looking forward to anyways.
Take the time to review the box scores. Do not do this for the traditional reasons as you might believe. Looking at stats and trying to figure out your fantasy team has nothing to do with the preseason games. What this is for is future reference. This can lead to insights about any team’s depth. Every NFL team is going to have injuries. By reviewing the box scores this time of year, you might find a team that has built up a 17-0 or 20-3 leads with the first team players in two different games and ends up losing both contests in the second half. This could be a red flag that when this team has injuries during the season, the drop off will be precipitous. Most importantly, don’t overanalyze, follow the coaches of the 32 teams and have fun.