The NFL is king among all sports, so even the preseason schedule attracts significant interest from fans and bettors alike. Training camp and preseason are preparation for the regular season, and while the games are mostly meaningless and the outcomes don’t count in the standings, there is still much interest and more to consider.
Fans follow their favorite players and stars, who play very little during the preseason. But bettors and handicappers, especially those that are more serious and savvy, are searching and scouring the internet for clues and information from teams, coaches, beat writers and media while evaluating the lines at sites like DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook.
So how do you approach and handicap preseason games with backups logging more playing time and the games and outcomes rendered mostly meaningless? Follow along as our NFL preseason betting guide sheds some light on preparing for the preseason with tips on betting and expectations.
How does the NFL Preseason work?
The exhibition season typically begins the first week of August with the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. One team from the AFC and NFC are selected to play in the Hall of Fame Game.
The four following weeks feature preseason games on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights with all teams playing four games. Exhibition games are almost exclusively played at night due to hot summer weather, and teams in the same division do not play one another during the exhibition season.
Since realignment in 2002 and a league of 32 teams, the preseason games have been played to allow teams, coaches and management to evaluate players and prospects in exhibition games. These contests provide players live contact and game speed against other teams separate from the training camp and scrimmage atmosphere.
How to bet NFL Preseason
Pay attention to line moves in NFL preseason. Oddsmakers get lines wrong more often, with many point spreads set at or very near the number 3 as the oddsmakers are not sure of playing time and team performance.
- There are many new players on rosters from rookies, free agents and trades.
- Some players will hold out while others will miss some time with injuries.
- There are less reps for the starters and stars, as staying healthy is of great importance heading into the regular season.
All this plays a part when evaluating the teams and point spreads. Betting options are similar to regular season, although sportsbooks reduce limits. You can bet the point spread, totals or moneyline, which is picking the straight up winner. Also, with more apps available at sportsbooks like FanDuel and DraftKings, you can also bet in-game with live betting available.
Betting on the point spread is the most popular wager in football. In the recent Hall of Fame game, the Broncos were a 2.5-point favorite (-2.5). If you bet on Denver and the point spread, the Broncos would have to win the game by at least 3 points for you to win your spread bet. Denver did just that in the closing minutes, completing a 4th-and-14 for a touchdown to take a 14-10 lead, which became the final score. If you bet on the Falcons (+2.5) and took the points, you lost your wager but would have won had Atlanta won the game or lost by 2-points or less. When betting against the point spread, there is a fee charged by the bookmaker (often 10%) for accepting a gamblers wager called ‘vigorish’. If you wanted to win $100 on the Broncos or Falcons in the Hall of Fame game, you needed to bet $110.
Betting on the total for the game is a wager on the combined points scored by both teams in the contest. The moneyline bet is when you wager on a team to win the game straight up without any point spread. You would have lay (or bet) more money on a favorite, for example $140 to win $100 on the Broncos, or bet less on the underdog to win more, for example, $100 to win $120 on the Falcons.
Where to bet NFL preseason
States with legal, regulated sports betting that allow NFL preseason wagering include: Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Delaware, West Virginia, Rhode Island, New York, Arkasas. and New Mexico. Other states that have passed sports betting legislation with football betting on the horizon in some locations this NFL season include: Tennessee, Montana, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, North Carolina and Washington, DC.
Only two states currently offer mobile sports betting. In New Jersey, the top sports betting apps include DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook and BetStars Sportsbook. In Pennsylvania, we rank FanDuel Sportsbook, SugarHouse Sportsbook and BetRivers Sportsbook as the best in class.
NFL Preseason betting tips
The goal in betting NFL preseason games is to win. But to do so more often you must uncover any clues and information on game plans, players playing time and motivational situations that may provide an edge when wagering.
Betting on NFL preseason games is much different than betting during the regular season. There is very little game planning, and winning is not the primary goal for the coaches and teams. In fact, for many coaches it just doesn’t matter much at all. The emphasis is on execution and not as much on outcome.
A quick research of NFL coaches preseason records will tell part of the story and history. Following the 2019 Hall of Fame Game where the Atlanta Falcons lost 14-10 to the Denver Broncos, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn had lost nine straight preseason games straight up and against the spread.
Read as much information as possible from team and local websites, beat writers and coaches. Some clues are available about how long starters will play, roster usage and philosophies for a team or particular preseason game. Bigger line moves occur more often in preseason games, as sharp bettors take a position and oddsmakers make adjustments. That’s what happened in the 2019 Hall of Fame game with the Broncos opening as a slight underdog and closing as a 2.5-point favorite on game day. So following the line moves can tell you where some of the sharp action may be in selected preseason games.
While the betting public isn’t always interested in NFL preseason, the smart money is, so be careful about fading line moves. Bookmakers like FanDuel Sportsbook, which takes the most betting volume in New Jersey, say professional bettors often account for 50-70% of the money bet on a preseason game.
Some other preseason betting tips:
- Identify motivation — While teams don’t care as much about these preseason games, there are some spots where motivation is a little greater. That can be when a team is 0-1 after losing their first game and playing a team that is 1-0. Or teams playing for a new coach trying to set the tone.
- Quarterback rotations — Locate a handy QB depth chart list, and recognize which teams have more rookies and less experienced QB’s playing, especially later in the contest. A veteran and capable backup carries more weight in preseason when going against backup players of an opposing defense.
- Coaching tendencies — Past preseason records provide part of the situation surrounding coaches, but try to identify which coaches take preseason more seriously. The opening few preseason games and comments or preparations leading into them can provide insight leading into the games.
- Late week information — Following the coachspeak on player rotations, playing time, injuries and updates from camp can provide bettors with information and insight they can use and decipher when wagering while trying to stay ahead of potential line moves.
As happened late in the Hall of Fame Game and is often the case in preseason contests, teams go for the win more often later in games rather than kicking a field goal or extra point to tie a game. Coaches and players do not want overtime, so they play accordingly. Thus, a betting line of three points carries less significance.
How to watch NFL preseason games
The NFL Network will broadcast 14 preseason games live and show replays of all 65 preseason games. Click here for the NFL Network’s broadcast schedule for both live games and replays of preseason games.
Among the largest live streaming service options, FuboTV, PlayStation Vue and Sling TV carry the NFL Network. All of them offer free trial periods, and you can watch any of them on TV as long as your Smart TV has the service’s app. You can also watch on iPhones, Android phones, tables and PC browsers. You can watch your local team’s preseason games on your local CBS and FOX channel, but live games will be blacked out on the NFL Network in the participating teams’ over-the-air station markets.