Sportsbooks have adjusted quickly to NFL Week 1 preseason results after totals went 11-5 on the over last week. Preseason scoring was way up in Week 1 as teams averaged 41.9 points per game with an average posted total of 36. Now in Week 2, the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas has posted 16 totals that average 40.68 points. The number is similar at William Hill books in Nevada.
Consider the adjustment of nearly five points on totals, and how traditionally most preseason totals are less than 37 points.
- 16 games had posted totals of 38 points or less
- 9 totals were 36 points or less
- Average posted total 36 points
- Average scoring 41.9 points
- 16 games have posted totals of greater than 38 points
- 12 games have posted totals of 40 points or more
- Average posted total 40.68
To illustrate the significance of Week 1 results and impact on the total adjustment, Miami plays at Carolina in Week 2 and the total is a week-high of 43 points. In last week’s games, the Dolphins total was 34.5 and they lost to the Buccaneers 28-24 with four QBs seeing action for Miami. The Panthers total was 35 and they beat the Bills 28-23 with four QBs also playing.
Bettors need to adjust, too
It’s a skill to anticipate line and totals moves and make positive wagers ahead of the betting markets. While linemakers have adjusted quickly, sometimes it may not be enough, and often times it will be an over-adjustment or inflated number knowing that many public bettors will wager on teams and totals based on most recent results. Scoring was up in Week 1, and the bookmaker makes the anticipated adjustment also knowing that most bettors will prefer to wager on more scoring.
An interesting observation from week 1 preseason games was that first half scoring was also up and averaged 22.8 points per game. Many teams starting quarterbacks did not play, including Aaron Rodgers (Packers), Tom Brady (Patriots), Philip Rivers (Chargers), Matthew Stafford (Lions), Drew Brees (Saints), Alex Smith (Redskins), Jared Goff (Rams), and Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers). The coach and teams know what they have with those proven starting quarterbacks and elect to not risk injury while also spending more time evaluating backup QBs and other position players during most preseason game action.
Other starters entrenched as the No. 1 QB played very little in Week 1 like Matt Ryan (Falcons), Sam Bradford (Cardinals) and Deshaun Watson (Texans), who each completed their only pass attempt. Bradford could perhaps use more reps in game action with a new team and system, and that’s also why you see other No. 1 QB’s taking more game snaps in week 1 and 2. Eli Manning (Giants) has a new coach and coordinator, Tyrod Taylor (Browns) is playing for a new team and system, Andrew Luck (Colts) and Ryan Tannehill (Dolphins) are returning from a missed season due to injury and need game reps. The Bills and Jets have a QB competition for the starting spot, Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs) is the new QB making his starting debut and highly-paid Kirk Cousins (Vikings) is playing for a new team and system.
Teams that have solid QB competitions and more capable starters that are familiar with the system or trying to earn the starting spot or backup position may be given more chances to pass and even air it out on deeper routes. That may point you towards more scoring, especially in the first half.
Preseason football is a time for learning
In the end, betting preseason football is about information, awareness of playing time and coaches’ game plans, and which teams care or are a little more motivated for essentially practice games or glorified scrimmages. It’s also a time for books and bettors to adjust to rules changes like the new Use of Helmet rule that left fans confused by a number of questionable flags thrown during Week 1 games.
A Las Vegas bookmaker recently noted that more than 70% of the money wagered on preseason games is by ‘sharps’ and more knowledgeable and astute bettors, while during the regular season less than 20% of the money wagered is sharp action or ‘wise guys’ with more than 80% public money.
Sports betting is now legal in four states and growing since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal ban (PASPA) in May, and there will be more public betting money in the marketplace in many of those new states that legalize sports betting. NFL is the king of all sports and betting in the United States, but you may want to sit on the sidelines like many top quarterbacks during preseason until you’re ready to learn and bet like a pro. Plenty of meaningful games ahead as you learn and earn your way from being a novice or backup to an experienced starter who makes fewer mistakes. Preseason is practice until the real and meaningful games begin.