Joe Ostrowski: Picking the preseason? Advantages abound for sharp bettors
Brent Musburger says, “Cashin’ tickets is what it’s all about.” So it shouldn’t matter if that happens on Thursday, Aug. 9 in the preseason or Sunday, Sept. 9 in Week 1.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame Game was treated like it was a notch below an exhibition by Bears coach Matt Nagy and Ravens coach John Harbaugh, but not by viewers craving some sort of NFL action.
Some may snicker at the idea of betting on a preseason game, but professional bettors don’t view it as a laughing matter. Most point spreads are in the neighborhood of a field goal and totals in the mid-30s, so the “sharps” believe that they have an advantage in this four-week period.
Information is key, and it’s readily available if you take the time to seek it out. The best advice is to pay close attention to team beat reporters’ Twitter accounts and sharp line movements. Even though the preseason has lower limits on games, sports books won’t hesitate to move a number with precision.
Let’s take a look at a handful of games that popped from the slate of 12 this Thursday:
(trends provided by OddsShark)
Bears @ Bengals (CIN -2.5, 35.5)
Nagy had a chance to get his feet wet during the Hall of Fame Game, but the rookie head coach did it with backups. Mitchell Trubisky will play this week, but the length is unknown. Jordan Howard and Taylor Gabriel aren’t expected to suit up because of minor injuries. With AJ McCarron out of the picture, former Bear Matt Barkley is Andy Dalton’s backup.
Panthers @ Bills (BUF -3, 33.5)
Money is coming in on Buffalo, forcing a 2-point move after the Bills opened as 1-point favorites. QBs McCarron and Nathan Peterman are listed as co-starters on Buffalo’s depth chart, and there’s also seventh overall pick Josh Allen. Panthers QB Cam Newton is expected to play a series or two. He rested last year and was in for one series in the 2016 exhibition opener. Here comes Garrett Gilbert.
Steelers @ Eagles (PHI -3, 33)
There’s another 2-point move here but with the total dipping from 35 to 33. QBs Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Wentz have been ruled out. Eagles Super Bowl-winning QB Nick Foles has missed practice this week with muscle spasms in his neck. Steelers WR Antonio Brown usually sits the first exhibition. Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin is 29-17 on unders in the preseason.
Washington @ Patriots (NE -3, 37.5)
Three-time MVP Tom Brady has missed each of the past two preseason openers for the Patriots. New England is 0-6 in its past 6 exhibitions as a favorite. Bill Belichick is 57-36 to the over in the preseason, which explains the high total. Jay Gruden’s offense has reportedly had a strong camp with newcomers Alex Smith at quarterback and rookie Derrius Guice at running back. Washington is 16-6 against the spread in its past 22 exhibition contests.
Colts @ Seahawks (SEA -2, 34.5)
A history of large sample sizes leads us to the home team. This will be Andrew Luck’s first game in 19 months for Indianapolis, a club that’s 14-41 straight-up in its past 55 preseason games. On the other hand, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll doesn’t mess around in August. He’s 34-14-1 ATS, including a 6-0 ATS mark over his past six exhibitions.
Joe Ostrowski hosts the “Early Odds” podcast and is a host and update anchor at 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @JoeO670.