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  • Writer's pictureAvoid the Vig

Part 1: NFL Preseason Data

When most people hear you are betting NFL Preseason, they are going to suggest you dial a 1800 number and ask for help.  After all, these are meaningless exhibition games.  At the end of the preseason no one hoists a trophy or hangs a banner in the rafters.  So why should you bet NFL preseason?  The answer is simple: because you can make money.  

The 1972 Miami Dolphins would scoff at the idea of an undefeated preseason, but that's what the Baltimore Ravens have done the last three years.  Although the Ravens have been an above average team during that time frame, they haven't exactly been world beaters during the regular season.  Their preseason success does not lie solely in the fact that they are a superior team.  John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens Head Coach, values preseason success and because of this, gambling opportunities are at play. 

After unearthing this factoid last summer, it made me curious if there were other teams that equally valued or, by contrast, discounted, preseason victories.  My ultimate hope is that this would lead to actionable intel that I could exploit. 

To find valid data, I had to create a time frame to analyze results.  After much deliberation, I settled on the last four preseasons games.  Four preseasons is a 16 game sample size, the same as a regular season.  Although a savvy sports gambler will tell you 16 games is still not enough to fully understand a team, which is why betting football is so difficult, it does provide enough data to draw conclusions.  A larger time frame would bring more coaching changes, which potentially could skew the data due to different perspectives and methodologies.  

Once I tabulated the records over the last four seasons, I calculated the winning percentages for each team.  After analyzing the data, I determined that any team over 65% or under 35% provided substantial value.  There were 9 teams that matched that criteria.  I then identified when the current coach took over.  As I previously mentioned, a different coach could have a different mindset with the preseason.  However, the Oakland Raiders just hired Jon Gruden last year and went 3-1.  After a disappointing first year, HBO Hard Knocks following them around, and low expectations for them this coming seasons, I do expect the Raiders to be bullish on the preseason.  I will look closely at them moving forward.  However, for the sake of this exercise, I did not look closer at them because of the small sample size.  


With the eight teams, four above 65% and four below 35%, I then looked at each individual week to see if there patterns with when their team is most effective or indifferent.  I created a record for each team within each week.  I identified any 65% or above team that had a winning record during that week and any 35% or below team that had a losing record during that week.  



My next goal was to apply this to the upcoming preseason games.  I took those individual week records for the team and cross referenced it with their opponent.  If their opponent was below/above 50% I made note of them as potential plays. 

Below are the teams that I will look to play on or fade:


It is important to note that these are straight up plays.  65% implied probability is -186, but with the vig, there is value in anything under -200.  If you are not interested in laying those odds, I'd also be interested laying anything less than the magic number of 3.  Keep in mind, the lines aren't even posted and things could change, but I'll be keeping a very close eye on these games in the coming weeks.  It might be the NFL Preseason, but for the sports gambler, its always the regular season.  

Now, let's go make some money...


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