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Best Ways to Safely Handicap the 2021 NFL Preseason

By Hank Blaine

The 2021 NFL Preseason kicked off on Thursday, August 5 when the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Dallas Cowboys in the annual Hall-of-Fame Game. Pittsburgh showed that, sometimes, the chalk does come through in an NFL Preseason tilt. The real preseason starts on Thursday, August 12. Preseason football is a great way for us to sharpen our football handicapping skills. Check out the four rules you must stick with to ensure betting success this NFL Preseason.

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2021 NFL Preseason Handicapping Rules

    When: August 5th – August 29th

Rule #1 – Consider Backing Teams with Quarterback Battles or Teams with New Skill Players

It goes without writing that when handicapping NFL Preseason matchups, most regular season stats are meaningless. There is a caveat to the rule, though.

During the preseason, lots of teams have quarterback battles, involve new rookie skill players or skill players from other teams, or search for a rhythm on offense.

As an example, this preseason the Saints must play both quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill. Winston and Hill have regular season starting experience.

To make the QB battle fair, New Orleans coach Sean Payton will insists each team plays with the Saints’ first-team offensive line, meaning the Saints should have an edge in most of their preseason games.

Teams like the Denver Broncos and the Las Vegas Raiders may also have a preseason matchup edge. The Broncos will play Teddy Bridgewater or Drew Lock. The Raiders won’t play starter Derek Carr, but former Tennessee Titans signal-caller Marcus Mariota figures to get plenty of playing time.

Rule #2 – Look Back at Past Coach Preseason Records

Some coaches love to win during the preseason. Others don’t. Why would a coach go all in on a preseason game? Motivation.

Many HCs use preseason games to boost confidence. The Pittsburgh Steelers gained some confidence in their win over the Cowboys. Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin knew exactly what he was doing when he turned it up a notch in the second half.

Rule #3 – Consider Backing Rookie Head Coaches

Rookie head coaches haven’t developed a preseason process, which means they usually call NFL Preseason games the way they would a regular season game. Also, rookie coaches are, in many ways, flying blind.

They’re not sure about their personnel. They have confidence in their systems but haven’t proven that their college systems will work in the NFL. Rookie coaches tend to call plays they’d use in the regular season during the preseason.

Why? Teams with rookie or first-time HCs must speed everything up. New coaches don’t have the luxury of figuring things out during the regular season because they’re not sure which players on their squads on which they can lean. Ask any veteran head coach and they will tell you the names of their two on field captains on both sides of the ball.

Rule #4 – Don’t Worry So Much About Odds

Always back overlays. Never back underlays. The rule exists for horse racing to basketball, to football, to baseball. You name the sport and the rule is there. Except in NFL Preseason football. Overlays and underlays don’t exist in preseason games.

The personnel on the field in any preseason game may or may not be the same personnel in NFL Week 1. Teams can show great offensive flair in the preseason and fail to average more than 14 points during the regular season. Defenses that look like lockdown units during the preseason can end up allowing opponents to run and pass for 30 points per once the real playing starts.

The bottom line? If you’ve handicapped a game based on the first three rules and are confident on backing your team, decide between the moneyline and spread and don’t worry about value.

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