Preseason NFL Picks: How to Make the Best NFL Predictions & Bets

In this article...

  • +54.6% Return on Bankroll (+$54,630) lifetime NFL preseason
  • How to make money betting on the NFL preseason
  • Analyzing coaches, team depth, and game plans
  • The role of statistics in betting the NFL preseason

Why is NFL Preseason Betting Different?

Can money be made on NFL preseason picks? Absolutely. 

I have produced a 54.6% return on bankroll (ROB) with dime bettors profiting +$54,630.

Is it wise for handicappers to approach the preseason the same way they do the regular season? No. 

For starters, power ratings don't mean a thing. Last year's regular season performance doesn't correlate much to preseason performance either. 

That being said, the same issues that make these games more challenging to handicap make them more difficult for oddsmakers to peg, which is why books keep lower limits on preseason action. 

While preseason NFL betting is not a fool's errand, it’s where pro bettors can make a lot of money, and the sportsbooks are scared.

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With every free premium pick I send, you'll also get a clear write-up of my reasoning behind the pick, so you’re not left in the dark.  

My NFL Preseason Picks Results

My preseason results date back 20 years, and from 2002 through 2022, I made a profit for bettors in seven out of eight seasons since 2014 (net return +$46.2K). This includes seven seasons with a 60% win percentage.

During the 2005 season, I finished with an incredible 20-8 (71%) record in 'games that don't matter,' and although I took a step back in 2006 (13-14 record), I split the uprights in 2007 going 13-6 (68%). 

More recently, consistency has been the hallmark of my preseason NFL betting. 

Dating back to the 2014 season when I went 26-16 (62%) with sides and totals, I've generated a winning record and positive return in six out of seven seasons (no preseason in 2020 due to Covid). 

Add it all up, and my NFLX betting record from 2002-2022 stands at 396-327, up +69 games over .500 at 55% overall. Dimers have cashed for +$54,630 during this run, and I hit 55% with spreads, going 57% with totals. 

In total, my winning NFL picks have led to profit in 11 out of 19 preseasons (58%).

Factors I Consider for NFL Preseason Betting

1. Coaches & Their Philosophy

Do coaches take the preseason seriously? Or do they use it for its intended purpose (to test out players and new schemes)?

Let's look at a couple of examples. 

Legendary NFL head coach Bill Parcells wanted his guys to make every play count, whether in a real game, preseason, or practice. His disciplined approach resulted in his team covering the spread in roughly two-thirds of the preseason games he coached. 

On the contrary, coaching great Marv Levy was just the opposite and was a great "go-against" preseason coach.

I track every coach's record with my proprietary database and look for signals as to how they approach these games. 

For example, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has produced a preseason record of 37-15 ATS (71%) in Baltimore, indicating he takes the preseason seriously. 

On the flip side, coaching great Andy Reid has a sub-.500 record straight up and against the spread, opting more for the traditional approach of getting reps for his second- and third-team units. 

However, be careful about blindly betting trends on 'good' coaches vs. bad coaching records. The bookmaker is aware of these angles and will adjust accordingly. 

Further analysis is required to uncover more predictive trends. 

For example, put that sub-.500 coach in the underdog role, getting +3 points or more, and it can turn into a winning proposition. 

Combine it with another strong trend or two, and you could be looking at a strong play (at least for preseason). 

What about coaching motivation?

For many years, rookie NFL coaches did very well. 

The theory was that they have more to prove and more to play for than experienced vets who are secure in their jobs. In 2002, the four head coaches with new teams went 11-5 (69%) ATS. 

In the 2003 preseason, the five head coaches who were new to their team went 12-8 (60%) against the spread. But in 2004, new head coaches went only 13-15 ATS. 

In 2005, they bounced back, going 8-3 ATS. But then, from 2006 to 2009, new coaches compiled a lackluster 54-59 ATS mark. 

There is still a big difference between the approach that someone such as Kevin Stefanski (Browns rookie head coach in 2021) would take versus a coach like Mike McCarthy, who was new to the Dallas Cowboys in 2021 but hardly new to NFL head coaching. 

Looking beyond the surface of the records is helpful before deciding if a play is warranted for or against.

2. Team Depth

Here are four things to consider when it comes to team depth in the preseason: 

1. Look for situations in which starters will be playing against backups.
    Backups play more than starters, and some teams' backups are better than other teams' starters. 

2. Look for situations in which starters will be playing against backups.
    Teams with veteran starters who aren’t fighting for their job tend to play these starters very little in the preseason. 

3. Look for teams with a couple of good players fighting for the same job.
    These players will get extra playing time as coaches try to determine the starter. 

4. Look for teams with great backups, especially at quarterback.
    Some teams’ second or third-string quarterbacks could start for other teams. When they get to play against their opponent’s second or third-stringers, they’ll rack up the yards – and the points. 

No one has a crystal ball, but if you check the depth chart and pay close attention to local news sites, you can get a pretty good idea of who is going to play and for how long.

3. Game Plan

Coaches often announce their intentions for upcoming games. 

Sometimes they’re looking to give a specific player a lot of playing time, while other times, they’re just looking to get out of there as quickly as possible without any injuries. 

Also, consider how the team fard during their most recent preseason performance. After a weak outing, coaches will challenge their teams to show something before the regular season starts, and with jobs on the line, these supposedly meaningless games often start to carry significantly more weight.

4. Preseason Historical Systems and Trends

It’s true that some simple, older trends (bet on a team in its second preseason game if its opponent is playing its first) are no longer predictive, but I track and apply over 100 preseason situations and trends when making my picks. 

Remember, it doesn’t take much of an edge, and if we can beat 52.4% with our picks, we bank!

These are just a few examples of what you should be researching and considering when making your NFL preseason picks.

I utilize a system that takes all of these variables and more into account on my preseason picks. 

See my philosophy for the NFL regular season.

See my philosophy for the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl

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