The Hall of Fame Game is the first NFL preseason game of the year, which closes the annual Hall of Fame enshrinement festivities. On August 5th, 2021, the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers will kick-off the preseason at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio. The game marks the seventh appearance by each squad in the annual preseason classic which is tied for the most by any team. Both clubs own 3-3 straight-up record. The game starts at 8:00 PM ET and can be viewed on Fox.
You will hear people say “Don’t bet on NFL Preseason Football”. Big Mistake! It’s actually easier than capping the regular season. In most cases you can read ahead of time the exact game plan for each team. I feel the NFL preseason is a great opportunity to start and build a nice bankroll for the upcoming regular season. Many handicappers have the opinion that the preseason games should be left alone and not bet on. I feel just the opposite. If you do your homework–the preseason offers sharps and squares a tremendous opportunity to make a lot of money. Here are my personal keys, stats, systems, angles, reasons, and teams to consider when betting NFL Preseason football in 2021.
This one is obvious. Jo public gets so worked up about the starters and skill position players on certain teams during the regular season. But they’re the same in the preseason. Teams that can go two-and three-deep (sometimes four-deep) at the skill positions have a decided advantage over a club that has a few stars that will be sitting after the first or second series. A perfect example of a team like that this season, is none other than the Buffalo Bills. Josh Allen, Mitchell Trubisky, and Jake Fromm are a solid top three. They signed Davis Webb who has a big arm. Even if Josh Allen plays very little, the next three should give teams fits in August. Don’t forget, the Bills have been running Sean McDermott’s system for 4 years. The Bills went 4-0 ATS when we last saw the NFL preseason (2019). On the flip side, the Detroit Lions will break in a brand new head coach (see below), new offensive coordinator, and new defensive coordinator. Jared Goff, Tim Boyle, and David Blough will be learning a brand new offense. The Lions’ defense will be learning a new scheme as well. I think this team is heading for a rough preseason!
Quarterbacks and continuity are key. NFL preseason wagers, just like those during the regular Season, often come down to the last eight minutes of a game. So find teams that have solid depth at QB and/or has some experience or success in the league. They’ll have a tremendous advantage in the closing moments of a game against a third and/or fourth-string defense.
I don’t necessarily mean which team has the most grizzled veterans on it. In fact, experience can be a detriment. Most older players hate preseason games. And teams that have established players in certain positions or roles will often see those guys “mail it in” during the preseason because they know the games are “meaningless” and already have their “jobs” locked up.
However, experience is a key factor when it comes to handicapping coaches/systems. Organizations that haven’t experienced much turnaround have a significant advantage over those that are easing in a new brain trust. For example, the Seattle Seahawks have been running Pete Carroll’s system since 2010. The Seahawks are going to be much sharper than a team that is going through drastic changes. Take the Philadelphia Eagles for example. They are breaking in a brand new head coach (Nick Sirianni), new offensive coordinator (Shane Steichen), and new defensive coordinator (Johnathan Gannon). Keying on clubs that have familiarity & continuity, and finding teams that are much less comfortable with their new system is a big key when wagering on preseason games. I can’t stress this enough!
3) First-Year Head Coaches with new team (Full Season)
We have seven for the 2021-22 season in alphabetical order by team. First year head coaches can be tricky, but generally perform very well in their first August home game.They went 6-1 ATS in their first home game five years ago, 5-2 ATS four years ago, 4-1 ATS three seasons ago and 6-2 ATS in 2019. That adds up to a a bankrolling 21-6 ATS mark the last four preseasons combined! A lot of expectations are put on these guys coming in. They all want to show the Owner, General Manager, players, and fans that he is the right man for the job. Setting the tone early means playing to win in the preseason. With just three games this preseason, it’s even more important to win early.
Arthur Smith (Atlanta Falcons)
Dan Campbell (Detroit Lions)
David Culley (Houston Texans)
Urban Meyer (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Brandon Staley (LA Chargers)
Nick Sirianni (Philadelphia Eagles)
Robert Saleh (NY Jets)
If you know how head coaches were raised and what their philosophies are than you will have a big advantage this August. I will give you one HC that treats the preseason as the regular season. That would be John Harabaugh of the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are 17-0 ATS over the past four preseasons. Who needs Bitcoin? His 37-12 ATS overall record in the preseason would have made you a small fortune. On the flip side, Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams clearly hates the preseason. He uses August to scout his younger guys while keeping his starters and key backups healthy. The Rams went 1-3 ATS last year. Sean McVay is 5-8 ATS in his career and it could be much worse. The odds-makers are going to inflate the Rams’ opponent lines this August. Be careful! Keep an eye on the Seattle Seahawks this August. Pete Carroll has always played to win in the preseason, evident by a 36-18 (66.6%) ATS record. Seattle went 3-1 ATS in the 2019 preseason after going 0-4 ATS in 2018. That was the first time Pete Carroll and the Seahawks never cashed at least one preseason game. I would expect Seattle to make bettors money once again this August.
If you watched the NFL for any number of years you should know that not every Head Coach cares about winning in the NFL Preseason. Different HC’s have different agendas when playing in August and they all pretty much stick to their beliefs. I gave you four very good examples above that should hold true once again this upcoming preseason. Each coach handles the preseason differently. Some put a premium on the second game. For some it’s the third or even the fourth back in the day. Some coaches just mess around and tinker with their lineups during the preseason and use it to evaluate their younger guys. But here’s the key – and this is a big difference between the regular season and preseason football – most coaches are forthright about what the game plan will be. All you have to do is a little research from the local beat writers.
The NFL preseason schedule generally isn’t too taxing on the teams and players. But there are quirks. The two teams that play the Hall of Fame Game are a good bet to fade in their next game. If some key players are a bit banged up then you can expect those guys to be watching in street clothes. Keep a close eye on how players from the Cowboys and Steelers come out of the Hall of Fame game. Also, NFL teams who play on the West Coast (with little to no humidity), and than travel to play a high humidity East Coast game. It would be wise to fade those West Coast teams, especially if installed as a favorite. This has worked extremely well over the past few years with the new OTA rules in place.
Jeff’s NFL Preseason system to consider in 2021
If you are looking for a very profitable system/angle in the NFL preseason here is one to consider this year. Teams that get crushed by 28+ points in their first preseason game are a great bet in their very next game (week two). Mostly because the public overreacts and the lines get super inflated. NFL teams in this role are cashing 62% over the past decade. Choose wisely!
Jeff’s #1 NFL Preseason Team to “Play On” in 2021
Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings went 7-9 SU in 2020. Mike Zimmer is 18-8 ATS (69%) in the preseason and has always played to win August games, especially following a losing regular season. Kirk Cousins, Kellen Mond, Jake Browning, and Nate Stanley seem capable to execute a veteran system. I especially like the Vikings -3 at home against the Colts in week two (August 21st). The Colts play the Panthers on Saturday, August 15th and will have one less day to recover and prepare. The Vikings Week one game is on August 14th. I like this all the way up to 6 points!
Jeff went 16-6-1 ATS (including postseason) last year documented at The Sports Monitor of OK. Look for more articles in the coming weeks. Jeff was ranked No. 3 in the NFL two seasons ago, No. 3 in the 2017-18 NFL regular season, and No. 1 (tied) in the postseason at The Sports Monitor of OK, cashing just under 70%. Jeff has shown a profit in 8 straight football seasons, fully documented. Jeff is a 7x NFL Top 10 Handicapper. Early Bird Football season packages are now available.
Good Luck this Football Season!
Written by Jeff Hochman.
Follow him on Twitter @jhsportsline