A Guide to Betting on the NFL Preseason

Football Ball in Top of Dollar Bills - NFL Preseason Logo

The arrival of autumn means the kids go back to school, baseball playoff races begin heating up, and of course, the NFL preseason. Regardless of what you think about the quality of play witnessed each year in the preseason, there’s no debating the significance of seeing football back on TV.

Most sports fans live for betting on the NFL season, and the preseason means it’s just around the corner. It may not be filled with star players and complete gameplans, but there’s a point spread and a gridiron. And for the time being, that’s enough.

The nature of the preseason games is unpredictable. Let’s face it, the players who will see the most playing time are probably not going to be on the roster come September. The games may not count, but the bets certainly do. These tips help with betting on the NFL preseason and increasing your bankroll before the first real kickoff of the year.

1 – Coaching Status

Coaching matters in the NFL more than any other professional sport. With nearly a third of the league’s head coaches ending up fired each season, proving you belong is crucial. The preseason might not count for anything permanent, but it’s certainly a way to make an impression.

Coaches who are just making their debut season have a tendency to coach harder in the preseason and put a slightly higher significance on winning the game. This is a time for them to prove their schemes are effective and gain the trust of players.

In addition to a decision-making process that focuses on how long a coach has been in the league, you should also consider the past preseason record of coaches with some seasons under their belt.

Be it for reasons of morale or just a desire to win, some mediocre coaches have historically good preseason records while a few of the greatest coaches have notoriously bad records. A quick background check should get you the answers you need.

If you’re having trouble betting on the NFL preseason, go with the team who has the coach with more to prove. It doesn’t guarantee a victory, but it gives you a slight advantage in your play.

2 – Listen to Game Plans

Coaches are reluctant to discuss game plans prior to the regular season, but the preseason is a different story. Coaches often give the media some pretty useful insight as to what their game plan will be and which players will receive the most playing time at a given position.

If you’re able to find information from each team’s coach on what their objectives will be in the game, you might be able to get the edge you need to make an educated bet. Some coaches treat the preseason as a chance to work on experimental schemes to see if they work, while others treat the preseason as a time to do everything to avoid injury.

It sounds overly simplistic, but seeking out the coaches’ comments in the days before the matchup can make all the difference when it comes to an essentially-meaningless game.

3 – Who’s In and Who’s Out

With holdouts, injuries, and players just not wanting to risk injury in the preseason, it’s hard to predict who will get playing time before September. Every team’s star players treat the preseason differently and that has a significant impact on how the early games go.

If you’re betting on the NFL preseason, anticipate that the games might have lower scores than regular season games. An early touchdown by the first-team offense can go a long way. Second or third year star players are much more likely to see some playing time than veterans who have been in the league for a few years and don’t need the dress rehearsal to get ready for the season.

High-draft pick rookies can also have a big impact in preseason games. Even if it’s just a few possessions, against weakened defenses, the scoring can take off in a hurry.

4 – Consider the Week

Unlike the regular season when, barring injury, rosters remain consistent, the preseason rosters can change dramatically from week to week. And it’s not completely random either.

Typically, we see the same patterns each year as the preseason progresses.

  • Week 1 is when important starters sit out entirely. Most quarterbacks who have been in the league for a couple of years don’t even dress.
  • Week 2 might showcase a few starters for a series or two, but for the most part, it’s still going to be backups.
  • Week 3 is usually regarded as the most realistic in terms of starters playing for the longest amount of time.

However, starters will usually only play the first half or just into the third quarter at the latest. Week 4 tends to be a complete throwaway, as teams are gearing up for the season and need all players healthy. If you’re looking to get an edge in the final game while betting on the NFL preseason, try to find which team has impact-position (think quarterback, defensive end, running back) that is trying to make the roster.

It can be difficult to predict which version of a team you’re going to get in the preseason, but prior years have shown a trend as far as which weeks will get a team’s best effort.

5 – Quarterback Depth

Most teams have at least one good quarterback and a competent backup, but when it comes to betting on the NFL preseason, you need to go even deeper into the depth chart. Because starters rarely see the field, backups get a significant amount of playing time. However, to really gain an edge, the third and fourth string quarterbacks are where you’ll make your money.

Evaluating quarterbacks is difficult. Even those who get paid millions of dollars to do it still end up failing at a high rate.

With that being said, when you get into the bottom of the depth chart, skill differences should be a little more apparent.

You can anticipate third and fourth stringers accounting for half of the snaps in most preseason games. If you can find a matchup with a major talent discrepancy in the quarterback depth chart, consider making a bet on that game.

6 – The Public Money

As an educated sports bettor, you know that it’s almost always a wise choice to bet opposite the public. Fading the public is a well-known strategy during the NFL season in which every game receives a high volume of bets with the books reacting accordingly.

Betting on the NFL preseason is one of the few times it might actually be in your best interest to go with the public. The reason? The “public” money is actually a high-percentage of professional sports bettors. Some online sportsbooks that specialize in NFL wagers estimate that somewhere between 50% and 70% of the money on most preseason games is coming in from professional gamblers.

Please Note:

Because the public generally doesn’t do much research or put much time into determining which way they’ll bet on a given game, the preseason presents a unique challenge. During this time, overall talent isn’t a huge factor. Trusting your “intuition” is never a strategy I’d recommend for betting on the NFL preseason games.

Following reverse line movement is a skill you can perfect in the days leading up to a preseason. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, do yourself a favor and get acquainted.


The preseason may not be the best iteration of football, but it can make for great betting if you take the right approach. In fact, what seems completely unpredictable on the surface is actually a little more predictable than the regular season. There are more factors to be considered for regular games.

Much like the players getting ready by honing their football skills, the preseason is a great time for you to work on the betting skills that will carry you through to the Super Bowl!

Tim Johnson / Author

Tim has been a sports fan for as long as he can remember. The Vermont native has lived in Las Vegas for the last two decades, and he uses his experience in the industry to try and give readers the best possible advice when it comes to betting on sports. Football is Tim’s primary area of expertise, but he also dabbles in other sports like horse racing and basketball. Tim uses his wealth of knowledge to try and make the reader a better bettor.

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