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ProInfoSports
07-12-2009, 05:34 PM
2009 NFL Preseason Handicapping Tips - Part 1

The 2009 NFL Season kicks off on Sunday, August 9th as the Buffalo Bills take on the Tennessee Titans in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio and PRO INFO SPORTS will be ready.

Successful wagering during the NFL exhibition season calls for very different tactics than during regular season games or playoffs. Unique conditions are in place, requiring a diverse set of handicapping strategies. In Part 1 of PRO INFO SPORTS NFL Preseason Handicapping Tips, we'll cover the strongest single predictive element for these practice games - COACHING.

Some coaches do not care if they lose a preseason game, while some coaches hate to lose any game at all – even exhibition games. This is a good time to look for a team that's coached by a guy who has a stated goal of winning the game. Some coaches are looking to establish a winning atmosphere in a particular role - at home, on the road, against superior competition, etc. Again, this would be a situation to back such a head coach and his team. New coaches are taking their first tour as captain of the ship. These rookie coaches are naturally eager to get that first “W” under their belt to prove to themselves, the team owner, and the rest of the league they can win, even if it's just a preseason game.

On the other hand, some “new” coaches aren’t new at all. Veteran head coaches that are simply changing cities do not figure to make winning an exhibition game a high priority.

Other "Play ON" situations involving head coaches in the NFL preseason:

* A team with a new head coach or assistant that was previously with his new team’s current opponent. This situation is especially strong if the coach left with a bitter taste in his mouth and/or his new team is an underdog. These coaches know their ex-team and ex-players very well, and if the schemes they left behind are still in tact, they will have a a huge gameplanning edge.

* A team with a coach that is gameplanning for his opponent. Most coaches don’t do this for a preseason game, but if a coach is studying films of an opponent’s schemes and plans plays to attack those specific schemes, he is playing to win.

* A coach that has a rivalry with another coach and wants to beat him. When there is bad blood between 2 coaches, expect an extraordinary exhibition game between them.

* A coach in a historically strong preseason situation. Some do better at home, on the road, as an underdog, or even a favorite.

* A coach whose job is on the line. Coming off a poor year and on the hot seat, such a coach will tend to be more motivated than one who knows he has job security.

Finally, play ON a coach that is gaining an advantage for his team by not adhering to the preseason “formula” which is as follows:

Game One - Starters go a couple of series or about one quarter; top backups into the second half; then mostly reserves, rookies and free agents the rest of the way.

Game Two - Starters go most or even (or all) of the first half; backups deep into the third (or early fourth) quarter; reserves the rest of the way.

Game Three - This is usually a team's main dress rehearsal for opening day. Starters play one-half to three-quarters of the game, backups most of the rest of the way; reserves see action depending mostly on the situation.

Game Four - This is often a "throwaway" game for coaches, who are usually much more concerned about their opening-day opponent than they are about this practice finale. Starters often play only a couple of series or so; maybe less; some maybe not at all. Any key players with nagging injuries will be held out. Backups and reserves play the majority of the game, with promising youngsters getting one final chance to win a spot on the roster.

Some coaches like to start out the preseason with a win, and then look at their players in the other games. Some like to get 2 wins before relaxing and looking at players. Some may use the 2nd game as the regular season dress rehearsal instead of the 3rd. Some coaches may feel it’s very important to win the last exhibition game for the sake of momentum.

An example of taking a coach's approach to a preseason game came in a previous matchup between New England and Arizona. The Patriots were 3'-point home favorites. In giving our nod to New England, our GAMEDAY INVESTMENT e-LERT STAR SELECTION noted:

"Matt Leinart makes his NFL debut Saturday night, when the Cardinals travel to Foxboro, Massachusetts to play the Patriots. The USC Heisman Trophy winner ended a prolonged holdout by signing a contract earlier in the week and is expected to play the second quarter here in relief of starter, Kurt Warner. Leinart will compete with John Navarre for backup quarterback...

...While Leinart may indeed have a long and productive career in the league, he figures to be in way over his head here. He’s had little time to practice with Arizona and has never even attended an NFL game. Making a rookie debut on the road against the Patriots, who love to confuse opposing QBs with various schemes and blitzes even in the preseason, is not a recipe for success. New England’s defenders will be very motivated to give Leinart a rude welcome to professional football.

Getting Leinart a crash course in game experience is obviously the goal for Dennis Green here, and not necessarily winning the game. The Cardinals enjoyed a huge win last week, as they christened their new stadium with a victory over the Super Bowl champion Steelers. Usually, a win in the preseason allows a coach to feel zero pressure the following week, and he can look at players, which is the case here."

Indeed, Dennis Green threw Leinart to the wolves in a way that he certainly would not have in a regular season contest. The Patriots devoured the rookie and the rest of the Cardinals, winning a 30-3 laugher.

Again, If you can find a mismatch in how two teams are approaching a preseason contest, you've probably found a golden opportunity.

In our upcoming Part 2 of the series on PRO INFO SPORTS NFL Preseason Handicapping Tips, we'll tackle MOTIVATION.

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