How to Bet NFL Preseason Games

Professional sports handicapper Ross Benjamin provides an overall perspective on how he handicaps NFL preseason games. Ross shares personal betting philosophies which have paved the way for his successful 49-36 ATS (58%) independently documented NFL preseason record since 2012.

Five Tips for Betting NFLX

Regardless of what pundits may suggest, there’s money to be made when wagering on NFL preseason games. However, it must be noted from the get go, my approach and methods when handicapping NFL preseason games is markedly different in comparison to that of regular season contests.

My keys for being a successful handicapper during NFL preseason action involve some golden betting rules, discipline, and strict money management policies. Let's break down some NFL preseason betting angles.

Head Coaches

The first order of business I assess is head coaches. A prime example of this would be Baltimore’s John Harbaugh. After amassing a 10-year sample size as Baltimore’s head coach, it’s obvious that Harbaugh places more emphasis on winning preseason games than most serving in the exact capacity.

During Harbaugh’s tenure, Baltimore is 29-12 (.707) straight up and 27-14 (65.9%) ATS during preseason contests. Since 2016, Harbaugh’s preseason business model has become even more apparent. During that precise time frame, Baltimore was a perfect 9-0 straight up and 8-1 (88.9%) ATS. Furthermore, the Ravens are also an unscathed 7-0 straight up and an extremely profitable 6-1 (85.7%) ATS during their previous 7 preseason openers, and they won by a decisive 12.7 points per game.

Another head coach who has clearly placed an importance on winning during the preseason is Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer. Since taking over in 2015, Zimmer’s team has gone a moneymaking 9-4 (69.2%) ATS and stellar 10-3 (.769) straight up in preseason games. Although, it must be noted, most of Zimmer’s preseason success transpired in his first 2 years when Minnesota went 8-1 straight up and 7-2 ATS.

Preseason NFL  betting tipsOn an opposite end of the spectrum has been Mike Tomlin of Pittsburgh. I must preface this by saying that Tomlin was a respectable 17-12 (.586) straight up in preseason games during his first 7 years as Pittsburgh’s head coach. Nonetheless, during the past 5 preseasons his Steelers went 6-15 SU & ATS, and that includes an abysmal 1-6 SU & ATS when tabbed as a favorite.

Despite that 5-year preseason futility, Pittsburgh was a playoff team during each of the previous 4 years. Additionally, despite all their preseason success, Baltimore has failed to make a postseason appearance in 4 of the last 5 years.  Along those same lines, the 2017 Cleveland Browns were a spotless 4-0 SU & ATS in preseason games, and then proceeded to go 0-16 straight up and 4-12 ATS during their regular season schedule. Hence, further proof that preseason results suggests very little when it comes to regular season projections.

Player Rotations

My next order of business when handicapping NFL preseason games involves probable player rotations. I place more importance on this factor than any other of my evaluations.

We live in an age where you can access any major city newspaper online, and in this specific case the sports section of each. I would suggest taking time to identify the beat writers for each NFL team, and then follow each of them on social media. In doing so, you’ll have access to gather valuable information such as how long a head coach intends on playing his starters, what specific facet of their game will be emphasized most, and what key players will be held out for precautionary measures, disciplinary reasons, or injuries. It correlates with gaining any possible point-spread betting edge no matter how small that may be.

Depth Chart Analysis

Evaluating the depth chart of each team, and subsequently being highly accurate in your assessments is vital to successful NFL preseason betting. This is especially true when properly educating yourself in terms of the previous topic (player rotations) we just discussed.

The analysis of depth charts equates to a commonsense approach. Here’s a sample of such. If each head coach plans on playing their starters for only the 1st half, and one team possesses better quality depth than the other, on paper at least, they’ll own an advantage headed into 2nd half action. It’s a simple betting philosophy, but one that holds plenty of credence.

Avoiding Big Favorites and Relishing Sizable Dogs

The red flag which shines brightest in my eyes is when NFL teams are installed as a preseason favorite of 6.0 points or greater. My viewpoint in that regard is straightforward. I’m of the professional opinion that no team should merit being a touchdown or greater favorite in any NFL Preseason game. That’s not to say that this logic is anywhere near 100% infallible, but there’s proven statistical data over a substantial amount of time which supports my ideology.

When researching NFL preseason ATS data on my 4D sports handicapping software program this is what I found to be true. Since 1988, any NFL preseason underdog of 6.0 or more points has gone 146-108 (57.5%) ATS. That’s impressive considering it encompasses a 30-year window and a bevy of NFL preseason results. That precise situation occurred just once a year ago, and San Francisco covered as a 6.0 road underdog during a 32-31 loss at Minnesota. Now let’s take this betting angle one step further. If those underdogs of 6.0 or more are coming off 2 consecutive wins, they improve to 20-10 (66.7%) ATS thru that the previously mentioned time frame.

Money Management

Possessing disciplined money management principles is always crucial if you have any realistic aspirations of being a successful sports bettor. Moreover, it becomes even more essential when betting on NFL preseason games. As I’ve already alluded to, yes there’s money to be made at this time of year. Nevertheless, there’s a plethora miscellaneous factors that can arise in these meaningless games as compared to regular season contests. Personally speaking, whatever my average bet is going to be during the upcoming regular season, I never exceed 25% of that amount on a preseason game.

Ross Benjamin Free Pick

Ross Benjamin is a top sports analyst and one of the sports industry's most respected handicappers. Follow him on Twitter: @RossBenjamin1 or visit his website at

Sign-up for the OSGA Newsletter!

Every week get news and updates, exclusive offers and betting tips delivered right to you email inbox.