There are many reasons you shouldn’t base a future-based sports bet on preseason. The only outlier to this post would be if a team you otherwise considered winning a division, conference championship, or Super Bowl Championship lost star players in training camp or early in the season.
However, star players rarely play in the preseason, with their teams maintaining their bodies for the regular season. Preseason is also a time for experimentation with young players and how they respond in specific situations. Position battles are also in full force.
Oh, and don’t forget that two undefeated preseason champions finished their seasons 0-16. Also, experienced coaches with experienced teams will give nothing away for future opponents. So if a projected champion finishes the preseason 0-4, don’t panic.
The following explains each reason in further detail.
Star Players Rarely Play
Remember Joe Callahan?
He started just about every preseason game for the Green Bay Packers a few years back in favor of Aaron Rodgers. Okay, so maybe Rodgers entered the game for a series. Like the Week 3 dress rehearsal game.
Then this guy named Callahan played at least 50 percent of the snaps while the team’s primary backup played the other 25 percent and the camp arm played the final quarter.
But you don’t need to read this post with Joe Callahan in mind, as he is one of hundreds of examples you can use here.
So when Patrick Mahomes is on the sideline in street clothes during the bulk of the preseason and some dude whose last stop was The Spring League steps into the starting lineup and sinks the Chiefs during the preseason against the lowly New York Jets, the Chiefs are still the Chiefs.
And the Jets are still the Jets.
If you are new to NFL Sports betting, the Chiefs are still probably going to win or at least contend for the AFC West. The Jets are probably going to contend for the first overall pick, and they’ll be lucky to win 4 games.
So if the Chiefs play the Jets in the near-future of the preseason and the final score is something like 24-6, in the Jets’ favor, the Jets ain’t going anywhere and the Chiefs are still going somewhere.
The Jets will still find themselves at 80-1 odds to win their division, and probably somewhere around 150-1 odds of winning the Super Bowl. And the Chiefs will still find themselves at 11-4 odds to win their division and probably 9-2 odds to win the Super Bowl.
Why? You may ask.
Because the Chiefs sat their star players and the Jets are a young team who need to beat up on future practice squad prospects in order to build some confidence and gain some in-game reps.
Preseason is a Time for Experimentation
Throw out the otherwise smart coaching from NFL geniuses like Bill Belichick, Andy Reid, Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh, Pete Carroll, and Sean Payton. These guys will conduct experiments with young players to see if they are worthy of joining the scout team ranks of their respective football teams.
And remember that what you are seeing is nothing more than smokescreens, experiments, and about 35 players on the field for those elite teams in the NFL who will bounce around the league over the next three seasons.
So no, if the league’s best teams find themselves down and out in the preseason and the league’s worst dominate the preseason, it is unwise to bet on a changing of the guard. Come October, things will be back to normal.
Position Battles Run Wild
Never forget that position battles run wild in the preseason. And sometimes you will see a three-way dance to determine the starter, backup, and third string player at a single position.
This occurs with the league’s best and worst teams, and there are times you will see players enter the starting lineup who have no business in ever starting an NFL regular season game. But, the coaches need to see how well those players play in live situations against unknown competition.
So expect some of the league’s best defenses to look beyond bad because one or two players are allowing big plays in the defensive backfield. Hint: Those players may not even be wearing the same uniform come September.
And vice versa.
Some of the worst offenses and defenses in football may look pretty good because a preseason star slash fan favorite is making things happen. And that rarely carries over into the regular season. Sometimes it does. But often, it doesn’t.
Not when these players face the league’s best on an NFL field.
Once again, preseason is nothing more than a big smokescreen because guys are giving it their all on the field to win a respective position battle. And as I mentioned earlier. Just because a player looks like a future star on defense doesn’t mean they will do so in the regular season.
The same goes with offense. Especially when evaluating the quarterback position where controversy almost always erupts because the backup is out there playing like the next Joe Montana.
They often say the universe is good at course-correcting itself. And during the transition from the NFL preseason to the NFL regular season, you can drive that point home. Because the league always course corrects.
Preseason stars fall back to Earth. And the league’s best who looked absolutely horrible during the preseason because of their teams trying different players at different positions on the depth chart often pick up where they left off.
Two Undefeated Preseason Champions Ran the Table
The 2008 Detroit Lions and the 2017 Cleveland Browns were preseason champions. And if their backups played opponents’ backups in the regular season, they may have been playoff contenders. Except the records for these 2 teams should show you exactly why you shouldn’t put faith in preseason.
Both teams finished their respective seasons at an “amazing” 0-16. Yep, they ran that table in reverse and are now considering among the worst teams in NFL history. But boy, did they know how to blow teams out in the preseason.
So, what gives?
Sure, each team also lacked talent. It takes a special lack of talent to finish the NFL regular season at 0-16, since as of the 2019 NFL Season, only 2 teams have accomplished this feat.
Moral to this subheading?
Don’t think a team projected to finish near the bottom of the league will surprise if they finish a perfect 4-0 in preseason. So it’s not exactly wise to bet on a lowly cellar dweller with 50-1 odds to win their division.
Sure, they can win the division, but they probably won’t win over 6 games. Take the safer bet here.
Smart Coaches Refuse to Unveil Game Plans
Yeah, the Paytons, Tomlins, Belichicks, Harbaughs, and Carrolls of the world won’t unveil any game plans, either. So once again, if you think the Pittsburgh Steelers or Seattle Seahawks caught a case of the yips throughout the preseason and that it will carry over into the regular season, you got another thing coming.
Especially if one of those lowly teams turns on the jets and wins by a final score of like 24 to 6 or something similar. Don’t fall for it.
Instead, realize that the Steelers and Seahawks will do what they always do, which is to contend for a division and conference title, and perhaps even a Super Bowl.
And your New York Jets, Detroit Lions, and Jacksonville Jaguars will continue to operate as the official punching bags of the AFC East, NFC North, and AFC South until further notice.
Now, while I can safely tell you that every elite team has a bad season and there is always a team or two who will rise from the doldrums, such as the Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals in 2020, if you are a conservative bettor, never fall for the bait.
At least until such teams prove they can contend for a division and the conference.
Expect smokescreens in the preseason and don’t make any sports betting mistakes for any upcoming NFL season. It is easy to get tempted, because you always see a poor team rise as preseason champions while the NFL’s elite like to finish the preseason 2-2 or worse.
Not all the time, but it happens quite often.
Therefore, don’t change your betting habits just because teams love to experiment, put players in unfamiliar positions, and sit their star players.
Again, a poor team can rise at any given time and a good team can fall into the doldrums for a single season. But most often, you will find the preseason predictions fighting it out. So if you like safe betting, don’t change your tune because the New York Jets finished the preseason at 4-0.