FACT, NOT OPINION: SHARPS DO BET THE NFL PRESEASON

If there is a time to buy into Jon Gruden’s sales pitch, this is it. But ignore Gruden’s bluster when he talks about the Oakland Raiders rebuilding for a Super Bowl run because that’s not the point in August.

Which coaches put a priority on winning in the NFL preseason? The answers to that question are the keys to cashing tickets. Gruden is one correct answer.

Only the handicappers who truly love to put in work on betting exhibition games know Gruden is 8-0 in Week 1 since 2002. In the big picture, that record means absolutely nothing, yet it’s a fact that matters this week.

“The super-competitive, crazy guys care more about winning, and Gruden is a good preseason coach,” said Chuck Edel, a professional sports bettor from Las Vegas. “Some coaches are trying to instill a winning attitude and change things.” Gruden’s enthusiasm is contagious and his optimism can be intoxicating. All of it will be on display while the Raiders’ training camp is featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” this month. Bettors are advised to tune out the Super Bowl hyperbole and focus on the next game on the schedule.

The Raiders open the preseason by hosting the Rams on Saturday, and the line already has moved up 2½ points to Oakland -5½. Gruden is motivated to win and has veteran quarterbacks to run his offense. L.A. coach Sean McVay, who’s coming off of a Super Bowl loss, has depth concerns on his offensive line and seems indifferent to winning in August.

“The sharps definitely bet the preseason,” William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich said. “There’s no question. All you have to do is look at the (line) volatility. But you can’t show up with a wheelbarrow. It’s smaller money.”

Prior to the Hall of Fame Game last week, ESPN host Trey Wingo stepped outside his area of expertise to comment on gambling with a Twitter post: “If anyone is actually betting a preseason game, seek immediate help. No one has a clue about who will be on the field, how it’s being called, etc.”

It’s obvious many mainstream media talking heads still need education on a foreign subject. Edel’s response to Wingo: “He obviously has no clue.”

No game is meaningless when there’s money on the line. Edel is a bettor who spends an extraordinary amount of time digging for nuggets of information on exhibition games.

“The preseason is totally different. It’s all about the information and any edge you can get,” Edel said. “I watch every press conference and read all the local newspapers. There might be one sentence that I pick up on that maybe gives me an advantage. You want to see how long the starters might be playing. You don’t get much game-planning in the preseason, but if a team is game-planning against a team that’s not gameplanning, that’s a huge edge. You have to kind of feel it out.

“The biggest advantage we have as bettors is they put the line out Sunday or Monday without having the information. Once you do get the information, you have to move fast. Other people are betting this and you’re obviously looking to get the best number.”

The Rams-Raiders number is among the biggest moves so far in preseason Week 1. Here’s a two-minute drill on 10 more games to watch (Westgate SuperBook lines), with a focus on the quarterbacks:

Jets (-1½) at Giants: Head coach Adam Gase and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, both new to the Jets, figure to be more aggressive while implementing their system. The experienced quarterbacks behind Sam Darnold — Trevor Siemian, Davis Webb and Luke Falk — should give the Jets an edge over the Giants and rookie Daniel Jones.

Colts (-1½) at Bills: In his first year, Colts coach Frank Reich went 3-1 in the preseason with a one-point loss to Baltimore. Reich has a positive backup QB situation with Jacoby Brissett, Phillip Walker and Chad Kelly. Buffalo can move the ball with No. 2 Matt Barkley, but rookie Tyree Jackson is likely to struggle.

Redskins (-2) at Browns: Cleveland opened -1 before a sharp group released a play on Washington, which has a competitive QB rotation with veterans Colt McCoy and Case Keenum trying to fend off rookie Dwayne Haskins. The Redskins’ offensive line is a wreck, though. “Sometimes I think the quarterback battles are overrated,” Edel said. “But when you have a situation where quality QBs are competing, that’s different. In the preseason, I would rather have a journeyman third-string QB than a rookie because of the speed of the game. The rookies are blown away by the speed of the game.”

Falcons at Dolphins (-3½): After losing the Hall of Fame Game last week, Atlanta coach Dan Quinn is 0-9 in the past three preseasons. New Miami coach Brian Flores is talking up the quarterback competition between Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen.

“A lot of times, these new coaches want to win,” said Edel, who mentioned Cincinnati’s Zac Taylor and Green Bay’s Matt LaFleur as other first-year coaches to consider following.

Jaguars at Ravens (-4): This line opened high because there are no secrets with Baltimore coach John Harbaugh, who’s 13-0 in the past three preseasons and 18-3 since 2014. He’s also 11-1 in Week 1. The Ravens have veteran Robert Griffin III and rookie Trace McSorley behind starter Lamar Jackson.

Panthers at Bears (-3): Veteran backups Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray know Chicago coach Matt Nagy’s offense, and Daniel is one of the top No. 2 QBs in the league.

Chargers at Cardinals (-2): No team is more of a mystery than Arizona. First-year coach Kliff Kingsbury might want to play No. 1 pick Kyler Murray more than usual for a projected starter in the preseason. Murray is not expected to take many snaps this week, however. Tyrod Taylor, a former starter, is the Chargers’ capable backup to Philip Rivers.

Broncos at Seahawks (-1): Denver’s quarterbacks did not impress in Canton, Ohio, and this is a challenging back-to-back road spot for the Broncos. Seattle coach Pete Carroll has a 32-21 preseason record even after going 0-4 last year. The Seahawks seem to have the upper hand by playing veteran backups Paxton Lynch and Geno Smith.

Vikings at Saints (-2½): Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer has been money in the preseason with a 17-4 SU record and 14-7 ATS. Still, New Orleans boasts arguably the league’s strongest four-man QB rotation with Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill and J.T. Barrett behind Drew Brees. The price on the home favorite looks cheap.

Cowboys at 49ers (-4): This number opened at 3 and that was a bargain for 49ers backers. Dallas coach Jason Garrett, 0-4 last year, is a popular preseason fade. Backup QBs Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard started a total of 13 games for San Francisco last season after Jimmy Garoppolo’s injury. Edge to the home favorite.

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