We got beat up last week in the NFL preseason. If you followed the markets, you know most of the big moves got there. Sharps and recreational bettors were both winning. In exhibition games, the public often follows the sharps … betting the same teams at slightly worse prices. Last week, it didn’t matter because so few games landed close to the number.
You probably heard a lot about all the Unders last week (10-1 to the Under last Saturday, for example); believe it or not, that didn’t have much impact on our bottom line. Sharps bet some of the Overs and lost. Some low-scoring games didn’t have much betting action either way. It was a bad week for sportsbooks because the big team side tickets were cashing, not because most games were going Under.
Here’s what’s been happening so far in this second full week of NFL preseason action.
Thursday, August 19
New England (-1.5, 38.5) at Philadelphia
We opened Patriots by 2. I took a little bit on the home ‘dog, which brought it down to Pats -1.5. Sharps hit New England hard late last week, and were rewarded with a 22-13 win over Washington. I’ll be on the lookout for that again before kickoff here. New England still has a serious quarterback battle, which carries weight with smart money.
Friday, Aug. 20
Kansas City (-2, 41) at Arizona
This opened at Kansas City -2.5. A wiseguy bet Arizona right off the bat, so I dropped the game half a point. I expect to see some buy back on the Chiefs at -2 based on what’s happening across the market. We’ll probably settle around 2.5.
Cincinnati at Washington (-4.5, 34.5)
Washington had better stats than its 22-13 loss at New England would have suggested. The Football Team moved the ball very well, but missed two field goals. Cincinnati won a sloppy game at Tampa Bay (four Bengals turnovers, seven combined!). That’s probably why my opener of Washington -3.5 was bet up to -4.5. Nobody wants to ask the Bengals to get another road result, especially with all the reports about quarterback Joe Burrow’s inconsistent practices.
Saturday, Aug. 21
Buffalo at Chicago (-4, 38.5)
We opened the Bears -4.5, and moved down to 4 now on just a little bit of action. I’ve learned to move lines quickly in the preseason, then re-adjust quickly if needed. Sportsbooks are playing defense in August, because “smart” money is smarter than ever when information about lineups and team attitude is so precious. I haven’t mentioned any Over/Unders yet because none of the openers had moved by the time I wrote this up. Sharps typically bet Overs early, and Unders late. They didn’t bet Overs early in these first four games, which probably means they’re hoping to bet Unders before kickoff after public bets have lifted the lines.
NY Jets (-2.5, 34) at Green Bay
We opened the Jets -1.5, and we’re up to Jets -2.5 after early betting. My sense is that this is “anti-Packers” money rather than support for the Jets. Green Bay looked awful last week in a 26-7 home loss to Houston. There’s more sense of urgency with the Jets, while the Packers will just turn the keys over to Aaron Rodgers when the regular season starts. A little bump on the total from 33.5 to 34.
Atlanta at Miami (-5, 37)
I moved Miami from an opener of -3.5 up to -5 on relatively small action. It wasn’t hard to read which way this was going. Again, I move much more quickly on smaller bets now than I would in the regular season. Atlanta only scored 3 points on 138 total yards last week. The total dropped from 37.5 to 37, which is more important than it seems because sharps usually wait to bet Unders. Total might come down even more by kickoff.
Baltimore (-3, 35) at Carolina
I opened Ravens -3.5 because of Baltimore’s great recent preseason history. Everyone knows that coach Jim Harbaugh has been winning and covering, but the wiseguys took the home dog at + 3.5 for value. This will probably go back and forth between 3 and 3.5 between now and kickoff. People that love betting the Baltimore trend will lay the 3; sharps will take the extra half point when offered.
Detroit at Pittsburgh (-5.5, 37.5)
Detroit got a lot of bad press about time management after last week’s 16-15 loss to Buffalo … and, the Lions weren’t exactly respected going in! But sharps bet Detroit with me at my opener of + 6.5, and again at + 6. I see it even lower at some spots as I write this on Wednesday. I think we’ll settle at 6 by game time. It will either be Pittsburgh or pass for the public. My opening total of 37 got bet up half a point by respected money.
Tennessee at Tampa Bay (-1, 35)
Combining the side and total, this was the most heavily bet game out of the gate. We took a lot of money on Tennessee + 3 at the open. Under money dropped the opener from 37.5 all the way down to 35. Sharps know Tampa Bay only had one offensive touchdown last week (along with a pick-six), and only gained 159 yards. Wiseguys are always skeptical of defending Super Bowl champs in the preseason anyway. They seemed very happy with their early positions. Will the public think the Bucs and Over are a steal at these prices before kickoff?
Houston at Dallas (-4, 37.5)
I dropped my opener of Dallas -4.5 down to 4 after a little bit of early interest on the dog. Houston did get a big win at Green Bay last week, but Dallas may bring more intensity and sharpness after two losses under its belt. The public will have a few home teams to consider on Saturday’s busy slate. I think sharps will take anything higher than + 4 for value.
Indianapolis at Minnesota (-2.5, 38)
Big move here on the Vikings. I opened the game at -1. They bet Vikings -1, -2, and some are still playing them at -2.5. Coach Mike Zimmer has a good preseason history, but chose to rest his starters and ran into a Denver Broncos buzzsaw last week. I haven’t gone to 3 yet, but I have a feeling we’re going to get there. Total is up half a point from the opener of 37.5 to 38. Indy gained 427 yards in its win over Carolina last week, with young quarterbacks Jacob Eason and Sam Ehlinger trying to make statements. Could be a great game to watch.
Las Vegas (-7, 35) at L.A. Rams
Money showed quickly on the Raiders at my opener of -5.5 … and kept on coming all the way up to the key number of 7. This wasn’t a “locals” thing this week. Seems like everyone was down on the Rams (just six points and 197 yards in an ugly loss to the Chargers last week), while the Raiders impressed vs. Seattle. Maybe sharps would take the Rams at + 7.5 for value. I may have a chance to find out soon.
Denver (-5.5, 37) at Seattle
Opened 6. I took one bet on Seattle and came down to 5.5. It’s weird to see a road team laying such a high number in Seattle, but Denver has a quarterback battle and won last week’s game 33-6. Seattle’s biding its time until the regular season, and lost to the Raiders 20-7. I think sharps will take the home dog at 6 or better just on principal. I don’t know if the public is ready to lay that many points with a visitor in that stadium no matter what the circumstances.
Sunday, Aug. 22
NY Giants at Cleveland (-5.5, 35.5)
I opened Cleveland -6.5. Sharps took + 6.5 and + 6. They were also betting the Under at 37.5 and 37. Then I moved the total down to 35.5 because their sentiment was obvious. Remember, sharps usually wait to bet Unders, but they weren’t waiting here, which means they really loved Under 37 or more. Makes sense … if you like the Under, then a team side line of 6 or more will look appealing too. Sharps were in early on the Giants and Under.
San Francisco (-5.5, 34) at LA Chargers
An opener of San Francisco -4.5 was bet up to -5 and -5.5. The 49ers do have a decent quarterback competition going on, and while the Chargers beat the Rams last week, they didn’t look very impressive doing so. Niners will have to clean up some things to cover. They gained an impressive 383 yards last week, but lost the ball twice and went only 5-of-15 on third downs. I think some sharp dog lovers will come in on the Chargers at + 6 if it becomes available. Sharps that wanted the favorite are already in. A reminder: If I don’t mention the total, there wasn’t anything worth mentioning.
Monday, Aug. 23
Jacksonville at New Orleans (-4.5, 38.5)
What a difference a week makes. Sharps took a strong flyer on Jacksonville last week with a new head coach and a potential quarterback battle. The Jags looked sluggish in a 23-13 home loss to Cleveland (a very late TD made the score more respectable). Now, there is no interest in the Jags getting more than a field goal on the road. New Orleans opened -4, and was bet up to -4.5. Sharps also bet us Over 37.5. I moved the total a full point because it was obvious that Over was getting bet everywhere. Saints threw 40 passes for 272 yards last week, and will probably keep passing in their home opener.
Before we wrap it up, I wanted to clue you into something else that sharps will be doing this week. While the public watches games on TV to root for their bets, sharps are analyzing teams with an eye on Regular Season Win totals and futures. We’ve done a tremendous amount of futures business already this summer. I expect a lot of action this week on those win totals. Sharps won’t wait any longer to bet Under teams they’re skeptical about. They’ll bet Over in advance of the public on any media darlings with true promise.
Don’t just watch the scoreboard this week. Watch for line moves on Regular Season Win totals to get a sneak peak of how sharps believe this coming season will play out. Sharps make their living betting sports. You’ll learn a lot by studying how (and when) they bet.
Chris Andrews is the Sportsbook Director at the South Point in Las Vegas, and has been a Nevada bookmaker for 30 years.