The first week of the preseason gave us our first glance at all 32 NFL teams in action and you can already tell that the extended player lockout this past offseason has affected some teams much harder than others. Fortunately these teams still three more weeks until the regular season kicks-off to help close the gap.
When it comes to handicapping each team for when the games start counting for real, there are two main areas to focus on. The first is current form and the second is past trends. These will both have a direct effect on both the point spread and total line for the actual games.
The preseason can be very helpful in determining a team’s current form if you know what statistics and information to focus on. For the most part you can throw out the second half of just about every game. With the exception of the third preseason game, the starters are already done for the night by halftime.
Week 1 games can be discounted unless a team looked particularly good or bad in the first quarter. A perfect example of this was the San Diego/Seattle game. The Chargers lost the game 24-17 as a three-point home favorite, but led 10-0 at the half. The biggest take away from this game was the performance of quarterback Philip Rivers. He only played one series and completed five of six passes for 87 yards in a drive that resulted in a touchdown.
Over the next three weeks it is important to note if a team’s starting QB is connecting with his receivers, if its running game is able to sustain drives, and if its defense is getting off the field. All these areas can provide some excellent clues as to a team’s current form heading into the regular season. The best indication of a team’s current form will come in Week 3, when traditionally the starters play the longest. If a team is still struggling to move the ball or unable to stop the opposition from doing the same, you can safely assume that these problems will carry into the regular season.
Past trends can be a general guide as to how a team might perform against the spread and the total line for the upcoming season. A mass of statistics are readily available for every team when it comes to past trends so you have to be careful as to getting too bogged down in crunching the numbers. You always want to focus on the actual matchup that you are looking to wager on, but understanding how a team has historically performed at home verse on the road, or on grass as opposed to turf can provide some helpful insights into future performances.
Last season the Detroit Lions were the best team ATS with an overall record of 12-4, while compiling a straight-up record of 6-10. This is not a real shock as the Lions were underdogs in just about every game they played, but only lost three games by 10 or more points. The odds makers will undoubtedly tighten up the lines in Detroit’s games this season in anticipation of a majority of them remaining close.
The team with the worst record ATS last season were the Carolina Panthers at 4-12. The Panthers went 2-14 SU and were already hopelessly out of most of their games by halftime. This is the type of team to watch over the next three weeks to see if their current form can outperform their past trends. If this appears to be the case then there could be some tremendous value in their point spreads, especially in the first few weeks of the season. Just as a side note, Carolina is currently a 5.5-point road dog in its opening day game against Arizona.
DJ is a freelance writer that concentrates on his true passion in life; the world of sports. He produces a number of articles each week for BangTheBook.com as well as a select group of other websites that specialize in providing the most up-to-date information for the sports gaming industry. His goal is to write insightful articles on a wide variety of sporting topics that can provide an edge to today's sophisticated online player.