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2021 NFL Preseason Week 3: Two Big Spreads Should Equal Big Opportunity

Updated: Sep 3, 2021

Buying (rare) outsized, preseason spreads: Backing Los Angeles Rams +8.5 and Green Bay Packers +9.5


Back to 2004, the disparity between the best and worst NFL teams during preseason has proven moderate, at best. Per the following chart, almost exactly two-thirds of the 1,033 NFL exhibition games in our database featured a closing spread of no more than a field goal. Further, only NINE games over this entire span (that is, less than one percent of the sample) required the favorite to lay more than a touchdown.



Against this backdrop, and after a ten-year stint without a single occurrence, there are two games on this weekend's slate with spreads wider than a touchdown. The Green Bay Packers are taking 9.5 from the Bills at Buffalo's Highmark Stadium Saturday, and the Denver Broncos are giving 8.5 to the visiting LA Rams.


We like both big dogs to cover, and are betting accordingly.


Green Bay has proven to be a bad bet taking points in the preseason, generally speaking. The Packers are 15-23-2 (40%) since 2004 under these conditions. Green Bay is also so far 0-2 this preseason.


As bad as the Packers have been facing low preseason expectations though, the Bills have been even worse when laying the chalk in their own building. Buffalo is 7-13 versus the number since 2004 as preseason home favorite (35%). And while the Bills are 2-0 SU/ATS so far this preseason, it should be noted that both of those wins materialized from the role of underdog, not favorite.


Head coach Sean McDermott announced recently that Bills' starting QB, Josh Allen, as well as other Buffalo starters, would see some action Saturday (Allen has yet to take a snap this season). Though there was a good amount of equivocation about how much daylight the Bills' primary players might see:


“Some of the starters won’t play, some will play, a majority will play anywhere from… one play, and this is not a cop out, I’m just trying to give you my mindset right now, one play to coming out of the locker room at half after halftime there in the third quarter."


Similar to the Packers' situation, the Los Angeles Rams are a lowly 13-16 ATS as preseason road dogs. And inline with the Bills struggles as preseason home favorites, the Broncos are a meager 10-14-1 (42%) ATS historically, from the position of preseason home favorite.


Coach Sean McVay is among the more skittish coaches in the NFL. For the fourth year in a row, the Rams' leader will not use any starters at all this preseason. McVay is also sitting key rotational and backup players this preseason. But this reservation does not necessarily imply poor outcomes for bettors. In fact, the Rams are 7-7 ATS in the preseason over the young coach's tenure.


Bottom line: It is quite rare to see big spreads in the NFL preseason. Perhaps this is true as a result of 1) the bulk of player-level value being attributable to the quarterback position, and 2) coaches tendency to sit starting QB's in preseason to mitigate risk of injury to key personnel in pursuit of a meaningless win. Maybe, absent the full-game impact of NFL's elite QB's, the gap between teams' talent and capabilities is relatively narrow, justifying the tighter spreads that generally attend preseason proceedings versus the regular season.


In fact, in the small sample of instances where a team received more than seven points in preseason play, the underdog covered the vast majority of times (7-2). The average/median scoring margin was +3/+4.


The profitability related to backing big preseason dogs to cover proved statistically significant at better than the 90% confidence level, conveying high conviction that the observed results are NOT merely due to chance. As such, we are taking the points with both the Packers and Rams Saturday.


Happy betting!!


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