The preseason is the time during which oddsmakers and NFL football gamblers need to look closely at teams to determine what they might be capable of when the season starts. What a NFL team does in the preseason isn’t necessarily a good indicator of what will happen in the regular season, but careful observers can still pull a lot of clues together to get a picture of what is likely. Here are six questions to help NFL bettors evaluate a running game during training camp:
How good were they last year? – This is an obvious but often overlooked question. You can’t effectively evaluate how a team is doing until you have a sense of where they are – a starting point for your analysis. If you don’t know what the football team was capable of last year with their ground attack then you can’t effectively compare how they have improved and where they are worse off. It doesn’t seem like rocket science but lot of sports bettors don’t bother to do it.
Is last year’s starter still the starter? – The life span of a running back in the NFL can be short, and the patience of a coaching staff can be even shorter, so changes are frequent at the position. If the starter from last year will still be starting at running back then you need to get a sense of whether they are still in their prime or if they could be starting to decline. That’s a hard thing to do accurately, but you can get a sense from things like how strong they were at the end of last season, how much time they have lost to injury, and whether their yards per carry have been stable or improving from year to year or have declined in recent times. If the starter has changed then NFL handicappers need to look at why the change happened and whether the new player is an upgrade.
How is their depth? – It’s very rare these days that football teams will rely on just one RB to do the bulk of their ball carrying. They might have a couple of guys they spell off, or one player who they use in short yardage and other in the open field. You need to look at the preference of the coaching staff – what they have done in the past – and whether they have the personnel to fit what they like to do. If they don’t then either the players will have to change and adapt or the coaches will have to change what they are doing with the ground game. Neither type of adjustment is certain to go well.
How is the offensive line? – A running back can’t run through gaps that aren’t there, so they are reliant on the protection they have in front of them. The single biggest factor in looking at how good the running game is, then, is how good the offensive line is. Was the line effective last year? Have they made changes or is it basically the same line? Have the changes that have been made improved the line? Is the line healthy? How is the depth?
Can the passing game set up the run? – People often think of the running game and the passing game in football as being in isolation, but they really rely heavily on each other for success. If a NFL team has a weak passing game then the opposing defense can key in on the running game without fear of being beaten. If the passing game is good, though, then the running game will have more room to move. Just as you would evaluate the changes to the running game, then, you also need to look at how the passing game performed last year, how they have changed, and what impact that will likely have on their performance.
Has the coaching changed? – It goes without saying that some NFL coaches are better at planning and executing a strong running game than others. That means that some football teams are more likely to succeed than others at having a running game regardless of the personnel they have. A coach who is strong at the run could be more effective with a journeyman running back than a weak run coach could be with a star running back. That means you need to look at the coaching staff that is in place and what they are likely capable of. If that coaching staff has changed in the offseason then sports bettors need to consider what changes the new staff will be looking to make to the running game, whether they have the personnel to suit their preferences, and if they have had the time to effectively make those changes.