It’s hard to know how good or how prepared an NFL team is going to be until the regular football season starts. It’s really hard to judge from the preseason what is going to happen – sometimes good teams look great and other times they look lousy, while bad teams can dominate in August. Ultimately, preseason doesn’t count, so different teams approach it in different ways. While it is therefore a bad idea for NFL football bettors to read too much into what you see in the preseason, there are some warning signs that a football team could be heading towards a disappointing performance in the regular season. Here are six of those warning signs:
A surprising cut – Most of the time it’s hard to be too surprised when a NFL player is cut when the rosters are trimmed down. Every so often, though there is a real shocker – a starter that seemed very secure suddenly is jobless. From time to time a team will even cut ties with a Pro Bowler or a recent high draft pick who is still showing potential. When a NFL team cuts a player like that then there is usually some sort of significant story behind the move. It could be that the player was having attitude issues or that he wasn’t fit. It could be that the coach was clashing with him, or that the team couldn’t afford the salary. Whatever the reason, the loss of a starter is very likely to affect the NFL odds as well as cause ripples in the locker room – especially if the likely replacement isn’t as good as the player who has been sent packing. Sometimes those ripples can build into waves and the team can start the season with some real problems on their hands.
Inconsistent game performance – Like I said before it is a bad idea for NFL handicappers to read too much into what you see in the preseason games. What I do like to look out for, though, is teams – and starting players – who are wildly inconsistent form game to game. If a team looks great in one game, impossibly bad in their next, then pretty good in the next one then it could be a sign that they lack some focus, or that they aren’t easily able to adapt to different kinds of opponents.
Lingering quarterback battle – Quarterback battles are an inevitable reality for a lot of NFL teams. In most cases, though, they get resolved pretty quickly as one player emerges as a clear first choice. When you should be concerned, though, is when neither player in the battle really stands out and the team doesn’t make a decision until after the preseason games are finished. The longer it takes to make a decision the less prepared the ultimate starter at QB will be when the season starts, and the less confidence the team will have in their starter.
Coaching changes – It’s not common to see a coaching change in the NFL preseason, but it does happen. If things are really bleak for a team then they will make a coordinator change before the season starts. Those moves will be well publicized and the public will likely have a good handle on them. What’s more interesting, though, is when a team makes a change with a position coach before the season starts. Position coaches often don’t get the attention they deserve at the best of times, so the impact of one of these moves could easily escape the attention of the betting public.
Conflicting stories – I don’t follow what the mainstream media is saying about NFL teams in the preseason in order to learn from them in most cases, but I still find it worthwhile to pay attention to what is being said. In a lot of cases most of the mainstream media will have basically the same opinions about players and teams. At times, though, you’ll see cases where opinions vary widely. Some writers will be very optimistic about a team or a player while others will be pessimistic and negative. There are a few reasons why that could happen. Most significantly, it can happen because of inconsistency – the football team is playing well when some media members watch them and playing poorly when others visit. Whatever the reason, real inconsistencies here are a very strong indicator to sports bettors that a team could be in for a rough start to the season.
Abnormal number of injuries – Injuries are an ugly and inevitable part of football. At some point during the season every team will face injury hurdles. If those hurdles come at the start of the season, though, then the team is in a hole that could be tough for them to climb out of. It will force teams to make changes and adjustments when they are already likely struggling to figure out where they are supposed to be and what they are supposed to be doing. A lot of NFL training camp injuries could also be an indication problems in the training program of the team.