Top Handicapping Storylines for NFL Training Camps
by Trevor Whenham - 7/26/2013
It seems hard to believe, but NFL training camps are already underway across the country. That means we are just days away from the often painfully pointless preseason schedule and not much more than a month away from the games that matter. As the preseason gets underway, there will be endless storylines to follow. Most won’t be particularly significant, but some will be very useful for bettors.
Here are five storylines to keep a close eye on in camp because of the value they could create in the coming weeks and months:
The circus in Foxboro
The Patriots have largely been defined in the Belichick era by how boring their culture has been. They don’t trash talk, they largely avoid scandal, and they don’t encourage outgoing personalities among their players. They just win. Obviously, though, this season is different. The elephant in the room is Aaron Hernandez. The team cut him loose in a hurry, but not before it became clear that they had no idea what kind of guy they were employing. That whole situation has caused Belichick to address the media in ways more personal and wordy than he normally ever would and more than he is comfortable with. Tom Brady has been pressed hard on the situation as well, and the weight of those inquiries on him is showing. As if all of that wasn’t enough, the team somehow made the decision that adding Tim Tebow to the roster was a good idea. It wasn’t. The Patriots are still the fourth choice to win the Super Bowl, according to futures odds, and the overwhelming favorites in their division. It will be crucial to get a good sense of how the team is handling all of those distractions this summer, because there could be some good value in betting against the loyal public bettors if there are likely to be some rocky roads.
Robert Griffin III
Griffin was spectacular as a rookie, and the hopes and aspirations of the Redskins franchise rest squarely on his shoulders. In the longer term that will be fine, but after his knee injury at the end of last year we can’t be sure how ready he will be at the start of this year. The team obviously won’t give us a straight answer about his status, and they will try to disguise any clues about his true state. The more we can pay attention, and try to determine what to expect from him, the better off we will be betting on this team in the opening weeks of the season. Just one or two clues could trigger a gut feeling that could lead to early profits.
It’s the Chip Kelly show now. He is a very good coach. He’s also a very strong personality, and there is inevitably going to be some clashes along the way. Those clashes will be most intense early on because the personnel he has is not ideal in some spots, he has to implement his new systems and approaches, and he has to figure out ways to make the transition from college to the pros — a shift that other great coaches have failed at. The public buys in already, and expectations are reasonably high for this team in the wide-open NFC East. It is very important to pay attention to how camp goes for the team and what we might expect out of the gate.
The hiring of Doug Marrone and the transition he is making with this team are not getting a whole lot of attention. I like a lot of what this team is doing, and I expect Marrone to be a successful NFL coach. The question, though, is how quickly he can return this team to respectability — when it makes sense to bet on them in the hunt for value, in other words. That means that he needs to decode his QB situation in a hurry, get the defense back to playing with intensity, and lose the general acceptance of mediocrity that has haunted this franchise for years. If Marrone has a strong camp then I’ll be looking closely at him in the opening weeks of the season. He opens against the Patriots then has winnable games against the Panthers and at the Jets, so there are lots intriguing possibilities if Marrone can hit the ground running.
Despite being the first overall pick and leading his team to the playoffs in unexpected fashion, Luck was overshadowed last year by RGIII and even Russell Wilson. Despite that early success and his obvious skills there are a whole lot of people out there who are expecting some rocky times ahead for Luck and his Colts this year. The next rocky patch Luck encounters will be his first, though, so there are certainly reasons to be skeptical of the negativity out there. There are few quarterbacks I will be watching any more closely than Luck this preseason. I want to see how he publicly handles himself. I want to see if the game seems to slow down for him and if some of those bad habits he had last year will disappear — like trying to force passes into places where there weren’t holes. I am very bullish on Luck this year, and a strong preseason would show that that is warranted — and that he could deliver early value.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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