We have made it to the third week of the NFL Preseason. This week can also be referred to as the only week of the NFL Preseason that deserves even a little bit of attention. It's still garbage football compared to the regular season, and there are several reasons for bettors to be very cautious, but if you are itching to get some action it's by far the best week of the preseason to consider a bet. Here are four reasons why the third preseason game is the best of a bad bunch of games and three reasons why you still need to be cautious when selecting your bets.
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More attractive because:
Starters finally start: The third week is the first and only time in the preseason that starters will play a significant amount of time. Some starters have seen just a series or two up to this point. Some haven't even played at all. In this game they still won't play the whole game in most cases, but they will play enough, and at enough intensity, to make a significant impact on the outcome of games. Until now we have been forced to guess how much we will see starters play and who will play significantly in their absence. That makes it almost impossible to make an intelligent betting decision. This game isn't perfect, but it is a lot better than the alternative.
Playbooks look more like NFL playbooks: When coaches are trying to install the playbook, and when they are playing a whole lot of different players, the playbook is understandably quite vanilla. The plays are much simpler than normal, and they often aren't executed particularly well anyway. With the starters in place, and with the new players having had a lot more time to get familiar with things, the playbook can be more complex in this game. It still won't be all it will be in the preseason - coaches don't want to give away all of their secrets now - but it is closer to real, and that makes things easier to predict accurately.
Urgency level is very high for players: After this game coaches are looking to have most of their personnel decisions made and their roster ready to go for the regular season. For guys who are on the brink of earning a starting job, or are just looking to make the final roster, this game is incredibly important. It is their biggest chance yet to make a statement. When guys need a big game they will put forth a big effort, and that in turn makes the games somewhat easier to handicap.
Coaches are finally invested in result: Most coaches don't really care about their record during the preseason. They have goals beyond winning games here, and these wins mean nothing. Here, though, they are more likely to be invested in the result. The win still doesn't matter, but coaches will be more interested in a proper effort -- fewer mistakes and better effort - and that will more predictably lead to the best team winning. So, while coaches don't necessarily care about winning, they will care more than they have to date about the things that help lead to wins.
Causes for concern, though:
Game matters more, but still doesn't matter: The Super Bowl will not be awarded in August. Playoff spots will not be determined by what happens in August. Players who know that they are going to be starting will do only what they need to do in this game, and nothing more. This is still an ultimately meaningless game - an exhibition, and nothing more. The biggest mistake bettors can making is thinking that this - or any other preseason game - is in any way the same as a regular-season game. It can be bet on successfully, but not if you just pretend that it is the same as a regular-season game.
Coaches care, but not necessarily about winning: Coaches know how little the scoreboard matters. They will be looking for the execution and attention to detail they want. Some coaches believe that they need to win in order to get the most out of these games. Most, though, will not be worried at all about the outcome as long as they get the play they are looking for. The NFL is hard enough to predict when every game matters and the win is the only thing that matters. When the win is irrelevant, things are tough for bettors.
Stars get rusty, too: The biggest stars haven't been seen much up to this point, so this game will be their first significant playing time. They have obviously worked a lot in practice, but games are different. If this is their first real action then we can't expect them to be at their mid-season best form. Add in that they only care about getting ready and not about winning, and you have yet another challenge for handicappers.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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