NFL Preseason Needs To Be Shortened
by Mike Hayes - 08/30/2006
For the sports bettor, the start of the NFL season is the equivalent of Christmas Eve to a kid - complete with visions of office pools, fantasy leagues, Monday Night Football and a Sunday full of parlays and teasers dancing in his head.
So imagine just how good it would be if the season started two weeks earlier and teams played 18 regular season games instead of the current 16. If the Redskins' Clinton Portis were running things, that's probably what you'd see. But changes to the NFL season don't seem imminent based on comments coming out of league headquarters.
The league adopted the current schedule of four preseason games and16-game regular season contests to start the 1978 campaign, after years of six preseason games and only14 regular season match-ups.
Portis, who suffered a partially dislocated shoulder when he found himself on the defensive end of the football following an interception during the first series of the Redskin's first preseason game, went public afterward with a sentiment that appears to be growing among players and at least some coaches. The NFL preseason is too long.
Of course it's all about money and the owners aren't about to cut a game from the schedule. It doesn't matter whether it's a preseason game or a regular season game because the teams charge regular season prices for preseason tickets and force season ticket holders to buy them as part of their package.
So if there were to be any change to the current format, the most likely scenario would have a preseason game or two turned into a regular season contest, a move that would be greeted with enthusiasm from those betting the games and those taking the action.
According to Bodog bookmakers, the promise of a football season around the corner has sports bettors excited before the first preseason game of the season, but that enthusiasm quickly wanes. "Initially, preseason is a pretty big draw. For the Hall of Fame Game, which really only had one good quarter of football, we had a large handle. After that, everyone comes back to earth and there is a dip in our NFL preseason handle."
Just how meaningless are NFL preseason games? The Colts, Super Bowl favorites for the second consecutive year, had lost eight in a row prior to beating the Saints Saturday and have dropped 10-of-11 dating back to 2004.
Bodog believes limiting the preseason slate to two games and playing 18 regular seasons would make preseason games a much more attractive wagering option. "In this case, the 'less is more' adage would fit for books and bettors in the preseason. Allowing only two games for each team would make for a more solid line and attract more bettors overall, creating an urgency to get in that groove before the real season begins."
The benefit to adding two games to the regular season and starting in August is obvious. "The anticipation is huge for football fans and football bettors. The handle is always big for opening weekend regardless of which teams are involved, and it usually doubles from the year before," said the Bodog rep.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello pointed out in several published reports that a longer regular season slate would only result in an increase in the number of injuries to established players because they are the ones that take the majority of snaps during regular season games. The league also maintains the NFL season is already too grueling to add two more games.
While there is certainly some validity to the league's position, there is just something that doesn't seem right about a player like Portis, whose injury was not as bad as feared (he could be ready opening week), going down in a game that has absolutely no bearing on his place on the roster or the Redskins' season, especially when such an injury could mean the end of a team's season before it even begins.
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