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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 at 4:33 PM

The National Football League opens its training camps in one week and with that comes endless opportunities to make money, if you know what you are doing. That includes (1) forgetting about the regular NFL season and handicapping the pre-season as an alien universe of the sport and (2) accepting the fact exhibition football is not about rivalries or even about winning but about what each team needs to accomplish to get ready for its regular 16-game schedule.

One who handicaps the NFL pre-season as one would the regular season is inviting financial disaster, since the purpose of the first is to learn and the purpose of the latter is to win. While August is a time for winning for bettors it has a much different purpose in the minds of coaches.

The down-and-out Minnesota Vikings present an excellent example of how a team is going to use the pre-season and in the process sends a message as to how a bettor can capitalize on that.

First of all, the Vikings went a miserable 3-13 last year, starting out 0-4 and finished losing nine of those games by a touchdown or less. In the process they went 0-6 in the tough NFC North, pushing their winless streak against the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions to 11.

Minnesota Coach Leslie Frazier is 6-16 since taking over in Minneapolis and comes to this pre-season on the hot seat, a fact that might have him trying harder to win than he did in August last season. Coaches in situations such as this are driven by a deep psychological desire to show the team owners, fans and even players they can win.

Whether that happens remains to be seen, because Minnesota heads for camp with far more questions than answers.

Is Christian Ponder really the man at quarterback? Can rookie first-round draft choice Matt Kalil (6-7, 295, USC) protect Ponder's blindside from the left tackle spot where he has already been penned in as the starter. What will the playing status of running back Adrian Peterson be in the pre-season? He is coming off serious left-knee surgery and may not see much action in August.

The Vikings had one of the best pass rushes, led by Jared Allen, in the NFL but found itself compromised on defense because of a dreadful secondary-no small thing in a league where the pass rules the day. Minnesota has made some moves to shore up its secondary but how will all the parts of the puzzle fit as the players get to know one another?

Ponder, the fourth overall pick out of last year's draft, has the full confidence of the Vikings coaching staff but NFL insiders say they are not convinced he is the real deal. Ponder was forced to play last year as a rookie after Donovan McNabb was sent to the sidelines and had 13 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions.

Some say back-up Joe Webb is the best quarterback in camp, and that even the 12-year veteran Sage Rosenfels, third on the depth chart, is better equipped to win right now.

These are just a few of the issues facing the Vikings in the pre-season and bettors know they will be working on all of them. The process of trying to fix things will most certainly impact how they play during August-and that will most certainly impact bettors. One can do a "needs"rundown on each of the 32 NFL teams and gain insight into what they will be doing-and how it impacts their ability to win-during the pre-season.

Those paying attention will get the money.

Does Pre-Season Impact Regular Season?

There are many truisms about the NFL pre-season and what it means for the regular season, and few of them hold water.

Over the past 10 seasons, just under 50% of the teams that had losing pre-seasons had losing regular seasons. In that same time frame, 46% of the teams that had winning pre-seasons had winning regular seasons.

Last season the Atlanta Falcons went 0-4 during the pre-season and 10-6 during the regular season. The Detroit Lions went 4-0 and the same 10-6. The St. Louis Rams went 4-0 during the pre-season and 2-14 when it counted. Two other 0-4 teams, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders finished a respective 7-9 and 8-8 during the regular season.

There is simply an absence of edges when comparing the pre-season with the regular season.

A note for trivia buffs: The 1982 Washington Redskins are the only team to win the Super Bowl after a winless pre-season.

Coaches Week-By-Week In NFL Pre-Season

In an earlier column, we shared how coaches performed overall in the NFL pre-season and now we are listing how each fared in the won-lost category in each of the four weeks of the pre-season. Hopefully this will offer a bit of insight into when these coaches are most likely to burn the big dogs loose and go for the win.

TEAM COACH Week #1 Week #2 Week #3 Week #4
Arizona Ken Whisenhunt 2-3 1-4 2-3 2-3
Atlanta Mike Smith 2-2 1-3 1-3 1-3
Baltimore John Harbaugh 3-1 3-1 3-1 2-2
Buffalo Chan Gailey 0-2 1-1 2-0 0-2
Carolina Ron Rivera 1-0 0-1 0-1 0-1
Chicago Lovie Smith 4-5 5-3 3-5 4-4
Cincinnati Marvin Lewis 3-7 6-3 2-7 7-2
Cleveland Pat Shurmur 1-0 0-1 0-1 0-1
Dallas Jason Garrett 1-0 0-1 1-0 0-1
Denver John Fox 6-4 4-6 7-3 4-6
Green Bay Mike McCarthy 2-4 5-1 4-2 1-5
Houston Gary Kubiak 4-2 4-2 3-3 2-4
Indianapolis Chuck Pagano 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-0
Jacksonville Mike Mularky NA NA NA NA
Kansas City Romeo Crennel NA NA NA NA
Miami Joe Philbin 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-0
Minnesota Leslie Frazier 0-1 1-0 0-1 1-0
New England Bill Belichick 9-4 6-6 6-6 6-6
New Orleans Joe Vit 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-0
N. Y. Giants Tom Coughlin 4-4 5-3 2-6 5-3
N.Y. Jets Rex Ryan 0-3 2-1 2-1 2-1
Oakland Dennis Allen 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-0
Philadelphia Andy Reid 6-8 5-7 8-5 3-10
Pittsburgh Mike Tomlin 4-2 3-2 4-1 5-0
San Diego Norv Turner 3-4 3-4 4-3 5-2
Seattle Pete Carroll 2-0 0-2 0-2 1-1
San Francisco Jim Harbaugh 0-1 1-0 0-1 1-0
St. Louis Jeff Fisher NA NA NA NA
Tampa Bay Greg Schiano 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-0
Tennessee Mike Munchak 1-0 0-1 1-0 1-0
Washington *Mike Shanahan 12-5 9-5 8-6 11-3

NA-Not Available. *Since 1997.

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