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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Friday, August 7, 2015 at 7:00 AM

The last time we were together here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping, I gave you some homework to help you prepare for the coming NFL Preseason. Today, I’m going to talk about how to best monitor the exhibition slate on the fly once games begin this Sunday night in Canton with the Hall of Fame game matching Minnesota and Pittsburgh.

Let me start by answering the question in today’s headline. Do stats matter in the NFL Preseason? Well…much of what happens in exhibition action is fairly meaningless…so you have to be careful assigning much weight to boxscore stats. It’s better to think of it this way. Stats aren’t as meaningless as you may have been thinking. And, some stats tell you A LOT about certain head coaches and backup quarterbacks.

To me, the most important numbers are those produced by backup quarterbacks. Winning NFLX handicappers know which backup quarterbacks are likely to move the ball and find the end zone. So, you ABSOLUTELY need to be looking at Preseason boxscore stats to find those quarterbacks! Even if stats are largely meaningless in games that don’t count in the standings, finding indicators for effective backup quarterbacks will be one of the most important things you do as a sports bettor this month.

After each game is played, I strongly encourage you to log the passing stats for all quarterbacks who took a snap.

*For everyone’s starting quarterback, only pay attention to signal callers who are struggling with new systems or new teammates. Most teams use a low-risk approach that allows their starter to drive the field for at least one field goal or touchdown in early action. Seeing a quarterback go 7-8-65 probably just means he was throwing a lot of short passes that moved the chains before he sat for the night. But, if you see 3-8-24 with an interception in the mix…that’s a potential sign of trouble through August and into the first month of the regular season. Pay attention if you’re dealing with one of the rookie starters (Mariota and Winston) or any starter installing a new system.

*For the second and third quarterbacks…study those passing lines very closely. You will see a wide divergence. Some guys will explode because they’re trying to win the starting job with their current team or elsewhere. Others will barely do anything because their head coaches want to keep things simple for a stable, locked in roster. I am not exaggerating when I say that we will be seeing victories of 2-3 touchdowns within a couple of weeks because of what happens when backups are on the field for different coaching styles.

*For fourth stringers…pay some attention to them. Just remember that they may not even see any additional action after a good debut! I’ve encouraged you in the past to monitor local team coverage on the internet so you know in advance who’s playing. When you’re this far down on the depth chart, you shouldn’t use any stats you see for future predictions unless you know for sure who will be taking snaps in the next game.

So…you obviously need to pay attention to the stat lines for quarterbacks. I would also encourage you to read the play-by-play breakdowns or drive reports for the FOURTH QUARTER of Preseason games. This will tell you a lot about head coaching priorities. If a team is trailing, but still running the ball most of the time…then that head coach doesn’t care about results. If a team is winning…but still passing a lot…then you have a head coach or an aggressive offensive coordinator that is trying to get results. (Hint…if you have time this week…go back and read the play-by-play or drive chart data for last year’s first and second full Preseason weeks!)

I personally love handicapping the NFL Preseason. The games may not be beautiful to watch. But, all we care about as sports bettors is cashing winning tickets. If you’d like some help finding the best plays on the NFLX board each week, my personal service selections can be purchased right here at this very website with your major credit card. Questions about extended service can be answered personally by one of my representatives in the Vegas-Sports-Masters office at 1-888-777-4155. (Be sure you keep building your bankrolls with daily baseball!)

The next time we’re together, the season will have started! Our long wait for football is almost over. I’ll be very football-heavy here in our coursework for the forseeable future because of audience dictates. There will definitely be some baseball refreshers when the playoffs begin in October. The Dean of Sports Handicapping greatly appreciates your hard work and attendance. See you again next time.


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Kelso Sturgeon on twitter @vsm_sturgeon

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