Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, August 22, 2018 at 7:00 AM
A lot of people want to tell you how to bet this week’s dress rehearsal games in the NFL preseason. JIM HURLEY’S NOTEBOOOK has been there…done that…and has nothing new to say on the matter because the fundamentals don’t change. What we taught you five years ago, or 10 years ago still holds true.
But, what to LOOK FOR in these matchups…and how to use that information once the regular season starts? That’s helpful to handicappers who want to get a head start on analyzing the 2018 pro football campaign. That’s something you can focus on this week as you watch all the national telecasts and your local teams. (Of course, if you’re serious about handicapping, you’ll be watching the replays of all the other games on the NFL Network when they air!).
First, with established veteran quarterbacks, IGNORE what you see. It doesn’t not matter if they play great this week. They didn’t suddenly get better. They’re all known quantities. It doesn’t matter if they play poorly, unless you sense there’s an injury they’re trying to hide. Some veteran head coaches still insist on keep things simple in the preseason because they want to maintain the element of surprise in September. A veteran quarterback may be colluding with his head coach by posting unimpressive stats. If you follow pro football, you already know the strengths and weaknesses of veteran signal callers. Tigers don’t change their stripes.
Now, with younger quarterbacks or veterans who are playing for new teams…you need to focus on the following key factor. Watch the first quarter and first half very closely to see if the coaches had a gentleman’s agreement to let each other drive the field once or twice. This has become easily recognizable to established game watchers who know what to look for. Defenses play relatively vanilla…and both offenses get to build some confidence in a 10-all or 14-all first half tie. Then, the backups play after that and somebody wins an Under game.
You don’t want to fall in love with QBs who looked sharp against relatively soft defenses. You’ll lose big money in Week One of the regular season…and possibly through the first month before you accept you’ve been fooled. Remember when the Cleveland Browns won all their exhibition games last season against disinterested opponents? They didn’t win again!
Now…if a relatively new quarterback (young starter or new acquisition) is reading blitzes, making smart decisions, moving the ball, and finding the end zone, THEN you can get excited. Playing well vs. a serious defense going all out means something. Playing well in a glorified scrimmage does not.
Finally, if any relatively new quarterback struggles, that’s a really bad sign for the start of the season. That means they’re not ready to go at full speed once defenses are disguising blitzes and bringing everything to stop him. Maybe veterans will eventually get the hang of things by October (like Kirk Cousins in Minnesota, or Alex Smith in Washington…that type of scenario). But, any “new face in a new place” that struggles in a dress rehearsal is probably going to be a “bet against” quarterback in early September.
Watch as many games as you can closely with today’s discussion in mind. That will help you find several Week One winners…and many more throughout the month of September. It might even help you find a team that’s going to be overpriced all season because the new coach/QB combo just isn’t a good fit. Nobody knows about that kind of chemistry until the pressure is really on. Don’t assume you already know everything. Keep your head on a swivel so you can tackle the bookmaker when the season begins.
JIM HURLEY loves dress rehearsal week. All the resources in NETWORK’S exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach are at full throttle.
*His SCOUTS AND SOURCES know how long the starters are going to play, and whether the backups are going to be going for points or running clock in the fourth quarter. That’s worth its weight in gold right there!
*His COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS can completely trust their simulations because first-teamers will be on the field for so long. This is the first week that matches regular season talent and motivation.
*His TREND HISTORIANS know which head coaches treat will this game seriously for the full four quarters, and which are paranoid about injuring key players even before kickoff. Knowing the right coaches to back…and the right coaches to fade…is worth a few winners every year. Historical trends might matter more in dress rehearsals than at any other time.
*His WISE GUY CONNECTIONS in Las Vegas and offshore know what the smart money is betting, and what numbers they’re attacking. This element by itself is worth the cost of service. At JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK, it’s just the icing on the cake.
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