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As I See It

22 July 2002

Just a little pre-cursor, as I am sure that the first week of NFL pre-season numbers will be available soon.

Without becoming redundant, each year you read basically the same advice on how to attack the pre-season. And while there is merit to much of it, we all know that nothing ever stays exactly the same in anything … including our passion which is betting or booking sports.

The technical, fundamental, and situational will always be there but is used primarily in the regular season on a consistent basis.

We know that a team with a game under its belt has shown a winning percent in its next game, showing great last year with a 7-2 mark, but that percentage has pretty much evened out over the past 10 years. Simply, it is not an automatic play as it once was, especially from the mid-80s to early 90s.

We know the exercise. Game 1 has the starters in for usually no more than 2 series followed by reserves and then backups. Game 2 starters might go a quarter and a half and the rest of the time again is split up to reserves and backups. Game 3 is about the closest you will see to a regular season game and game 4 is usually a throwaway with the fringe players trying to make the last 5 spots on the roster.

We know about betting on the 0-2 team, as the coach now wants at least get a win, and it also falls on the 3rd week where they are putting their best foot forward. This spot has been the most productive situation in probably the last 25 years of betting pre-season football. Now don't go to sleep on me, as the b.m's have also seen this trend and you pay dearly for it in the pointspread. Circle that last sentence as I will refer to it again.

In the past you have heard of coaches "agreements", coaches who just do not care about pre-season, or conversely just the opposite. Teams that need to sell tickets put more emphasis on the pre-season. For all the weight that might have had some 15 years ago, and it did, its significance has lessened drastically. Note that I said lessened; it is not completely out of the picture.

Tracking the q.b rotation is important but once again in my view it is when they are in that counts the most. The dropoffs in a lot of cases are not as severe. I mean for an exhibition game whether you have Jeff Blake or Chris Redmon in for the ravens it is no more than pick'em. Same can be said for the bears with miller and chandler. Look at the rosters and you will see what I mean. Now remember in these games the 4th quarter is a free for all and really are next to impossible to handicap.

And remember this: you would rather bet on guy who is the third string q.b. playing with the first string line as opposed to the opposite although that should never be the case.

Running backs very seldom fit into the equation as most of them never play anyway. Emmitt Smith takes the entire pre-season off and after last year, James for the Colts will be closer to his boat than the playing field.

But there are a few things that I look at which seem to work out pretty well. One will be in the QB position at San Diego, where there is a commitment to finding out whether it will be Brees or Flutie. Each will get plenty of snaps with the first units and the Chargers are probably one of the few teams that does not know who will start in the first regular season game. Now to me this bodes well for more than just a casual effort, no matter what game the Chargers play in.

Finally, travel is hard at any time, especially sometimes in a grueling pre-season schedule. I will give you a few situations to store in your memory bank and let us see how it shakes out.

The Skins and 49ers play in Osaka, Japan on 8/3 and both play the following week but the 49ers will be at home and the Skins will be on the road in Carolina. Which means that Skins might be home for a total of 2 days out of 15 and play in 2 football games. No matter how you slice it, even Spurrier can't routinely travel through that many time zones. It will be a tough 2 week stretch for the Skins.

The schedule is no friend to either the Bucs or Dolphins in early August as they have to practice around this: on Monday August 12th the Bucs play the Dolphins but a mere 3 days later the Dolphins play the Saints at home and just one day later the Bucs travel to Jacksonville. And other than the Jets and Giants, the Bucs and Dolphin game is usually played with a little more intensity. And then to come back in 72 hours could make for a possible play against one or both teams.

There are a few more spots like this so I suggest you get your Don Best books and at least mark them down as we get closer to kick off.

Now all that being noted, remember what I said in the beginning, that everyone knows about these little quirks and turns. So what might have been handicapped on a raw number some 15 to 20 years ago to some degree has been discarded.

Example: if you are looking to play against both the Bucs and Dolphins on a short work week you will be paying a higher price than you would have in the past. I am not touting you on or off the game; I am just giving you reality. Adjustments are being made in today's bookmaking circles much faster than they ever have. Just watch for an 0-2 spot and see the adjustments that will be made on those teams.

What this whole piece is about is that you adjust your thought process the same way it is presented to you. So sometimes in a game where the number figures to be 3, the situation calls for an adjustment and you might see that game as high as 6 or even more.

Look at every game separately and see where they are playing, where they've been and where they are going before you make your choice on the August games. If the price is overly inflated going against conventional wisdom, you might pocket an extra winner in pre-season. You have to understand both the number and the situation and if you do you should not get hurt.

One more thing. With nothing more than early reading I think that the Chargers, Falcons and Bengals should do well in the month of August.

Stay smart, Jimmy V.

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