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Rule #11 NFL Preseason Handicapping Tips Part 2

As stated in NFL Preseason Handicapping Tips Part 1, successful sports wagering during the NFL pre! season requires using different strategies than during any oth! er time of the pro football season. Unique conditions are in place, such as some coaches playing to win, while other coaches just wanting to look at schemes and players. Coaching was the topic of Part 1 on our NFL Preseason Football Handicapping Tips.

This week, we are going to examine preseason MOTIVATION. Again, the primary objective of an NFL team in an exhibition game is not necessarily to win, but to get ready to win during the regular season, so when one team IS motivated to win a practice game, and that desire is not going to be matched by its opponent, they will have a big edge.

Play ON a team that has a stated goal of winning the game. Of course, every team has a stated goal of winning during the regular season and playoffs, but it’s not the case during the preseason. A good team with a lot of veterans and nothing much to prove during practice games may simply want to get out of the contest unscathed. This! is why when one side’s goal is to win an exhibition win, they will have a decided edge against an opponent that is not making winning the game a priority.

Play AGAINST a team relaxed off a win and not concerned about another victory. Usually, a win in the preseason allows a coach to feel zero pressure the following week, and he can look at players. Generally, teams are weaker ATS after a win, and it intensifies with streaks. The opposite is true as well…

Play ON a team hungry off a loss and feeling some pressure. Usually, a loss in the preseason will mean negative press and questions at training camp. This may lead to a coach going for a win the following week so generally, teams are stronger ATS after a loss, and again, it intensifies with streaks.

Play AGAINST a team off a superb performance by its 1st and 2nd-stringers. If a veteran unit dominated its counterpart in the previous game, ther! e’s a good chance they will be given little work in the ! next exh ibition. Once more, the opposite applies…

Play ON a team off a poor performance by its 1st and 2nd-stringers. If a veteran unit was dominated by its counterpart in the previous game, there’s a good chance they will have a fire lit under them.

We clued in to some of these motivation factors in an NFL Exhibition game in 2006, picking the 3-point underdog Dolphins to cover the number against Tampa Bay. In our GAMEDAY INVESTMENT e-LERT analysis, we noted:

“Miami was certainly encouraged by the brief appearance of QB Daunte Culpepper, who is coming back from major knee surgery. Culpepper is expected to see increased playing time in this game. Joey Harrington will follow. The former Detroit Lions starter looked fairly sharp last week completing 10-of-19 passes for 99 yards, including an 18-yard touchdown pass. On defense, where the Fins allowed 332 yards through the air, the expected return of end Jason Tay! lor should help a bit.

Tampa Bay's first-team offense appeared only briefly in their win over the Jets, and prominent Bucs such as “Cadillac” Williams and Joey Galloway were not in the lineup at all. The starters should see more time against the Dolphins, except for Williams and Galloway who are not expected to play much, if at all. Still vying for #2 QB duties behind Chris Simms are Tim Rattay and rookie Bruce Gradkowski. Jay Fiedler and Luke McCown remain sidelined by injuries.

One reason why Miami could not finish strong against the Jaguars last week was perhaps tired legs. That shouldn’t be a problem this week. After holding a 90-minute practice inside the Dolphins' practice bubble, coach Nick Saban hinted that he brought a tired team into lat Saturday's loss. "We were trying to get a little more game-ready this time around in terms of giving the players a little recovery," Saban said.

Meanwhile, it may be t! he Bucs who wear down in this contest. Head coach Jon Gruden s! aid as m any as 18 players required intravenous fluids because of dehydration during practices earlier in the week, when temperatures were typically high.

Other than that, Gruden was very pleased with this year’s camp. "It was a great camp. Our players are in shape. They got a lot of reps. We ran a lot of plays, more than any camp I've ever been in."

That may bode well for the regular season, but during the preseason teams off a great camp and solid exhibition game are ripe for the picking, especially against a team off a loss and little hungrier, so we tend to fade satisfied teams, especially when favored.”

Miami was the right call indeed, winning the game outright, 13-10, for a STAR SELECTION winner.

Here’s a few more possible motivation situations to look for during the NFL preseason:

• Play ON a team looking to prove themselves against a conference champion. - Teams looki! ng for a confidence-building victory will have extra incentive to play well and beat a Super Bowl team, especially in conference games.

• Play ON a team in a revenge situation. - If a team suffered an embarrassment in their last meeting, they’ll have extra motivation for a victory.

• Play AGAINST a team dealing with a major distraction. - Most teams are disinterested in preseason games in a normal training camp. Should a team suffer a major distraction in August, such as the starting QB/team leader being cut, a high-profile player engaged in a bitter holdout, or anything else that takes the focus off the field, expect an especially uninspired and sloppy effort. While teams can sometimes use adversity for motivation during the regular season, they aren’t likely to waste such emotion for a meaningless practice game.

If you keep your football handicapping eyes and ears open during the NFL exhibition seas! on, looking for motivation mismatches in how two teams are app! roaching a preseason contest, you're likely to find several valuable gems.

In Part 3 of the series on PRO INFO SPORTS NFL Preseason Handicapping Tips, we'll next examine QB ROTATIONS.

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