Cam Newton won’t be playing in Wednesday’s preseason game between the Houston Texans and the Carolina Panthers, but does that make the Texans the right NFL pick?
Now that we’ve laid out some of the groundwork for making sharp football picks, it’s time to throw most of it out the window. The NFL preseason requires a different approach; these are official games with official betting lines, but they’re still exhibition games. Winning is secondary. Getting ready for the regular season is primary.
Fortunately for intrepid bettors, the preseason is simple enough to deal with. There are two entry points: One, look at how the coaches involved have fared in the past. Two, look at the quarterback depth chart for each club. This will usually give you enough information to make a smart pick. Let’s put Wednesday’s game (7:30 p.m. ET, NFLN) between the Houston Texans and the Carolina Panthers under the microscope and see where the betting value is.
The Boys of August
First up, the head coaches. They’re the ones running the show in August, deciding which players will be showcased and what they’ll be working on during these games. Coaches tend to stick with their routines from year to year, so we can use their preseason records as a guide for what may happen in the future. Here’s how the two gentlemen in Wednesday’s contest stack up:
Bill O’Brien, Texans: 8-4 SU, 8-4 ATS, 9-3 UNDER
Ron Rivera, Panthers: 13-11 SU, 13-11 ATS, 12-12 UNDER
As you can see, both coaches have done well against the spread, especially O’Brien. It’s a small sample size, though, and O’Brien’s numbers improved after his Texans ran the table during the 2016 preseason. We’d obviously rather have some more data to work with – and we’d rather have one coach doing great ATS and the other doing badly. There’s a bit more promise with those records against the total. Rivera has an even split over 24 games; however, O’Brien has driven the UNDER to the pay window at a high rate. Even more promising, the UNDER went 3-0 in each of his Week 1 preseason games. Each week is its own microcosm, with a specific approach and routine that won’t be repeated verbatim the following week. But keeping that in mind, the Panthers have the OVER at 5-1 in their preseason openers since Rivera took over as head coach. Dang.
Derek and the Dominoes
Now let’s take a look at the quarterback depth charts for both teams. It’s typical in these games for the starters to only get a series or two in before the back-ups take over, and in Carolina’s case, Cam Newton is confirmed out for Wednesday with a sore shoulder. That leaves us with the following luminaries:
Houston: Tom Savage, Deshaun Watson, Brandon Weeden
Carolina: Derek Anderson, Joe Webb, Garrett Gilbert
Anderson and Webb have been solid preseason quarterbacks for years now, so Carolina should be in good shape, even with the less-experienced Gilbert in tow. The Texans? They might not have a proven starter for the regular season, but Savage and Weeden have both done well in exhibition games, and Watson is coming off a National Championship with the Clemson Tigers. Slight edge to Houston in the QB department.
In situations like this where one side doesn’t scream out as an obvious NFL pick, don’t force it. There are other ways to make money betting on football – arbitrage, for example. As we go to press, the Texans are +113 on the moneyline at Sportbet, but the Panthers are –111 at Matchbook. According to our SBR Arbitrage Calculator, a bet of $100 on Houston and $112.05 on Carolina will ensure a profit of 95 cents, provided the game doesn’t end in a tie. This works in any increment, so might as well take the free money, right? This is why having accounts at multiple popular sportsbooks is so important. Take both sides, enjoy the game, and may the better team win.
Free NFL Pick: Texans +113, Panthers –111
Best Lines Offered are Found at: Sportbet, Matchbook