Success in selecting Preseason NFL winners requires extensive research each week into news stories and coach interviews to assess player rotations and coaching intentions, as well as to ascertain which positions on each team might be open to competition.  .  

During the NFL Preseason, many coaches will announce their intentions for the game, the player rotations, the playing time for the starters and each subsequest group of players, and sometimes even their game plan, if any, for the upcoming game.  Coaches who want to win in the preseason usually will win if up against a team that is simply mailing in the game.  Interpreting the statements of coaches is a bit like poker, you often must look for tells and  buzz words. 

The following phrases, or anything similar, usually indicate a coach who will be trying to win:  

 "We've got to do better and establish a winning attitude." [Establishing a "winning attitude" can only be done by winning].

"I'm unhappy with our play.  I'm going to keep the starters in until they get it right." [Indicates a coach who is telling his players to treat the preseason game more seriously.  The longer the starters will be in the game, the stronger the desire of the coach to win.]

"We may bring the starters back in toward the end of the game."  [The only reason for a coach to do this is because the game is close and he wants to win.]    

"We'll be practicing some blitzes."  [Blitzing is rarely done in the preseason and most teams are not prepared for it.  Any coach who blitzes will normally win, and announcing in advance that he will blitz or have an aggressive defense is an indication of the desire to win.]
"We're going to let the offense open it up and see what they've got." [Obviously an indication that the team will not be simply trying to avoid injury.]

"We'll be trying to stir up the fans a little." [Indicates a need to spur flagging ticket sales with a win.]

"We'll be creating and practicing a game plan for this weekend."  [Most teams don't form any game plan for the opponent or study game films in the preseason.  If they do, it is a strong indication they intend to win.]

"We'll be treating this game like the real thing."   [This means what it says. In "real" games the team tries its best to win.]

The following phrases indicate a coach whose team will simply be going through the motions:

"I'm not gong to keep my starters in for more than just a warm up."  [Remember, the longer the time for the starters, the greater the desire of the coach to win.  Also, an indication that the starters will treat their appearance as a "warm-up" is an indication they will not be going all out.]

"Above all, we want to keep the team healthy.  Winning is important but we must avoid injury."  [It doesn't matter whether the coach mentions winning or not, the key words here are "healthy," and "avoid injury."]
"We're using this game to get a better look at some of our 3rd and 4th stringers." [This is the primary intent and not the score.]

"We're using this game to become more familiar with the new playbook."

In addition to interpreting coaching intentions,  the handicapper needs to search for an indication that any position is up for grabs.  Sometimes you can find this information directly.  Sometimes you must read into the player rotation.  For instance, if a team does not have a well-established quarterback, giving two prospects equal time with the starters is often an indication that the starting quarterback role is not secure. 

When players are competing for the sole remaining spot on a team, or for the starting position, they will be playing their best no matter what the intention of the coach.  The other players on the team are aware of the competition and, particularly when a starting position is involved, unless one of the competitors is disliked, the other team members will try to help both of the competitors to look good.  When the starting position at QB is open, for example, each competitor, the front line, and the receivers will all play their best while either competitor in on the field.  Knowing that a group of players will be playing at their top level for an extended period is a huge advantage in handicapping Presason NFL winners.

Researching the necessary information and staying current on it each week takes hours.  You can do it yourself if you have the time, or you can hire someone who devotes full time to it professionally.  I know how to paint my house, but I hired painters because I simply have better ways to spend my time.  It is also true that professional painters will be more knowldegable and do better work simply because they have more experience.  I've watched my mechanic change my oil over 100 times.  I know how to do it, but I simply don't have the inclination.  I still take the car in for an oil change.  It's the same when it comes to handicapping.  You may know how to do it, but you may not have the time to do all that is necessary, or your lack of experience may cause you to miss something that a more experienced professional handicapper will pick up.  


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