The first week of training camp is pivotal in how we finalize our already-established thoughts of teams heading into preseason games. They have a great influence on shaping the perception of both sharp bettors and bookmakers alike. A team that plays with some unity and makes some big plays in camp will be jelled early on far more than others that struggled.
Whether you bet preseason or not, here are a couple of items that have happened in training camps that may further illustrate the point.
Take the Bengals, for example. They have been getting awful reports from camp thus far with second-year quarterback Andy Dalton having all kinds of issues. He’s missed receivers badly, gets passes routinely tipped at the line and when he does make a decent throw, the frustrated wide-outs have been dropping balls. Betting against the Bengals, or shading the number lower, is the move here.
Dalton may play only a few series in the game, but he’s certainly set the tone of their camp offensively, and it’s a sour note. The Bengals are currently a 1 ½-point home favorite against the Jets at the majority of Las Vegas sports books.
In most preseason games, it’s almost an auto-post with 2 ½ or-3-point spreads on the home team. In the first week of preseason, only Washington and the “Robert Griffin III Show” are road favorites, laying two points at Buffalo.
One of the players in camp that no one can cover has been Atlanta’s wide receiver Julio Jones. The second-year player from Alabama has been making his teammates look bad, but the dazzling plays have created a fun atmosphere throughout camp. It may also suggest the Falcons secondary is weak, but it appears to be more about Jones and his super-freak abilities coming to full fruition.
The spill-over affect isn’t just with Matt Ryan, who has also looked great, but all the younger players getting good emotional vibes from the veteran players. Those young players are ultimately who decides the fate of these preseason games. The Falcons are 2 ½-point favorites at home against the Ravens next Thursday.
None of this means either of those two teams will win, but it is another layer of the type of information coming from camps that can be useful or least acknowledged prior to wagering.
Here’s a look at a few training camp observations from online media sources, newspapers and or course television. The NFL Network coverage of training camps is the best show on TV right now.
* Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley noticed that QB Ben Roethlisberger seemed to be at his best in the past running a hurry-up offense, so he has implemented it into his game plan for this year. For preseason, the early affect could be the total points of 34 being more likely to go over next week at Philadelphia. Even with Big Ben on the sidelines, the game plan is still in the system suggesting a faster pace at certain points of the entire game when they have the ball.
* Peyton Manning hasn’t been throwing the deep ball in Broncos camp leading some to suggest that his arm strength isn’t where it used to be, or should be now. Head coach John Fox acknowledged Manning’s shorter tosses, but said it was planned to work him into deeper plays later in camp. This has no bearing during preseason, but could be a factor in enhancing thoughts of those who think something is still wrong with the quarterback who missed the entire 2011 season with three neck surgeries. Denver’s win total on the year is 8 ½. Without Manning, Denver is in major trouble with Caleb Hanie at back-up.
* The Dolphins have a serious quarterback competition going on with Matt Moore and David Garrard which could reap rewards for those taking Miami in preseason action. Both have been impressive in camp and the decision on who will be the starter will be a tough one. The Dolphins are 2 ½-point home favorites against Tampa Bay in their first exhibition game. The positive is getting almost three quarters of play from two experienced NFL quarterbacks.
* Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden has been getting rave reviews from his play, and at the same time, the wide-receiving corps -- thought to have been a weak link -- has been outstanding. Between Weeden, Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace quarterbacking these preseason games, the Browns have a quarterbacking edge over several teams when we combine all four quarters of expected play. Wallace is great just because he reads defenses well and can bail out running for first downs. The Browns are getting three-points at Detroit in their first preseason game.
* A quarterback who has a lot to prove this season is the Rams’ Sam Bradford. Reports are that Bradford has been very sharp in camp and is the best shape of his life with 10 extra pounds of muscle. If reports are correct, the Rams could be a much undervalued team in the regular season during Jeff Fisher‘s first year. The Rams season win total is listed at 6.
* A player who also came in with extra weight was Cowboys running-back Felix Jones, but it sure wasn’t muscle. Jones was one of three Cowboys to fail camp-opening conditioning tests. He’s slated to returns kickoffs and be involved regularly on offense. But for a player that can’t stay healthy, coming into camp overweight sends the wrong message to his coaches and teammates about his commitment. Jones has little impact from a wagering stand point, but its still news that kind of boggles the mind.