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Beat the NFL Bookies
Take a break. The dog days of summer have come and gone.
The thermometers may disagree, but sports bettors should be advised that the best action of the summer is fast approaching.
Bettors usually tire of the monotony of the Major League Baseball regular season by the end of July. Then, like a cool sea breeze, the NFL blesses bored bettors with a breath of fresh air.
NFL training camps open for the season on July 27. Over the next two weeks, teams begin a grueling schedule of curfews, diets and two days off to get in shape for the upcoming season. In the coming month, all 32 NFL teams will be working to make the playoffs.
The NFL kicks off its preseason this week. This time of year is undoubtedly the best kept secret in the bookies.
Most NFL fans know that very little can be learned from preseason games. The main purpose of scrimmage-style contests is for coaches to evaluate the starting lineup. Last year’s starters are on the field for only a few games, mostly so they don’t get rusty for the upcoming season. While seeing their only bench time of the season, backups and starters are getting the bulk of the snaps, hoping their performance will earn them a roster spot.
For the first (and only) time in the NFL season, linebackers have no advantage. They create lines blindly, forced to set the spread as if they were regular-season contest games.
The reason why they are in this situation is simple. From their side, it cannot be taken into account how the reserve players and starters play. How can bookies make the correct line when players they haven’t seen play are filming?
Example. When St. Louis Rams play the Kansas City Chiefs on August 23rd, the spread and over/under will be set assuming KC’s defense (one of the five WORST in 2003) is in line for every shot against the high-flying St. Louis passing attack, who was third in 2003.
The spread for this contest might favor St. Louis (for this example, we’ll say it does). The Rams’ three-headed offensive monster (quarterback Mark Bulger; receivers Isaac Bruce and Torey Holt) likely won’t play after halftime. Also, KC’s one-man offensive machine, running back Priest Holmes, should see more bench than turf. These two events make the game wide open. Your guess on the outcome is as good as the bookies.
In the second half, the field should be full of unproven players. Who knows where the game will go from there? Will it be a low-scoring contest or an incendiary? No one can be completely sure. This comes as great news for punters and bad news for punters.
“The NFL preseason is easily the most unpredictable time for offshore bookmakers,” said Anthony Wayne, Chief Marketing Officer for EVINNER.com. “Very often, the field is full of players who have similar skills. Without big playmakers on the field, how are the linemen supposed to know who will be the favorite?”
Below are a few preseason contests that could prove very beneficial for sports bettors. He strikes while the iron is hot. (All expanded statistics courtesy of Gold Sheet):
New York Giants at Carolina Panthers, 8/19, 8:00 PM on FOX: New York finished a poor 4-12 last year and failed to cover the surge in the final eight games. to rookie quarterback Eli Manning, and has a new coach, former Jaguars leader Tom Coughlin. Coughlin is a safe bet heading into the season, with a 16-8-1 record against the spread.
With the exception of their offensive line, Carolina has retained most of the lineup that won the NFC Championship last season. The Panthers have covered the spread in their last five preseason contests, but four of those have been as underdogs. During the 2003 regular season, they were 3-9 when favored.
Bet on: Coughlin and his G-men, especially if Carolina is favored.
Atlanta Falcons at Baltimore Ravens, 8/12, 8:00 PM on ESPN: After an offseason of drastic changes, Atlanta has little to do but improve after finishing 2003 with the league’s worst defense. New coach Jim Mora, Jr. will put some youth in their cabin, and with a healthy Michael Vick, the 2004 Falcons should play more like the 2002 playoff team. During Vicky’s first two seasons, Atlanta went 7-1 during the exhibition season; they went 0-4 last season (Vick broke his leg in Atlanta’s second preseason game).
Baltimore should be the beast of the AFC North this year, as well as a Week 1 Super Bowl contender. Quarterback Kyle Boller will be on a learning curve for a year, and their best rushing attack (thanks to marathon HB Jamal Lewis) will be complimented by newly acquired Kevin Johnson. This team should improve on last season’s 10-6 record, as their defense remains one of the toughest in the NFL. Head coach Brian Billick is 11-4 career in exhibition games against the spread, and 6-2 as an underdog. Last year, the Ravens went just 1-3.
Bet on: Atlanta if Vick is healthy. Watch out for Baltimore, especially if they are underdogs.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles, 8/26, 8:00 PM on ESPN: Pittsburgh has a lot to recover from last season; mostly injuries. Their offense was only impressive on paper, thanks to injuries on the offensive line and a lack of carries for “Bus” (Jerome Bettis), who averaged just 3.3 yards per touch. Head coach Bill Cowher has turned into a perennial preseason choke artist. Last year, his team went 0-4 heading into the regular season, and they’ve also had trouble covering the spread in previous seasons (0-4 the last two seasons at home vs. the spread).
Philadelphia is once again the favorite to go to the Super Bowl in the NFC. They addressed their two most pressing needs in the offseason, adding wideout Terrell Owens and defensive end Jevon Kearse. Eagles also tend to choke. Unfortunately, the preseason is no different. For his career, manager Andy Reid is 2-7 in exhibitions when favored at home.
Bet on: Philly. These games do not count. It’s less likely to blow it up.
Tennessee Titans at Dallas Cowboys, 8/30, 8:00 PM on ABC: The Titans shed a lot of salary (and talent) this offseason, but will still find a way to compete for the playoffs thanks to ironman KB Steve McNair. Tennessee’s 13 draft picks will see a ton of snaps before the season begins as this team tries to become a solid unit. Virtually locked in exhibitions, the Titans covered all four games last preseason against the spread and are 7-1 on the road in their last four schedules. As an underdog, they are more of a safe bet, a perfect 6-0.
Eddie George, a Titan just in July, is now running for Dallas. George should carry a big chip on his shoulder after being one of the victims in Tennessee. The 2004 Cowboys will also feature wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson and rookie QB/retired minor leaguer Drew Henson. Henson will see plenty of snaps at shows to shake off his diamond rust. Dallas went 10-6 last season, Bill Parcell’s best record in his first season as a head coach. However, quality opponents (teams with a winning record) went 4-2 against them last season, 3-1 against the spread.
Bet on: Titans. With their preseason record and Dallas’ tendency to lose to good teams, this should be a safe win.
For more information on NFL betting, as well as links to your favorite online sportsbooks, check out Bet-Online-Sports.
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