Why does the NFL have preseason games?

Why sports gamblers and fantasy football experts care about the NFL preseason

Another group of people who care profoundly about the NFL preseason is people who plan to make money as a side-effect of watching football. Sports gamblers and fantasy football experts watch the NFL preseason in unbelievable detail for this reason.

When these semi-professional football students watch preseason games they are looking for two related things: performance and usage.

Performance is how well a player plays during a game. Does he make solid tackles? How accurate is he throwing the ball? Can he get open even while being defended by a quality defensive back? How effectively does he run through contact? 

Usage is how much he plays during a preseason game and what he is asked to do. More is not always better in terms of usage. If a player plays a lot in the preseason, that may be a sign that his place on the team is not secure. These experts also look for who a player is playing with. Are they “running” with the first team (the players most likely to start in the regular season), second team (players who will probably make the team), or third team. 

As the preseason develops, sports gamblers and fantasy football experts are able to build more evidence-based opinions on how they think individual players and teams are likely to do when the regular season begins. This information is quite literally (okay, well, half literally, half metaphorically) worth its weight in gold for people who are going to be risking their own money and reputations once the regular season begins.

(You can also gamble on and play fantasy football during preseason games — which is also a reason for some to focus on the preseason, but it’s not the primary reason.)