America’s long national nightmare is over.
No, not “deflategate,” the NFL’s version of the Watergate scandal in 1973 that ultimately led to President Gerald Ford’s quote that introduced this column.
Rather, our nation’s fascination and love affair with the NFL makes living without it like living a nightmare during the sixth months following New England’s win over Seattle in Super Bowl 49.
Sure, the CFL has been underway since June but the brand of football played by our brethren to the North only serves to further whet our collective appetite for our version of pro football.
NFL training camps are open and the regular season begins in a little over a month, on Thursday, Sept. 10, with the defending champion Patriots hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Pats may or may not be led by QB Tom Brady as the “deflategate” saga plays out in the courts over the next few weeks.
But the appetizer for the NFL season, the pre-season schedule, begins this Sunday with the annual Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio.
This year’s game features the Pittsburgh Steelers facing the Minnesota Vikings. At most sportsbooks the Vikings are 2.5 point favorites with a smattering of 3s at some books. The Over/Under is a solid 35.
Historically the Hall of Fame game has been a rather boring, low scoring affair with a few exceptions. Three of the last four such games featured total points of 30 or less. The lone offensive display came in 2013 when Dallas defeated Miami, 24-20.
There are many valid theories for why these games are low scoring and most relate to the fact the two teams have generally been in training camp for perhaps a week to 10 days. Thus, there has been little practice time for them and more often than not they look at the Hall of Fame game as little more than a chance to run practice plays under game conditions and situations.
Starters see limited, if any, action due to the limited preparation time when teams are often working more on conditioning than on precise play execution.
Which brings up the entire discussion of betting on the NFL during August.
The NFL calls them “preseason” games although years ago they were more accurately referred to, by the league itself, as “exhibition” games much as similar games are referred to during baseball’s spring training season.
The goal of the coaches, for the most part, is not in winning games but in getting the team prepared for the start of the regular season. Winning these “exhibition” games is, in many instances, accidental rather than the result of deliberate emphasis.
That’s not to say teams are trying to lose these games. They are not.
In fact, conditions surrounding the games may be such that one team has a built in edge, or edges, that are more conducive to result in leading to a win.
The backup QB is a vital position and most of the league’s 32 teams will be required to call upon the backup at some point in the season.
Teams working more to develop or fine tune their passing offense will often have an edge over teams more concerned about developing a running game or deciding upon a featured running back.
Although never totally honest when it comes to dealing with the media and a team’s fan base, coaches are as honest as they are going to be during the preseason when it comes to assessing a team’s progress, or lack thereof, as the summer progresses. Game plans, or goals, may be openly discussed.
As such, if you want to bet the preseason the best way to make your decisions is to closely follow the chatter coming out of training camps. Many of the team beat writers have daily columns that are available online and a simple search on Google can lead you to columns that best suit your needs for information.
In fact, doing such a search is an excellent exercise to conduct during your own preseason in getting set for the regular season.
That is all part of a summertime regimen professionals use in getting ready for the regular season when it starts in September. Once the regular season begins time is a very precious commodity and we want to be prepared as to where to find information, statistics, etc. when we need it to analyze upcoming games rather than start the searching process on a “when needed” basis.
As to this week’s Hall of Fame game, a better case can be made for the Steelers who need to sort out their running game situation with starting RB Le’Veon Bell suspended for the first two regular season games. Additionally, the Steelers have more issues on defense to address with several key players gone from last season.
Getting as much as a FG with the underdog Steelers might be the better way to view this week’s kickoff to the NFL preseason in the first of what will be little more than 57 glorified scrimmages in front of paying customers.
The NFL is back and we should all be enthusiastic about what’s in store over the next six months, previews of which shall begin next week.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]