To quote former President Gerald Ford in the wake of Richard Nixon’s resignation due to Watergate, “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.” That is because this coming Sunday ushers in the 2016 NFL season with the playing of the annual Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio between the Green Bay Packers and the Indianapolis Colts.
More accurately, it will mostly feature Colts wannabees versus Packers wannabees as a significant percentage of the players participating in the game are likely to not even be on the rosters that open the regular season in another month.
Indy QB Andrew Luck and Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers are likely to see little if any action. Perhaps each will be under center for a series or two at most just to get back the feel of “live” action for the first time in more than six months. But mostly backups, rookies and free agents trying to make the roster will see the majority of the action, such as it is.
Historically the Hall of Fame game has featured sloppy play marked by poor timing and conservative game plans. That’s often the result of players having been in training camps for barely more than a week.
Of course, training camps are not nearly as important as they were 20 years ago and longer in terms of getting players into shape and condition for the start of the regular season. Off-season workouts – both on an organized team basis (OTAs) and as individuals – have players reporting to camp in far better shape than ever before.
The fact that being an NFL player has become virtually a year-round job considering the offseason activities makes a strong case for cutting out one or two exhibition games – something the players union would love but the owners would hate, not wanting to give up the gate revenues from ticket sales that are often mandatory purchases for season ticket holders.
Such a reduction would also lessen the number of opportunities for serious or even season-ending injuries.
Beginning next week I shall share my long held thoughts on and approaches to the NFL preseason. Additionally, I shall begin to preview the upcoming regular season with respect to how the NFL traditionally plays out on an overall basis, looking toward season win totals and profiles for teams that make the Playoffs.
As for the Hall of Fame Game between the Packers and Colts, of course there is a betting line on the game and the action should be pretty heavy all things considered, not the least of which is the aforementioned six months drought since Denver’s Super Bowl win.
At most sportsbooks the Hall of Fame Game is a pretty solid pick ‘em with the Total available between 35 and 36. It is always risky to play preseason games, which really are nothing more than exhibitions or scrimmages played in front of thousands of fans. More on this topic next week.
Given the nature of the game, lack of preparation time and recent history, the best play for this game – if you wish to make one – would be on the UNDER. But just as the players work themselves into prime condition for the start of the “real” season, preseason games, especially the Hall of Fame game and the full week one schedule, you might want to just stick your toes into the water rather than do a full belly flop off the diving board.
At the same time, there are some very sharp professionals who do very well during the preseason. That, too, shall be discussed next week.