NFL kicks off with Hall of Fame game

Aug 8, 2009 7:45 PM
By Andy Iskoe | For all intents and purposes, the "drought" is finally over.

You know, that time from the end of the Super Bowl until the start of the following NFL season.

The 2009 season officially kicks off Sunday with the annual Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio. This season’s participants are the Buffalo Bills and the Tennessee Titans.

Following four more weeks of practice football, the real NFL season will begin a few days after Labor Day, on Thursday, September 10. These same Titans will travel and challenge the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers to kick off the regular season.

Although six months of inactivity greatly whets the appetite for football action, it is best to exercise caution when going to the betting windows during the preseason.

You must keep in mind that the purpose of preseason football is for teams to decide their starting lineups and depth charts for the upcoming regular season. Emphasis is on play execution.

Winning games is not a priority. Often winning is a byproduct of execution but coaches don’t make the same decisions at key points of games during the preseason as they will when the games count in the standings.

For example, when do you last recall an NFL head coach sending his starting quarterback back onto the field to lead a late fourth quarter drive when his team is behind by 4 points in a preseason game?

Coaches use the preseason to evaluate personnel and plays as they get prepared for the regular season. Preseason games are often little more than glorified scrimmages in front of thousands of fans.

Still, there are ways to attack the preseason.

Teams that have keen competition at key positions often make for good plays in the preseason. Certainly battles for the starting QB position – or even the number two spot – add to the likelihood that the coaching staff will place added emphasis on the passing game which could result in more total points being scored and for more opportunities for the team with such competition to do the bulk of the scoring.

Likewise, teams looking to work on the running game and the development of the offensive line could produce lower scoring games as coaches are content to just run the ball repeatedly in order to give starters and reserves more meaningful work against live competition than they get during practice.

Unlike the regular season when coaches are very close mouthed about their intentions in an upcoming game many coaches freely discuss the areas they plan on stressing in an upcoming game.

The Internet makes it possible to scour the nation for tidbits of information from training camps so it behooves the serious preseason bettor to gather as much information as possible in the days leading up to kickoff.

Next week begins the first full week of preseason action when all 32 teams take to the field. As noted, there is only one game this weekend.

Tennessee is about a 2 ½ point favorite over Buffalo in the season’s first game although there are a couple of books that have the Titans as 3 point favorites. The total is a solid 31.

Both head coaches are old school. Buffalo’s Dick Jauron and Tennessee’s Jeff Fischer know that defense and a solid ground game win football games. Thus, both coaches figure to play this game conservatively. As this is the only game this week, it means unlike the other 30 teams, the Bills and Titans will play five preseason games, increasing the chances for injury.

Do not expect to see much action by either team’s starters but rather by players looking to secure spots at the back end of the roster. This could mean sloppy play from players not used to seeing much game action.

It’s hard to get overly enthusiastic about preseason games in general and especially about one that takes place so soon after the start of training camp.

But if you must have betting action while watching this game certainly taking a field with Buffalo is a reasonable option. The total of 31 is very low but there may not be many sustained drives or big plays in this game and thus the UNDER might also be preferable to betting the OVER.

Good luck. Enjoy. And next week in GamingToday, we’ll have previews of all 16 preseason games that will be played between Thursday, August 13 and Monday, August 17.