NFL Betting Season Begins (Sort Of): Hall Of Fame Game Odds And Options

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Are you ready for some football? Specifically, are you ready for some football in which the final score means nothing to the coaches and players, some football in which the best players will only be on the field for a few minutes, if that? And are you ready to bet on that bastardized version of some football?

The first game of the NFL preseason, the annual Hall of Fame Game, kicks off tonight at 8 p.m. ET on NBC, pitting the Denver Broncos against the Atlanta Falcons, for absolutely none of the marbles.

The good news is that, in the legal sports betting era in New Jersey, you can have something at stake in the game, even if the teams on the field don’t.

Who’s favored?

The Broncos are giving 2.5 points at all the major online books, with the vig at -115 at FanDuel Sportsbook and PointsBet while DraftKings Sportsbook can save you a buck at -114. Atlanta costs -105 (or -106 at DK) if you like them to cover.

The best price on the Denver moneyline is -141 at DraftKings, and the healthiest return on the Falcons moneyline is +126 at FanDuel.

Why is Denver, with a regular-season over/under of 7 wins, favored over an Atlanta team with a season-long line of 8.5 wins?

Even though Broncos coach Vic Fangio told the press that “most of the starters” won’t play in the game, there is a legitimate competition in the Mile High City for the backup quarterback role between Kevin Hogan and rookie Drew Lock. While No. 1 QB Joe Flacco will sit tonight, Hogan will start the game and Lock will see plenty of playing time, plus rookie Brett Rypien is expected to close the game. All three will be motivated to perform well.

On the opposite sideline, Matt Ryan won’t play and Matt Schaub is locked in as his backup. Superstar wideout Julio Jones is sitting out the whole preseason. And get this: The Falcons sport a record of 0-8 over the last two preseasons combined.

Suddenly the Broncos — who opened as only a -108 favorite at FanDuel — being favored makes a whole lot of sense.

Don’t expect much offense

The average 2018 NFL game saw 46.6 points scored. The preseason, however, is a different version of football. Starters sit, players are rusty, chemistry is lacking, and as a result of all that, scoring offense is hard to come by.

These truths are amplified for the Hall of Fame Game.

Here are the final scores of the last seven HOF Games:

  • Ravens 17, Bears 16
  • Cowboys 20, Cardinals 18
  • Vikings 14, Steelers 3
  • Giants 17, Bills 13
  • Cowboys 24, Dolphins 20
  • Saints 17, Cardinals 10
  • Cowboys 16, Bengals 7

That’s an average of just under 30.3 points scored per game.

The line this year at all of the prominent NJ mobile sportsbooks is 34.5. Five of the last seven Hall of Fame Games would have gone under.

Interestingly, you can get an attractive -105 price on the under at FanDuel.

Other wagering options

The Hall of Fame game offers far fewer props and creative betting markets than a typical NFL game.

None of the sites offer player props. All you’ll really find are props on individual team point totals, totals for quarters and halves, alternate spreads and lines, and simple parlays combining one team winning or covering with the over/under.

Oh, and you can bet on a tie at PointsBet at a return of +1325.

But you couldn’t possibly be so desperate to get your football betting fix that you’ll wager on a tie in the first game of the preseason, could you?

Could you?

Photo by Isaiah J. Downing / USA Today Sports

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Eric Raskin

Eric is a veteran writer, editor, and podcaster in the sports and gaming industries. He was the editor-in-chief of the poker magazine All In for nearly a decade, is the author of the book The Moneymaker Effect, and has contributed to such outlets as ESPN.com, Grantland.com, and Playboy.

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