NFL Hall of Fame Game Betting Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 08/02/2008
Tired of baseball? Tired of betting on illegal dog fighting? Tired of staring out your window with a pellet gun aiming at the neighbors loud, obnoxious children? Sick of spending time with your wife and kids?
Well, take your head out of the oven and pick your chin up: FOOTBALL IS BACK!!!
The National Football League exhibition season begins this weekend in Canton, Ohio with the Hall of Fame Game between the Washington Redskins and the Indianapolis Colts. The game will be played at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 3 at Fawcett Stadium. This marks the beginning of Gambling Season, which is spearheaded by our true National Pasttime, and it opens with the Redskins as six-point favorites over Indy.
In a lot of ways the opening game of the National Football League exhibition season couldn't be more of a perfect specimen. It has all of the key elements involved in preseason football betting that make it unique for handicapping the regular season. And that includes both the maddening and the valuable elements.
See, if the Redskins were six-point favorites over the Colts during the regular season it would be a travel agent game; meaning that you would have to call your agent and tell him that you're going to pay for a week in the Bahamas in cash from the money you bank on the Colts. However, that's not the case here. And even though the Colts are the better regular season team they definitely deserve to be the underdog in this situation.
First, the Colts are sans Peyton Manning. Eli's brother is still rehabbing his left knee after an infected bursa sac was removed. That means that backup Jim Sorgi will be starting for Indy and, because he is technically the No. 1 quarterback while Peyton is sidelined, he will see limited snaps. That also means that the Colts will be getting deep into their QB depth chart very quickly considering that we'll likely only see Sorgi for a couple offensive series. Indy's current No. 3 and No. 4 quarterbacks are Quinn Gray and Jared Lorenzen, respectively, and neither is at all familiar with the Colts offense since they were pretty much picked up off the street a couple weeks ago.
Conversely, the Redskins are set at quarterback with their starter (Jason Campbell) a veteran backup (Todd Collins) and a rookie slinger (Colt Brennan).
Yet, just because the Redskins will be suiting up their starter that doesn't mean that they have an edge under center. Gray and Lorenzen are veterans when it comes to garbage time in preseason games. And just because they don't know the playbook that doesn't mean that they will be any worse off than Collins (first new offensive scheme of his career) or Brennan (first professional game of his career).
Second, Tony Dungy doesn't give a flying flute about the preseason. Dungy' s Colts are just 9-16 in the last five years during the preseason and are a woeful 2-11 during the Silly Season over the last three years. He has lost his preseason opener in four of the last six years. And on top of that, the Colts have to play five preseason games (as opposed to the standard four) so Dungy is going to care even less about this extra affair.
On the flip side, Washington has a brand-spanking new coach in Jim Zorn and, traditionally, virgin coaches are a strong value in their preseason opener. The idea is that first-year coaches are so fired up about making a good first impression that they are a bit more gung-ho and a bit more serious in their approach to their first exhibition game. Dungy, he of the Super Bowl rings and five straight division titles has nothing to prove. Yet Zorn, who is a head coach for the first time at any level, will want to get off on the right foot.
But that brings up yet another critical NFL handicapping issue during the preseason: who is actually going to play?
Zorn may have been a little too zealous in his preparation for the season. He has run a rigorous training camp and right now the veteran 'Skins team has been worn down by injuries. There is a host of players that will not be playing either due to injury or as a precautionary measure. That list includes their top two backs (Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts), Chris Samuels, London Fletcher, LaRon Landry, Carlos Rogers, Malcolm Kelly, Jason Taylor, and at least five other players who are either starters or rotation players.
For the Colts, Manning, Bob Sanders and Dwight Freeney will not even make the trip to Canton. Marvin Harrison is questionable and I will be stunned if he plays more than a series or two, if at all.
Another key motivational factor will likely be the strong Washington contingent that shows up in the crowd. Redskins greats Art Monk and Darrell Green will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame this weekend and I expect a pro-'Skins crowd at Fawcett Stadium.
Also, there is another tremendous coaching X-Factor - which is also a key component of preseason capping - that works against the Redskins. That is the fact that Washington is instilling new schemes on both offense and defense whereas the Colts players have been working the same system for several years now. That familiarity bodes well for the underdogs and I expect them to be a little sharper and a little more confident because of it.
So this one has it all. We have a coach making his debut against a coach who has proven that he couldn't care less about winning the preseason. We have a team with a solid system and foundation against one implementing totally new offensive and defensive schemes. We have motivational factors, a biased crowd at a neutral site, injury issues, and shaky quarterback rotations…
Welcome to preseason NFL betting.
And thank God football is back!!!