The countdown is almost over. NFL football is back Thursday. Sort of.
Yes, it’s the preseason — specifically the annual Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio — but it’s still NFL football, and you can still place a bet on it.
This year’s game pits the Las Vegas Raiders against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Read on for a complete preview, including a breakdown of the odds, point spread, over/under and a prediction for the first preseason game.
NFL Hall of Fame Game
Who: Las Vegas Raiders vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Where: Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, Canton, Ohio
When/TV: 8 p.m. Thursday (NBC)
Money line: Raiders -135, Jaguars +115
Analysis: We start the exhibition schedule with a great example of how preseason lines can be significantly different from regular season lines. If these teams met in a regulation game, the Raiders would be favored by more than a field goal, probably even if the game was in Jacksonville.
But in the preseason, it’s not the same. In fact, this game opened as a pick ’em and has quickly taken on some Raiders money to move to the current number.
Sometimes in the preseason, it comes down to a matter of motivation. Both of these teams have first-year coaches who will look to get some momentum on their side, even if the games don’t count yet. But the Raiders could have an added incentive with their new coach, Josh McDaniels, having grown up in Canton and coaching in his hometown. On the flip side, Doug Pederson might want to show that a new era is under way in Jacksonville, which suffered through a mess with Urban Meyer last season.
Ultimately, however, the starters won’t play too much in this one. Derek Carr and Trevor Lawrence might see a series each before giving way, first to backups and then to the fringe roster players who are just trying to make the team — or catch someone else’s eye.
As for the total, 17 of the first 20 preseason games went under last year, and this total has been adjusted as a result. Still, its opening number of 33 wasn’t low enough for bettors, who have wagered it down to a measly 30½.
Prediction: Expect a conservative game with lots of running plays in the first half. Las Vegas is the deeper team, so I lean Raiders -2½. As for the total, 30½ might not be low enough, but I’m not touching it at that number.
If first-half lines are posted, it might actually be worth taking a first-half over at 15½ or 16 and then playing the under in the second half if the number is right.