The first NFL betting opportunity of the 2017 season arrives on Thursday night when the Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys face off in the Hall of Fame game.
All eyes will admittedly be on the induction of new faces into Canton, but for NFL bettors chomping at the bit, pro football betting still makes its return. That comes with a caveat, as the first NFL preseason betting opportunity won’t feature many star players.
Arizona has already gone out of their way to announce that their starters won’t be suiting up for this game, while Dallas is highly expected to follow suit. That means we can count out Carson Palmer, David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald for the Cardinals and it’s extremely unlikely we see Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Dez Bryant on the other side, even for a second.
While we can’t bank on the top players from either team leading us to a win, there are still ways to accurately place bets on this game. Let’s take a look at the betting lines over at Bovada and see how we should bet on Thursday night:
The first thing to realize is once you take the starters out of the equation, all bets are truly off. That doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t wager on the Hall of Fame game, but it does mean things get less predictable.
With no official Money Line available yet at Bovada, the two bets we’re attacking are the point spread and the Total. Here’s a look at where those sit at the moment:
This is a preseason game and it’s the Hall of Fame game on top of that, so this line is predictably very thin. In other words, we’re getting what amounts to a toss-up game, with Dallas slightly favored here:
For what it’s worth, Jason Garrett enters this game with a 9-16 record during preseason action and Bruce Arians comes in with a 7-9 record during preseason play. That doesn’t give us a whole lot to work with, but the knee-jerk reaction might be that Arians demands more out of his teams even when the games don’t matter.
That’s probably not bad logic, especially when Arians openly slammed his team during a recent practice. Maybe that has the Cardinals being more focused, but it’s worth noting as Arizona enters as the slight underdogs.
While coaching could be key here, another factor could be travel. The game will understandably take place in Canton, Ohio and if we look at both teams, Dallas faces a 17-hour journey to get there and the Cardinals face closer to 30 hours.
Yikes, indeed. If Arizona’s backups are more worn out, they could predictably have a tougher time putting a solid product out on the field. Naturally, that could work against them as they try to nab a win.
Another thing to factor into the equation is general talent. Neither team has reliable options on their bench at quarterback and will be working with the bare minimum from a talent perspective. The Cardinals do have the deeper bench on defense, however, which could give them a mild edge.
One last thing to consider is how these teams fare in the HOF game specifically. Dallas has gone 2-3, while the Cardinals have gone 1-2-1.
If we don’t feel comfortable with a preseason pick’em, we can also bet on how many total points will be scored in the Hall of Fame game. Bovada sets the Over/Under at a very low 35:
It’s the preseason and we often see one-sided affairs or games with very little scoring, but this Total still feels pretty low. As an interesting comparison, a week 1 regular season battle between the Bengals and Ravens (two defensive-minded teams) carries a weak Total of just 43.
Yeah, this is a really low Total.
There are two obvious ways to look at this. On one hand, the talent is not great with a ton of second and third stringers taking the field, let alone guys beyond that which probably don’t belong on an NFL field. The drop in talent could lead to bad plays, stalled drives and, understandably, not much scoring.
This also could open the door to a lot of no-name players taking full advantage of a spotlight in front of the nation. Perhaps they play up to or beyond their talent level. That, or these guys are so bad that they turn the football over so much that it shortens the field and leads to quick, easy scores.
I think the Over is ultimately the play here. Everyone who spends a large portion of Thursday night on the field is either playing for a defined role in Dallas or Arizona, or they’re playing for their football lives. We’re bound to see a few big plays and while we should not at all expect some huge offensive explosion, the ceiling we’re shooting for isn’t very high.
Seriously, if the Cowboys win 20-17, we’re good to go.
I don’t think there is a whole lot of safety either way, but it’s better to go a little over in a situation like this and the Over also offers us a little more betting value.
For the game itself, we tend to favor the Cardinals. They’re traveling further, but Bruce Arians seems to demand a little more out of his team during the preseason and Arizona is a little deeper on defense. I also am interested to see how Trevor Knight (said to get the entire second half) performs. If he can be even halfway decent, I wouldn’t be shocked to see his dual threat ability lead AZ to a win.
This is still preseason football and we shouldn’t go too hard with our betting, but we should make it fun and aim for a little upside. I think betting on the Cardinals (check their Money Line, too) and the Over gives us the chance to do that.
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