Are you ready for some football?
Specifically, an exhibition game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Las Vegas Raiders that’s not kicking for another 112 days and will undoubtedly feature USFL castoffs and late round draft picks?
The sportsbooks of America think you’re ready, as the annual NFL Hall of Fame Game was announced back in February, and despite the meaninglessness of the game and the distinct possibility empires could rise and fall in-between, the moneyline, spread, and over/under lines were immediately posted.
The 2022 Hall of Fame Game is set!
Jaguars vs. Raiders 🙌🏈 pic.twitter.com/ravwPUS5g9
— Sunday Night Football on NBC (@SNFonNBC) February 28, 2022
This, of course, prompts the question: Why?
“That is a great question,” admitted Mike Metzler, a senior trader at WynnBet. “I would say that we are trying to expand our betting menu and offer as much as possible.”
Well that’s nice. And clearly, millions of dollars of handle has poured in and …
“Currently, we have hardly any action on this game,” Metzler said by way of follow-up.
Jay Kornegay, the vice president of sportsbook operations for Westgate SuperBook, explained that for him it’s standard procedure.
“It’s just a market staple,” he said. “Post the Hall of Fame game early. It receives very little attention for the bettors until game day.”
Over at DraftKings, a spokesman for the company said that despite the exhibition nature of the game and the length of time until it plays, the bottom line is if it’s on the schedule, it’s going up on the board.
“We always try and get games up as soon as possible,” the spokesman said. “For example, after last year’s Masters we put odds up right away for this year’s event.”
Breaking down the unbreakable
Of course, the popularity of the NFL enters into the equation here, as football-starved bettors will eventually click on that “NFL” tab when bouncing around the online sportsbooks. Which brings us to the game itself.
Is it difficult to handicap an exhibition game? Yes it is.
Is it too early to try and break this game down from a betting perspective? Entirely so.
Is our crack team of wannabe prognosticators going to do so anyway? At least one staff writer has enough hubris and stupidity to attempt it.
And thus, without further ado, allow USBets to provide you with the first* and only** betting breakdown of the 2022 Hall of Fame Game you’ll need. (*according to six seconds of Googling) (**entirely untrue)
For starters, the lines: DraftKings has the Raiders as 1-point favorites, with an over/under set at 33.5, for the Aug. 4(!) kickoff. SuperBook and DraftKings have the Raiders as -115 moneyline favorites, the Jags as -105 moneyline dogs.
Next up: the players. Of course, there will (very literally) be pigs and porcupines that haven’t been conceived yet, let alone born, by the time the Raiders and Jaguars take the field. Still, a quick look at what the head coaches — in this case, the debuts of Josh McDaniels with the Raiders and Doug Pederson with the Jags — have done previously when handed the reins to a team could be instructive.
And make no mistake: Who is playing matters.
“The line is based on playing time,” Kornegay said. “Starters will get very little, and most of the action will consist of second- and third-stringers. The quarterbacks that will be playing have the biggest impact on the line.”
All right then. In Josh McDaniels’ first exhibition game as a head coach — in 2009 for the Denver Broncos — he used starter Kyle Orton, who promptly tossed three interceptions in his first three possessions.
Kyle Orton – Oooooow. Two drives, two picks.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 15, 2009
Notable though: McDaniels is (obviously) part of the Bill Belichick coaching tree, and Belichick has proven far more likely to look for depth in the preseason than to trot his starters out for reps. It seems unlikely incumbent starter Derek Carr sees the field for the Raiders.
As for Pederson? Well, a look back at his debut with the Philadelphia Eagles is eye-opening: Then-rookie Carson Wentz played a little over a half, throwing the ball 24 times in the process.
Oh, and he also fractured his rib.
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) August 15, 2016
At the time, it was unclear if Wentz or veteran Sam Bradford was going to quarterback the team that year. Bradford played the first drive, threw one pass, and then hit the bench. He was later traded to the Minnesota Vikings before the season started.
In short: Pederson was not afraid to get his quarterback out there, and so it wouldn’t surprise to see him give Trevor Lawrence at least a few series. Except … the rib fracture. Maybe Pederson will be gun shy as a result? Impossible to say.
Slight advantage, Jaguars, both on the spread and the moneyline.
As far as the over/under goes, since 2000 the game has finished under 33.5 points 12 times, over 33.5 points seven times.
More recently, under 33.5 has hit five of the last six times.
Also notable: The Raiders and Jaguars will face off against each other in the regular season, which definitely*** lends credence to the idea the coaches will be playing an even more conservative brand of football than the normal Hall of Fame game. (***assuming “definitely” is a relative term, which it is most certainly not)
So yeah: Let’s hammer the under here.
Prediction, because why not: Jaguars 17-7.
Photo: Matt Pendleton/USA TODAY