The annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Game is rarely a barnburner and points sometimes tough to come by. Can the high-flying Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts buck the trend? Check out our free over-under MLB pick.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers are one of the oddsmakers' top three choices to win Super Bowl 51 (+950) and enter Canton with experience, depth, and few roster holes. Don't expect a typical test run for head coach Mike McCarthy's outfit, however. This prestigious trip is as much about sending former star quarterback Brett Favre into the Hall of Fame as it is a tune-up for the regular season.
Both teams have been in training camp for all of one week, and conservative play calling will be the norm for this meeting. Expect each to work on short-passing plays and the run game comprising the core of the playbook. McCarthy told the press on Wednesday he would use the trip to focus on fundamentals and not schemes, particularly evaluating the younger players.
McCarthy, who lost No.1 wide receiver Jordy Nelson for all of 2015-16 to a sprained ACL in Week 2 of the preseason last year, will be extra cautious with his senior players. He's an outspoken critic of the traditional four-game August schedule, believing it too rigorous prior to a 16-game regular season, and will likely write this added fifth game off with the squad unprepared. Star quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has played a total of two quarters over the last eight preseason games, will probably watch the entirety of this one on the sidelines.
The OVER is 27-12 with McCarthy in charge of the Packers' preseason. The offense has put up 102 and 105 points in eight games over the last two years, joining the Philadelphia Eagles as the only team to cross the century mark in each.
Head coach Chuck Pagano revealed he will play all of his starters on Sunday, but like the Packers, do not expect them to suit up for long. The norm is for organizations to let their first-team play most, if not all, of the first quarter in the opening preseason game. The special Canton trip, which sees the team send off ex-head coach Tony Dungy and former wide receiver Marvin Harrison in the Hall, provides an extra game and starters will likely play for a couple of series max.
Unlike Rodgers, franchise quarterback Andrew Luck is expected to take snaps. It's as much about soaking up live action as anything, though, as he missed nine games last season to a lacerated kidney and shoulder issues.
Because of Luck, Indy is a top-10 betting choice to hoist the Lombardi Trophy at +2100 NFL odds. It is 35-20 SU and 34-21 ATS in the regular season with the former Stanford product under center. Pagano is committed to making the offense more balanced this year, and bettors will likely see the run game a focus throughout the preseason. Nearly 75 percent of the Colts' total yards and points have come through the air since Luck was drafted in 2012, and the team has not fielded a 1,000-yard rusher since 2007.
Frank Gore is still the number one in the backfield, and the offensive line, one of the NFL's worst last year, was upgraded with youth rather than experience. Expect the rushing attack to struggle most of the preseason as it works out the kinks. This isn't the best news for an offense that barely scored the last two preseasons. The Colts ranked 29th (60) and 30th (51) in points the last two years. Only the Dallas Cowboys (108) put up fewer during this span.
Defensively, Ted Monachino takes over as coordinator, and brings in a new aggressive, ball-hawking system. Unlike Green Bay, expect scheme to be a central focus for the Colts on this side of the ball.
The added preseason game, coupled with sparse camp time and conservative play calling, has seen only five of the last 15 Hall of Fame contests eclipse a combined score of 36 points. In addition, the Colts have really struggled to put up points the last few seasons when Luck is not airing it out, particularly in the preseason. The Pack's offense, which has been incredibly productive in August recently, may help threaten the game total. Second-string quarterback Brett Hundley took a few knocks in practice this week, and may see little playing time, which will allow for a heavy dose of Marquise Williams and Joe Callahan under center. This could slow Green Bay. We like the UNDER 36 as our NFL pick, and will wait to see if this number rises anymore in our favor from its 35.5 opener.