NFL Pick: Packers to Handle Colts in Hall of Fame Game ATS

Green Bay Packers

Thursday, August 4, 2016 6:14 PM GMT

The Green Bay Packers, one of the favorites to win Super Bowl 51, kick off the 2016 NFL preseason with the Indianapolis Colts in this year's Hall of Fame Game. Check out our bet preview with ATS pick here. 

Rejoice fans! The NFL is back! After an extensive six-month offseason, the Indianapolis Colts, and Green Bay Packers square off in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game on Sunday night, the first preseason contest of the year. Played at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, the annual event coincides with Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, which this season welcomes ex-Colts head coach Tony Dungy, longtime Indy wide receiver Marvin Harrison, and the Pack’s famed gunslinger Brett Favre into the hallowed grounds of professional football.

 

Line Movement
The game opened a pick’em with an over-under set at 35.5 points. The total has adjusted upwards to 36 at most sportsbooks as of publication. Here’s a brief betting primer covering the matchup with a lean on an against the spread pick.

 

What to Expect
Firstly, do not expect a clean, crisp, entertaining affair. Unless you’re a die-hard fan of the Colts or Packers, your wager is likely the only reason you’ll stay tuned in, despite your enthusiasm for the season to kickoff. Expect a slop-filled, low-scoring contest. Timing will be off and conservative play calling the norm, as teams work on the core run and short pass options making up the majority of the playbook. Players have been in training camps for all of one week, and there is often a serious lack of preparation headed into Canton.

Also, don’t expect to see the team’s first-team play much at all. The rule of thumb is that starters will play some or all of the first quarter in Week 1. Back-ups and free agents will dominate as personnel. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, for example, may make a cameo appearance, but head coach Mike McCarthy hasn’t made up his mind. Rodger’s has only played in half of Green Bay’s eight preseason games the last couple of years, putting in just two-quarters of work overall. Colts franchise quarterback Andrew Luck, meanwhile, is expected under center for the game’s first series or two, but don’t expect him to be airing it out down the field and making much of an impact on the game. His appearance is just a live action tune-up after missing nine games last season due to a lacerated kidney and shoulder problems.

History tells us neither coach has his squad firing out the gates in the first game of the preseason, both sporting Week 1 losing records in their careers: McCarthy is just 3-7 SU, while the Colts’ Chuck Pagano is 1-3 overall. McCarthy is particularly outspoken about the length and scheduling of camp. It’s too much physically, and too risky when it comes to injuries. After losing wide receiver Jordy Nelson to a torn ACL in the second game of the preseason last year, the coach will be extra conservative with his first team this season, especially since the Pack has five games scheduled with the Hall of Fame invite. McCarthy is on record as saying three games is optimal, followed by an extended break headed into the regular season.

 

Colts Have Issues
Pagano will play his first-team a tad more in Canton, and told reporters he will give all his starters playing time. But will it be enough to make a difference from a gambling perspective? Probably not. The team has deeper issues.

For one, Pagano has a new defensive coordinator (Ted Monachino), and admittedly says the unit has a “way to go” after the first week of camp. Introducing a new scheme takes a lot of time. However, there are many positions unfilled, so the coach will get a preview of a few battles on Sunday.

Equally pressing for Pagano is the run game, which has ranked near the bottom of the NFL since drafting Luck in 2012. No running back has tallied 850 yards or more since Joseph Addai ran for 1,072 yards back in 2007. Moreover, no player has rushed for the century mark in 50 straight games. Pagano has made it a priority to get this area of the offense back on track this preseason, in hopes of creating a more balanced attack behind Luck. There’s a lot of work to be done.

 

Final Analysis
Indy’s first-team will likely see more action, and motivation for some players seeking a starting spot will be through the roof, but inexperience and unfamiliarity with the new defensive system will likely rule the day. Moreover, despite an emphasis on fixing the run game, the Colts didn’t beef up the attack with compelling veterans this offseason. They kept Frank Gore and signed free-agents Robert Turbin, Jordan Todman, and undrafted rookie Josh Ferguson as running backs. The offensive line, which was one of the worst in the NFL last year, is virtually the same, but with youngsters vying for playing time. Four of the eight Colts draft picks this summer was on the O-line, including center Ryan Kelly, the No. 18 pick overall. Their inexperience and less-than-flattering backfield will likely stumble in the run-heavy first week of the preseason. Despite McCarthy’s conservative approach to the preseason, his team will likely be less error-prone, which is often the difference-maker first time out for all teams. We will jump on the Pack to win at -1 (-110) NFL odds.

Free NFL Pick: Packers -1 (-110)
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

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