The games don't count, but that hardly deters NFL bettors as the 2016 exhibition season kicks off with the Hall of Fame Game from Canton, Ohio. The Aug. 7 matchup between the Packers and Colts has opened as a pick'em on NFL odds with a total of 35.5.
Hall of Fame Game Background
The NFL tries to schedule teams to play in this game that have ties to guys who are being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame that weekend. And that's the case in a big way this year. The marquee name being enshrined Saturday is former Packers quarterback Brett Favre. He's a three-time NFL MVP and won a Super Bowl in his illustrious career. Favre retired with most of the regular-season NFL passing records but has since been passed by Peyton Manning, who will be taking his place in Canton in five years. There's one record Favre has that likely won't be caught: his 336 career interceptions. But that's what made Favre great in that he was a high-risk, high-reward gunslinger.
Meanwhile, inducted this weekend with Colts ties are receiver Marvin Harrison and former head coach Tony Dungy. Harrison holds pretty much every Colts receiving record with 1,102 catches for 14,580 yards and 128 touchdowns. He also holds the NFL record with 143 receptions in a season, coming in 2002. Of course his quarterback all those years was Manning. Dungy has a career record of 139-69. He was 54-42 in six years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before being fired after the 2001 season because he couldn't get that franchise to the Super Bowl. The Colts quickly hired Dungy and he was 85-27 in seven years there, winning double-digit games and reaching the playoffs every year before retiring. Dungy's Colts won Super Bowl XLI 27-17 over the Chicago Bears in Miami.
Does Game Mean Anything?
If we are being honest, neither team really wants to be in this game as now the Packers and Colts will play five exhibition games, one more than the other 30 teams. The one benefit of being selected for the Hall of Fame Game is you are allowed to open training camp a bit earlier than everyone else.
You aren't going to see the starters for very long and some won't play at all. I think the Packers especially will be cautious because they lost top receiver Jordy Nelson to a torn ACL in the preseason last year. That injury totally changed the Packers offense as it was the highest-scoring unit in the NFL in 2014 (30.4 ppg) when Nelson was a first-team All-Pro and had 98 catches for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns, helping Aaron Rodgers win NFL MVP for a second time. Green Bay won 12 games, took the NFC North Division for a fourth straight year and reached the NFC Championship Game -- and probably should have won it if not for a late choke job in Seattle. Without Nelson last year, the Packers were 15th in scoring (23.0 ppg). Rodgers had one of his worst season, Green Bay won 10 games, finished second in the NFC North and lost in the divisional round of the playoffs in Arizona.
You won't see Nelson in the Hall of Fame Game. His surgically-repaired right knee is OK but he's dealing with tendonitis in his left knee. That can happen often when a guy favors one knee over another for so long. Nelson is on the PUP list and might not play at all this preseason. He thinks he will be ready for Week 1. Packers fans better hope so.
Rodgers might take just a few snaps in the game. Last September, Rodgers said he really hoped the Packers wouldn't play in this game but acknowledged it was likely with Favre a lock to be named a Hall of Famer: "We hope we don't get it,. But we know it's going to be tough because No. 4 is going to be going in."
This will be the first time under Coach Mike McCarthy and Rodgers that the Packers will play five preseason games. For what it's worth, Rodgers played in only the first two preseason games last year. This is Green Bay's fifth appearance in the Hall of Fame Game. The team is 1-2-1. Yes, there was a 0-0 tie with the Chargers in 1980 when the game was called early due to weather. The Packers' last Hall of Fame Game also was called early for weather. They "lost" that one 9-0 to Kansas City in 2003.
As for Indianapolis, we should get a quick look at quarterback Andrew Luck, now the highest-paid player in the NFL after signing a huge extension in June. The Colts won 11 regular-season games in each of Luck's first three seasons and reached the playoffs in each. Last year, they slipped to 8-8 and missed the postseason as Luck was limited to seven games due to injury. His season ended in a Week 9 win over Denver -- the Colts' best game of the year -- when Luck suffered a lacerated kidney.
Packers fans will certainly recognize Luck's new backup quarterback as it's former Green Bay backup Scott Tolzien. He took only 10 regular-season snaps last year in Green Bay in garbage time. Tolzien started two games for the Pack in 2013 when Rodgers was out with a broken collarbone. Last year in the preseason, Tolzien was 28-of-46 passing for 250 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
This is also the fifth Hall of Fame Game appearance for the Colts and they are 2-2 in it, last playing in 2008 and losing 30-16 to the Redskins. The Packers and Colts have met in the preseason nine times, with the Colts leading 5-4. The teams last played in 2011. Indianapolis is 5-11 SU under Coach Chuck Pagano in preseason games. The Colts were 1-3 SU last season and 1-3 ATS on NFL odds.
Expect very vanilla schemes on both sides of the ball here because the Colts visit the Packers in Week 9 of the regular season.
NFL Free Picks: Colts and 'under.' That's a tiny total but that's usually the case early in the preseason. Four of the past five Hall of Fame Games have finished with the teams combining to score 30 points or fewer.