On February 5, the 2016 NFL season ended with the New England Patriots’ stunning comeback and overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. Just shy of six months to the day, the 2017 NFL exhibition season kicks off Thursday night with the annual Hall of Fame Game from Canton, Ohio.
The game features America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys, against the Arizona Cardinals. It’s currently listed with Dallas as a 1-point betting favorite at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com with a total of 35.5.
The Hall of Fame Game has been staged since the early 1960s in Canton, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The NFL had a public relations disaster when last year’s game between the Colts and Packers was canceled due to poor field conditions. The field is used for Saturday’s enshrinement ceremonies and now that won’t be a concern with the game moved two days ahead of that ceremony.
The league tries to schedule franchises in this game with a tie to a Hall of Famer being inducted. Arizona has former QB Kurt Warner going in, while Dallas has current owner and general manager Jerry Jones.
One thing to realize in the NFL preseason is that you won’t see spreads higher than three points all that often – if so, it’s usually in Week 3 when teams tend to play their starters for at least the entire first half. The totals will be lower than a regular-season game as well because it’s mostly scrubs or young guys looking to nail down a roster spot on the field.
Preseason games can mean more to some head coaches than others, however. New guys want to instill a winning attitude from the get-go. But coaches with job security and veteran players locked in at key positions generally could care less about the game results. Among active coaches, Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer is the best in the preseason as his Vikings teams are 12-1.
The Cowboys, in the second tier of championship contenders at +1200 on the Super Bowl LII odds, have not been a great preseason bet under Jason Garrett with a 9-16 mark. Dallas was 1-3 last preseason, which caused a major shift in the franchise going forward. That’s because rookie fourth-round quarterback Dak Prescott was brilliant on the field and would claim the starting job when Tony Romo was hurt in an exhibition game against Seattle.
Prescott led the Cowboys to an NFC-best 13-3 regular-season record. Romo now works for CBS. It’s not clear if Prescott, the 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, or star running Ezekiel Elliott will play on Thursday. Garrett generally doesn’t play his starters in his team’s first preseason game.
The Cardinals are 7-9 under Coach Bruce Arians in the preseason. They played in the NFC title game in 2015 but slipped to 7-8-1 last year. Arians ruled out 37-year-old injury-prone starting quarterback Carson Palmer for this game as well as 33-year-old top receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
At their age, an extra exhibition game is unnecessary. Fitzgerald will be enshrined in Canton at some point as he’s ninth in NFL history in receiving yards (14,389), third in catches (1,125), and eighth in TD catches (104).
Then Tuesday Arians said not a single starter would play. Backup quarterback Drew Stanton will also sit. Blaine Gabbert and Trevor Knight will each play two quarters under center.
The Cardinals are 1-2-1 in the Hall of Fame Game. They lost last time to the Saints in 2012. Dallas is 2-3 in this game, last beating Miami in 2013.