Football has arrived.
The Bears and Ravens will meet in the Hall of Fame Game on Thursday night, kicking off the NFL preseason. Don’t expect too much from the starters tonight, but both teams have exciting young talent that could keep the game interesting. It’s not so much about the game, but rather the milestone that yes, football is back.
It’s a first trip to Canton for the exhibition game, and the fifth appearance for the Bears. Both are in town to honor all-time great linebackers getting ready for their Hall of Fame indcution: Baltimore’s Ray Lewis and Chicago’s Brian Urlacher.
The Ravens are the odds favorite, but the Bears are 4-0 in their previous Hall of Fame Game experience.
Hall of Fame Game Odds
Hall of Fame Game Prediction
Throw away the starters. Mitchell Trubisky might be building fantasy hype in Chicago, but the starters shouldn’t see more than one drive on Thursday night.
Here’s the deal with the Hall of Fame Game: we get all excited about football then lose interest by halftime. It’s a long season, and coaches don’t need to give away plays or schemes in August. What’s more, they don’t want to risk anybody getting hurt. Expect to see plenty of running, plenty of punting, and plenty of base defense.
So why the large majority of bets coming in on Baltimore? I think it’s largely due to backup quarterback Lamar Jackson. If we take away the starters, actually never mind, between both of these entire rosters, Jackson might be the most exciting player in uniform on Thursday. And if the backups are getting the majority of snaps, I’m watching this game just for Jackson.
The one thing that could be impossible to predict is the point total. We just have no idea how much or little these offenses are going to open up. Normally for exhibition matches I would ride the under, but these offenses have me leaning the other way. Jackson’s ability to extend plays could lead to the Ravens going up and down the field, and the Bears are working out a new system under rookie head coach Matt Nagy. Nagy was responsible for the Chiefs offensive explosion last year, and could use this game to test his playmakers.
One Bears player I really want to see is Kevin White. The former top pick has had a disastrous start to his NFL career, but the Bears have not given up on the West Virginia product. White is finally healthy, and could see significant action on Thursday. Matt Nagy has been talking about White’s confidence during camp. You know what’s great for confidence? Lots of targets in a meaningless exhibition game.
I’m riding with Jackson and the Ravens, and taking the first half under. I want as little to do with fifth-string running backs as possible. Let me cash out and look forward to real football.
Prediction: Ravens -140, Under 17 first half