How Are Hall of Fame Game Teams Decided?

Getty Denver Broncos' owner Pat Bowlen

The 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game kicks off the NFL preseason slate on Thursday as the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons face each other in the first gridiron action of the year.

The game will be played at at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, which is located adjacent to the Hall of Fame building in Canton, Ohio. The game kicks off at 8 p.m. ET and can be seen on NBC.

Like most preseason games, don’t expect either squad to be rolling out a full fleet of stars. The veteran starting quarterbacks on both sides, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, have both been ruled out. Atlanta’s star wide receiver Julio Jones has also said that he won’t play in any preseason games for the Falcons this year.

Nonetheless, both teams see opportunity to play in the game as an honor.

“We are fired up to kick off the NFL’s 100th season in the Hall of Fame Game,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said in a statement. “We are honored to play in Canton and be a part of the celebration for all of the inductees. This is also an opportunity for us to strengthen our connection and our brotherhood with additional time on the field.”

First year Broncos skipper Vic Fangio echoed that sentiment. 

“With Mr. Bowlen and Champ Bailey part of this year’s induction class, it’s an honor for the Broncos to play in the Hall of Fame Game,” he said. “We’re looking forward to seeing a lot of Broncos fans in Canton, and it’s also special for us to help kick off the NFL’s 100th season. Football-wise, it gives our team an extra week of training camp and additional practices that we’ll use to our advantage.”

How are teams picked For the Hall of Fame Game?

The NFL tries to pick teams that are associated with the Hall of Fame inductees for the year.

This year’s class features corner Champ Bailey, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, safety Ed Reed, corner Ty Law, tight end Tony Gonzalez, center Kevin Mawae, safety Johnny Robinson and long-time executive Gil Brandt.

The Broncos have the obvious link to owner Pat Bowlen, who passed away in June at the age of 75 after an extended and courageous battle against Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the New York Times, Bowlen made his money in oil, natural gas and real estate and bought 61 percent of the team in 1984 from Edgar F. Kaiser Jr. In 2014 he relinquished control of the franchise because of his continuing battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Champ Bailey spent a decade of his legendary career with the Broncos as well.

The Falcons are linked to legendary tight end Tony Gonzalez, who will also be inducted this weekend. He played five seasons in Atlanta after a dozen in Kansas City.

Hall of Fame Game: Falcons, Broncos Aren’t First-Timers

This will be the fourth appearance for both squads in the historic exhibition contest. Here’s their history in the game.


  • 1969 – vs. Green Bay Packers (L, 24-38)
  • 1981 – vs. Cleveland Browns (L, 10-24)
  • 1994 – vs. San Diego Chargers (W, 21-17)


  • 1976 – vs. Detroit Lions (W, 10-7)
  • 1991 – vs. Detroit Lions (L, 3-14)
  • 2004 – vs. Washington Redskins (L, 17-20)

The Broncos are installed as three-point favorites in the game and have a backup QB battle to watch between Kevin Hogan and second-round rookie Drew Lock.

For the Falcons, 38-year-old Matt Schaub will likely draw the start, with backup Kurt Benkert getting some reps later on. Outside of those positions, its anybody’s guess in terms of playing time. Both teams will likely use the extra preseason contest to test the deepest parts of their depth chart.

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