The NFL preseason slate gets underway on Thursday with the annual Hall of Fame game, which pits the Denver Broncos against the Atlanta Falcons.
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.
It’s the fourth time playing in the exhibition for both franchises, each going 1-2 in their previous appearances.
Both squads also have links to players and executives that are being honored, which is something the NFL tries to do when selecting the teams for the game. The Broncos have their late owner Pat Bowlen, who passed away in June, and corner Champ Bailey as Hall of Fame inductees during the festive weekend.
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.
Other being inducted in this year’s class include: Ed Reed, Ty Law, center Kevin Mawae, safety Johnny Robinson and former Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt.
The Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony is scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on ESPN.
Who’s Playing in the Hall of Fame Game
The game won’t feature many familiar faces for NFL fans, with the stars sitting out the exhibition contest as fringe players jostle for depth chart positioning and roster spots.
The veteran starting quarterbacks on both sides, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, have both already 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.
With that in mind, preseason games — especially this one — are hard to predict. But for the bettor that has missed the NFL, it’s a chance to get back in on the action before the real games kick off next month. Here are some of the best bets to look at, with odds provided by FanDuel Sportsbook.
NFL Hall of Fame Game is Traditionally Low Scoring
With the lack of starters and just a few practices preceding the game to get on track, offenses usually struggle to find their footing in the HOF game.
Since 2013, no single team has scored more than 20 points and the total has gone under this number five out of the last seven years.
Best bet: Under
Denver Broncos Will Be Motivated for a Victory
Line: Broncos -2.5
According to Odds Shark, since 1995 the favorite has a record of 16-6 straight up but just 11-8-3 against the spread in the HOF contest. More recently, the faves have gone 8-2 straight up and 6-3-1 against the spread over the last 10 games.
The Broncos are installed as the favorite 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.
Denver also has better running back depth, even if Pro Bowler Phillip Lindsay is used sparingly, if at all. The Falcons are trying to solve their backfield issues behind Devonta Freeman, with Tevin Coleman departing in the offseason for San Francisco.
It’s hard to evaluate the game based entirely on talent, with even the deepest parts of the depth charts slated to be used. However, the Broncos will have their late owner on their minds and will want to pull of the victory for him.
If that narrative in enough for you, lay the points and take the Broncos.
Best bet: Broncos -2.5 (-130)
Score prediction: Broncos 21, Falcons 10