Our first look at live NFL game action for the 2023 season will happen in Canton, OH, between two of the league's best teams. Ok, it’s actually a preseason showcase game between the Jets and Browns, but it is definitely football, and we can absolutely bet on it.
The game will be played a couple of days prior to the enshrinement of nine new Hall of Famers, including first-ballot selections Darrelle Revis and Joe Thomas. Fitting that those two will get to watch their former teams clash as they don their gold jackets for the first time.
This year marks the third appearance for the Jets and sixth for the Browns in the Hall of Fame game, which trails only Dallas and Pittsburgh for the most all-time with seven. New York has not played in this game since 1992; only Detroit has had a longer layoff, with their last invite coming a year earlier in ‘91.
According to DraftKings, New York is favored by a point and a half with a low total set at 33.5 points. In the last ten editions of this preseason kickoff game, the teams have combined for an average of 29.3 points.
The game will be played on Thursday, August 3, at 8 pm ET on NBC. We’ve got one best bet lined up but beware that the players suiting up are primarily those looking to make an NFL roster, not the ones you’ll see in early September for the season’s official start.
According to a FoxSports piece written by Geoff Schwartz last August, the under cashed in seven of nine Hall of Fame games leading up to last season’s higher-scoring matchup that bucked the trend. The Raiders beat the Jags 27-11 in 2022's preseason opener.
In the two games that have gone over among the last five editions, the common theme has been limited turnovers. In 2017 and 2022, where the final tally hit 37+ points, both teams turned the ball over just once. The other three games between 2018-2021 saw 13 combined turnovers, and interestingly the totals averaged 25.3 points despite the ball changing hands so frequently.
Another trend that defies regular season logic from previous Hall of Fame games is the lopsided amount of passing in games with lower scores. Following the disparity from the years above, the teams averaged 68.5 pass attempts and 56.5 rushes in the higher-scoring matchups compared to 75.6 passes and 50.6 carries in the games with lower final scores.
To put that in perspective, there were 50 regular season games with at least 75 pass attempts and 50 carries combined between opponents in 2022. The average combined points in those games was 46.3. The regular season and preseason are difficult to compare in this way, but more passing attempts have notably been correlated with lower totals in these games.
Most teams play at least two, if not three, quarterbacks in these games to get an early assessment of their depth chart. Inexperienced quarterback play can translate to fewer completed pass attempts and more turnovers, but it also has resulted in less scoring when defenses are playing for their roster spots too.
Rotating QBs in and out of the game can prevent those signal callers from developing a rhythm with receivers and linemen, and we believe that factors more into a total than the substitutions happening on defense.
For these reasons above, we’ll focus on the total in this matchup and play the under in Canton.