The 2023 NFL preseason kicks off with the annual Hall of Fame Game from Tom Benson Stadium in Canton, Ohio, on Thursday and this year features the New York Jets against the Cleveland Browns, but fans will NOT see the Jets debut of quarterback Aaron Rodgers as few if any starters on either side will play. New York is a 2-point favorite and -130 on the moneyline, but it’s the low total of 34.5 points that bettors should be focusing on.
The first preseason game is always rather sloppy and dominated by defenses because this early in camp, defenses are usually ahead of offenses. It’s a little like those first MLB spring training games. While a total of 34.5 points in a regular-season game would be hugely notable, it’s about par for the course for a Hall of Fame Game.
Since 2010, only one HOF Game has had at least 40 points scored and in the past seven, just twice has the combined point total exceeded this total of 34.5. That does include last year’s 27-11 Raiders win over the Jaguars. The under is 7-3 in the HOF Game since 2010 and teams have combined to average 29.3 ppg in that span. Three games were canceled (2011, 2016, 2020) in that window.
Of course, we will get to see highlights of Thursday’s game when HBO’s “Hard Knocks” show featuring the Jets debuts next Tuesday. Both the #TakeFlight and #DawgPound were allowed to report to camp earlier than the other 30 teams because they were playing in this game and will be the only clubs with four preseason games.
In addition to Rodgers sitting, and he may not play at all this preseason as he hasn’t since 2018, so is Cleveland starting QB Deshaun Watson.
The other QBs on the Jets roster are former No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson along with Tim Boyle and Chris Streveler. Wilson will start but probably not be out there too long. The QBs behind Watson on the Cleveland depth chart are Joshua Dobbs, Kellen Mond and rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson out of UCLA. Coach Kevin Stefanski said Mond will start and DTR play plenty.
NY's Robert Saleh is 5-0-1 straight up in the preseason as a head coach – when teams win in the preseason, they usually cover because the spread is often under 3 points. Cleveland’s Kevin Stefanski is 4-2. The Browns lost their final two games of 2022 preseason by identical 21-20 scores.
These teams will play each other Week 17 in Cleveland, so both gameplans should be even more vanilla than usual. Since 2005, favorites are 12-4 straight up in the HOF Game and 8-5-3 against the spread.
At one prominent U.S. book, the Jets are taking about 53% of bets and 59% of money on the spread, while the Browns are getting 59% of bets and 47% of money on the moneyline. Under the total is taking 61% of bets and 69% of money.