Date/Time: August 3, 8:00 p.m., ET
Line: Buffalo -3 +100 (BetDSI)
NFL bettors desperate to get down on a real live NFL game will have that opportunity on August 3 when the New York Giants and the Buffalo Bills kick off the 2014 Preseason with the annual Hall of Fame Game in Canton, OH. Two teams looking to rebound from difficult seasons will get it started with an 8 p.m. kickoff from Hall of Fame Field at Fawcett Stadium, right next to the hallowed home containing the busts of football’s greatest players.
It remains to be seen if Eli Manning will take any reps for the Giants in this game, but it will only be a series or two worth of plays if he does. The Giants will take an extended look at quarterbacks Curtis Painter and Ryan Nassib, a second-year player out of Syracuse. Among the players to watch for the Giants will be 2014 first-round draft pick Odell Beckham, who will get some snaps to get acclimated with the offense, as will 2014 fourth-round pick Andre Williams, the third-place finisher for the Heisman Trophy out of Boston College. The Giants will open the season with some serious questions at running back and Williams has the opportunity to be the primary ball carrier as a rookie. David Wilson, Peyton Hillis, Da’Rel Scott, and Rashad Jennings will all see touches in the game, barring injury.
Another spot to really keep an eye on with the Giants is on the offensive line. Center Weston Richburg, a second-round pick out of Colorado State, could easily be a starter along with Justin Pugh and a handful of free agents that will need some time to gel. It’s unlikely that veterans Charles Brown and John Jerry will see much playing time, but the Giants could have a very good offensive line for this preseason game as a lot of guys will get extended looks leading up to the season.
The Giants really tried to stock up on depth in the offseason after an injury-plagued 2013 campaign that saw the team lose 91 starts due to injuries. Knowing that could be an advantage to bettors in the preseason because a lot of guys will be vying for spots on the 53-man roster and the battles for those spots should be heated.
The concept of adding depth carried over to the defensive side, where the Giants added four cornerbacks and a couple of linebackers in free agency. Most of them are veteran guys that won’t play a ton in Week 1 of the preseason, but that opens up opportunities for guys eager to grab the eye of the coaches.
The Bills will be able to showcase top five pick Sammy Watkins in this one, though it’s anybody’s guess as to how long their prized offseason pick-up will play. Starter EJ Manuel may play a little bit longer than a starting quarterback normally would in Week 1 of the preseason, but even if he doesn’t, Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel both played significant time last season with the injuries and ineffectiveness of Bills quarterbacks, so bettors will have a pretty good idea what to expect from those guys. Dennis Dixon may also see some snaps after coming over from the Pittsburgh Steelers in the offseason with 59 career pass attempts under his belt.
It’s unlikely that the Bills will take much of a risk with either Fred Jackson or CJ Spiller in this game, so that means an extended look for Bryce Brown. Brown spent the last two years with the Philadelphia Eagles and had decent numbers with a 4.6 yards per carry average over 190 carries. Expect some touches for Anthony Dixon, who spent the last four seasons with San Francisco and only touched the ball 31 times last season.
What could benefit Brown and the Bills is that the offensive line will be the area to watch in this game. Second-round pick Cyrus Kouandijo out of Alabama, fifth-round pick Cyril Richardson out of Baylor, and seventh-round pick Seantrel Henderson out of Miami (FL) all should get significant playing time in this game. All three came with question marks, hence their draft position, but all three were also highly-touted recruits that should be more motivated now as NFL rookies than they were as collegiate players.
The Bills also need to find a complement to Watkins in the passing game. The trade of Stevie Johnson leaves tight end Scott Chandler as the only other productive receiver that isn’t a running back. The Bills brought in Mike Williams, who caught just 22 passes in an injury-plagued 2013 campaign on the heels of three straight years with 63 or more receptions. Highly-touted USC wide receiver Robert Woods could also be in line for some targets. With backup quarterbacks that got significant playing time last season, the Bills could gameplan around getting looks for their wide receivers in hopes that somebody emerges.
Second-year head coach Doug Marrone was 2-2 in the preseason last year. Tom Coughlin is 19-21 with the Giants in the preseason and has fared no better than 2-2 since the 2006 preseason. Marrone was victorious in Week 1 of the preseason last year, while Coughlin is 5-5 in preseason openers as the coach of the Giants.
Free NFL Pick: Buffalo
It would appear that the Bills may be a bit more creative offensively because of the experience level of their backup quarterbacks and the need to find some reliable receivers to catch the football. In this instance, the expectation would be that Marrone would be more focused on creating a culture of winning, no matter when the win takes place, than the wily veteran Coughlin.
Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.