The National Football League’s preseason begins tomorrow with the annual Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio. This year’s matchup features two teams coming off disappointing, playoff-less campaigns. However, the Chicago Bears and the Baltimore Ravens are still to be considered teams on the rise as this year’s squads show some signs of promise and could sleepers to take their respective divisions. The first game of the preseason is a fine place to start to see just what kind of teams they are now and how far they need to go.
The Ravens opened as a one-point favorite but that has moved to Baltimore giving two or two and a half depending on your sportsbook. This is not a surprise considering Baltimore (9-7) had a much better record than Chicago (5-11) last year but, also, because the Ravens’ history of success in preseason openers. Baltimore is an outstanding (9-1) under head coach John Harbaugh, proving his ability to have his teams ready to play no matter the date. But will that success continue? At -2.5? It looks favorable to say the least.
Preseason games are always a tough bet as you just don’t what you’re going to get from either team. Are the starters playing? Are they a deep team? Are they looking exclusively at their rookies? What? That said, researching a preseason wager should always be more time consuming than the regular season because there are so many variables. That, that said, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you so enjoy the early returns.
The Bears have plenty to prove heading into a new season with new head coach, Matt Nagy. Unfortunately, the early camp reports have not been kind to Nagy’s offense or quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s grasp of it. It’s early and there is still time for them to put it all together but it won’t be Thursday night as Trubisky is sitting out. This leaves the Bears with either Chase Daniel or Tyler Bray under center which gives the Ravens a nice edge. The Bears quarterbacks won’t have the starting running back, Jordan Howard, to fall back on either as he is a scratch. Again, advantage Ravens.
The Ravens will also give their starting quarterback, Joe Flacco, the night off but this doesn’t hurt Baltimore as much as it does Chicago. Where the Bears are a young, inexperienced team looking upward, the Ravens are an older and wiser bunch just looking to hang on. Baltimore’s backups include Robert Griffin III and Josh Woodrum. Throw Lamar Jackson into the mix and the Ravens are lopsided favorites in talent and experience at the position. Griffin has plenty to prove and will look to make the most of all of his playing time. Plus, Jackson is such a talent, everyone will be anxious to see what the kid can do and that includes but is not limited to fans, coaches, announcers, referees, vendors, et al.
On the other side of the ball, the defenses in preseason games can be even more important to your wager. These are sloppy games and while it is true that defense can play sloppy too, they hold a distinct advantage over the offense in that category. Again, the Baltimore Ravens come out on top here and it isn’t even really close. This goes back to the youth versus experience argument and in a preseason football game, you’ll always take the experience. The Bears are young and need their starters all playing at a high level in order to be successful. However, the Bears are having a hard time getting their starters on the field in this game as their first round pick, linebacker Roquan Smith, remains unsigned. The only unsigned first rounder in the entire league. It’s a bad look and it doesn’t stop there. Big advantage for the Ravens.
It’s tough to say why the Ravens were a one point favorite to begin with but we’ll just chalk that up to the preseason being the preseason. The action will side with the Ravens for obvious and previously stated reasons and you’ll want to grab it especially while it remains under three points. The over/under play is interesting as well at a tiny 33.5. No one seems to be expecting much from this two teams and this reeks of a wager to avoid. It’s the preseason for us gamblers too after all, let’s just stick to the logical favorite.