The Hall of Fame Game was cancelled, which means the official return of pigskin will happen on Thursday night with Week 1 of the NFL preseason. Although most fans and bettors could care less about the preseason in most sports, it's quite important in the NFL. Not only does it give us a good forecast into the future, but there are also good trends for bettors to work with and much more information circulating to handicap the games.
The coaches/teams you'll want to keep an eye on are the Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, and Washington Redskins. John Harbaugh is an impressive 20-12 in preseason games, including 7-1 in Week 1. His Ravens will host the Carolina Panthers in Week 1 and are a 1.5-point favorite. As for the Broncos, their head coach Gary Kubiak is 21-14 in the preseason, including 14-4 over the first two weeks. However, his opponent in Week 1, John Fox and the Chicago Bears, is 31-25. Fox is 10-4 in Week 1 preseason games. Lastly, the Redskins are 6-2 so far over the two years that Jay Gruden has led them. He's a perfect 4-0 in the first two weeks, but his team is a three-point dog at Atlanta this Thursday night.
You might also consider the New England Patriots as Bill Belichick's team seems to play well in Week 1 of the preseason. They're 11-6 in Week 1 compared to 24-24 over the final three weeks.
We're going to get our first look at some new coaches manning the sidelines, including Hue Jackson (Cleveland Browns), Adam Gase (Miami Dolphins), Dirk Koetter (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Ben McAdoo (New York Giants) and Doug Pederson (Philadelphia Eagles).
We don't know much about how these former offensive assistant coaches will handle exhibition games and what type of effort they'll demand from their teams, but we do have a bit of history with Jackson. While the other four new head coaches are in that position for the first time, Jackson coached the Oakland Raiders for one season and went 0-4 in the preseason.
A lot of futures bettors will be keeping an eye on the Los Angeles Rams as they're set to unveil the first overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. For years, handicappers have wondered just how different the Rams might be if they had a quality passer and now they might have one in Jared Goff. If Goff looks good this week when the Rams host the Dallas Cowboys, expect to see some movement on the Rams' futures. They are currently at +750 to win the NFC West and their regular season win total sits at 7.5.
Speaking of new starting quarterbacks, the Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns will be debuting new signal callers this week. The Browns named Robert Griffin III their starter for their first preseason game (at Green Bay), while the Texans will unveil former Denver Broncos backup Brock Osweiler (at San Francisco).
As per usual, the betting lines are fairly tight this week - which is standard for preseason football - with almost every game with a point spread of inside or around the field goal mark.