Packers, Colts kick off NFL betting slate with Hall of Fame Game

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Andrew Luck will see the field while Aaron Rodgers might be a mere onlooker when the Indianapolis Colts and the Green Bay Packers meet in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio on Sunday.

Being chosen to play in what is the unofficial kickoff to the NFL season gives a team five preseason games instead of the usual four, meaning one more exposure to possible injury. The Packers know full well about the perils of the preseason after top WR Jordy Nelson went down with a season-ending ACL injury last August. The Packers, who are the second favorite at +850 on the Super Bowl LI futures board, are pretty set on their starters.

Oddsmakers at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com have made Green Bay a one-point favorite for the Hall of Fame Game, and the total is set at 36 points.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy often sits his first-stringers as much as possible during the preseason. It’s doubtful Rodgers will make more than a token appearance. Second-year backup quarterback Brett Huntley has also missed practice this week due to an ankle injury. The next two men up at quarterback are Joe Callahan and Marquise Williams, who are each drafted free agents.

Green Bay is 11-9 straight-up and 9-11 against the spread in preseason games over the last five seasons, according to the OddsShark NFL Database. Since Rodgers became their starting QB in 2008, they are 4-4 SU and 3-5 ATS in preseason games when they are favored by three or fewer points.

Colts coach Chuck Pagano said on Thursday that Luck and all of the starters will play on Sunday, although he did not specify how long they will play. Interestingly enough, on a weekend when Packers legend Brett Favre is being inducted into the Hall of Fame while his former understudy Rodgers is in town, the Colts’ No. 2 QB is Scott Tolkien, who spent three seasons buried on the Packers’ depth chart.

At the very least, Tolkien has some NFL seasoning and insight into the Packers.

Indianapolis, which is listed at +2500 on the Super Bowl odds board, is just 6-14 ATS and 9-11 SU in the preseason over the last five years. That includes a 1-7 ATS and 2-6 SU trend over the last two years.

The total has gone over in 11 of the Packers’ last 20 preseason matchups, including five of the last six. The total has gone under in 11 of the Colts’ last 20 preseason games.

A team’s preseason record has no predictive value for the regular season, but that’s especially true for the Hall of Fame Game. In six of the last seven seasons, the game’s winner has failed to make the playoffs. The last time both teams made the playoffs was 2001.

Drew Brees, Le’Veon Bell Favorites in NFL Season Leader Props

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When it comes to betting props on NFL individual leaders, the tried-and-true works for picking a passing yards leader while rushing and receiving leaders are a little more random.

With training camps set to open in a matter of days, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a +300 favorite to lead the NFL in passing yards at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Brees has led (or co-led) the NFL in aerial yards five times in the last six seasons, with the lone exception coming in 2013 when Peyton Manning complied a NFL-record 5,477.

Brees will still have Willie Snead and Michael Thomas as outlets for his passes and, assuming the Saints’ defense stays near the bottom of the league, will have the opportunity to get into a few offensive shootouts.

The Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan (+400) and New England Patriots’ Tom Brady (+500) are the next two on the board. Ryan and the Falcons are likely to face a tougher schedule than what it turned out they had in 2016. Brady has only led the NFL in yards once, in 2007, and would be the oldest player to do so if he succeeds this season.

Based on 2016 won-loss records, the Indianapolis Colts and QB Andrew Luck (+1400) have the easiest schedule in the league, which could lead to Luck putting up some big numbers against softer competition. Another valid darkhorse play is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Jameis Winston (+1600), since he will have a 1-2 punch at receiver with Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson and a team that still relies on being pass-heavy.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell (+300) and Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott (+350) are tightly bunched atop the NFL rushing champion futures board. Bell will no doubt be among the leaders in yards from scrimmage per game, but he’s only played 16 games once in four seasons. While there hasn’t been a back-to-back rushing leader in 10 years, Elliott will be running behind an excellent Dallas offensive line.

The Los Angeles Rams’ third-year workhorse Todd Gurley (+2000) will be in a new offensive system and, hopefully for the Rams, will be better complemented by second-year QB Jared Goff in the passing phase. That would give Gurley a fairer shot at breaking big runs on the regular.

Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown (+400) and Atlanta’s Julio Jones (+400) are co-favorites on the odds to tally the most receiving yards, with the New York Giants’ Odell Beckham (+500) also coming in highly touted. Brown had two fewer targets per game in 2016 than in ’15, meaning he might be a less high-volume receiver now that he is 29. Jones has a receiving title from 2015, but last season the Falcons were most efficient when they spread the ball around.

Last year, the Indianapolis Colts’ T.Y. Hilton (+1200 this year) led the league in yards after being listed at +3300 in the preseason. Among the potential 2017 replicants are New England’s Brandin Cooks (+3300), who is expected to be the field-stretching target the Patriots have managed to do without since the Randy Moss days a decade ago. The aforementioned Mike Evans (+1200) is also close to a sure thing to get 11-12 targets per game in Tampa Bay and the continued development of Winston could make him a 1,500-yard receiver.

The last 12 league leaders in receiving yardage have been less than 30 years old at the start of the season. That trend has been consistent dating to the mid-1990s, with 19 of the last 21 receiving leaders being players who were no older than 29 at the start of the season.

Internet reacts to O.J. Simpson’s parole hearing

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In case you weren’t aware, O.J. Simpson was granted parole and the internet went crazy.

Cue hilarious tweets.