The NFL preseason officially begins on Thursday, when the New York Jets and the Cleveland Browns will square off in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. We’ll have two of the league’s top quarterbacks on the field, at least, as the Jets acquired Aaron Rodgers from the Green Bay Packers, and the Browns have Deshaun Watson back for his first full season with the team after he had to sit for the first 11 games of the 2022 campaign. Given both players’ veteran status, it’s unlikely that Rodgers or Watson will play for more than a series before giving way to the quarterbacks further down the depth chart. If you are planning on including this exhibition in your NFL betting, don’t miss our thoughts on the contest.
NFL Preview for the Hall of Fame Game: New York Jets vs Cleveland Browns
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When: Thursday, august 3, 8:00 pm ET
Where: Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, Canton, OH
The Browns enter as 1 ½-point favorites, which I suppose comes from the team’s running game and the game taking place in Ohio. The point total is a minuscule 33 ½ points, suggesting that the betting community expects offense to be minimal in the game. Last year, the Browns finished 14th in the NFL in both total offense and total defense, but the team had some problems on both sides of the ball despite finishing in the middle of the pack. The running game, once again, did well, as Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt had another solid season. However, the passing game finished just 23rd. Once Watson came back to the team, he only generated 183.7 passing yards per game in his six starts, posting a 3-3 record. On the defensive side of the ball, the Browns were solid against opposing quarterbacks, ranking fourth in passing yards permitted, but they were 25th against the run as teams gashed their front seven over and over.
In the off-season, the Browns solidified the line by adding defensive end Obo Okoronkwo and defensive tackle Calvin Tomlinson. They also added some starters to the second and third levels of the defense. On the offensive side of the ball, the team added wide receives Cedric Tillman and Elijah Moore. So there are more weapons for Watson, who posted a 7:5 TD:INT ratio in his six starts, with a QB rating of 79.1. Over a whole season, that rating would have ranked him 29th in the NFL. Once again, Cleveland has the talent in place to make a nice season. Can Watson reach back in time and find that passing form that made him the league’s best passer in 2020 and helped him guide the Houston Texans to 21 combined wins in 2018 and 2019?
The Jets also finished 7-10 in 2022. The defense was outstanding, ranking second in points permitted and fourth in yards permitted. However, the offense was dreadful, coming in 29th in points scores and 25th in yards gained. Now, the team has replaced Zach Wilson with Aaron Rodgers, and Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard, two receivers who worked well with Rodgers in Green Bay, will join him in Gotham. The team also added Mercole Hardman from Kansas City to give Rodgers three solid targets. Rodgers’ 2022 numbers were among the worst in his career, but he never really seemed locked in mentally. Finding a new place to play might rejuvenate Rodgers and repair his mental preparation.
On defense, the Jets did not need to make many additions, but they did add safety Chuck Clark from Baltimore. Clark made 101 tackles for the Ravens in 2022. They extended elite defensive tackle Quinnen Williams for four seasons, giving them a long-term anchor at that position. The positive chatter coming out of New York this off-season makes it seem like the Jets are much more primed for winning than the subdued Browns. Given Watson’s off-the-field issues, it makes sense that he might try to stay out of the spotlight.
In this game, though, as we said earlier, don’t expect to see much from the starters. Both teams have decent depth, but the Jets seem to have the edge in overall chemistry given the boost that Rodgers’ arrival has given to the team’s work in camp as well as the fans’ attitude about the team. For these reasons, I would take the Jets to cover.
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