Raiders, Jaguars Kick Off NFL Preseason Thursday

Raiders, Jaguars Kick Off NFL Preseason Thursday
© USA Today

The week that football fans and NFL bettors have been waiting for since the Super Bowl last February finally is here.

The first NFL preseason game of the year is Thursday, featuring two AFC teams, the Las Vegas Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars, in the Hall of Fame Game. 

Kickoff is at 8 p.m. ET at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio. The game is being broadcast on NBC.

As Caesars Sportsbook, the line has moved from Raiders at -1.5 to even.

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Football Betting ‘Substantial’

Beginning with the Hall of Fame game in August and continuing through the Super Bowl in February, NFL football games traditionally are the most heavily wagered events in the country from week to week.   

The last NFL game was the Feb. 13 Super Bowl between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals. The Rams won 23-20.

Other sporting events, including the NCAA March Madness basketball tournaments, NBA playoffs and MLB’s World Series, also attract heavy betting. Across the country, however, football commands the highest sustained level of interest during an entire season.

In Louisiana, Gaming Control Board Chairman Ronnie Johns recently expressed a sentiment held by many in the industry — football is king.

He told that a summer sports betting slump, with not much going on except Major League Baseball, should improve when pro and college football begin.

“We’re a football state,” Johns said. “I am very confident our numbers this coming fall are going to be substantial.”

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Raiders Want Better Results 

For Raiders first-year head coach Josh McDaniels, the game in Canton has sentimental value. As quarterback for McKinley High, he played his school’s home games at the Hall of Fame stadium, with his father, Thom McDaniels, coaching the Bulldogs.

The Raider Nation is hoping McDaniels’ Ohio homecoming can create a positive vibe that lasts throughout the season. The team went 10-7 last season, losing in the first playoff round to the Bengals, the eventual Super Bowl runner-up.

In addition to a new coach, the Raiders have landed wide receiver Davante Adams, a former Green Bay Packer considered among the best in the league.

Adams and his college teammate from Fresno State, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, are expected to create fireworks inside the domed Allegiant Stadium just west of the Las Vegas Strip.

Last season, Carr was the NFL’s fifth best quarterback in passing yardage (4,804), but he has not led the team to a playoff win since the Raiders drafted him in the second round in 2014.

Fans are hoping the Raiders can make a deep run into the playoffs this season, maybe culminating in a league title. This season’s Super Bowl is Feb. 12 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

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Jaguars In Rebuilding Mode

Jacksonville fans are hopeful that new blood can lead to better outcomes for their team, too. 

Since winning 10 games and making the playoffs in 2017, Jacksonville's win total has declined, with only one victory in 2020 and three last season.

With the Urban Meyer experiment over, the team has handed the reins to Doug Pederson, who won a Super Bowl when he coached the Eagles, while beefing up the defense with No. 1 overall draft pick Travon Walker.

Walker, a 6-foot-5, 275-pound outside linebacker from the University of Georgia, is expected to make a difference right away. His selection in the draft this spring in Las Vegas underscores the team’s commitment to defense. Five of the Jaguars’ seven picks line up on the defensive side of the ball.

Along with a rebuilt defense, Jacksonville also will need more spark out of second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the 6-6 former Clemson standout and former No. 1 draft pick. Last season, Lawrence threw 17 interceptions and only 12 touchdowns.

Early reports out of the Jaguars’ training camp indicate that second-year running back Travis Etienne Jr., also from Clemson, could be at the top of his game. That should help Lawrence in mixing up an offense that finished 27th in the NFL last season.