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2018 Hall of Fame Game Fantasy and Handicapping Preview – Ravens v. Bears
OK, the first football of the 2018 season…so, it’s mandatory that I get way too excited about it and overanalyze – but that’s what I do, and you love me for it.
I’m going to list my top things I’m looking for from each team/scouting the players and then get into how I would bet on it, because…come on…it’s time to get back to our personal handicapping training camps and get into regular season shape.
First things, first… Teams generally do not play anything resembling a starter in the Hall of Fame game. I don’t expect to see any name you’d love to see like a Tarik Cohen or Allen Robinson, etc. Jordan Howard has already come out and said he’s not playing and Mitchell Trubisky has basically said the same.
Last season, Blaine Gabbert and Trevor Knight split reps against Kellen Moore and Cooper Rush in the Arizona v. Dallas affair. It’s key to know the QB play for betting the game. It’s a game where the 3rd and 4th QBs matter. We’ll get to that betting angle last. Let’s hit my team-by-team ‘things to scout’ (in order of my excitement):
1) What I’ve seen from training camp and then going back and watching some college tape – I’m totally intrigued by Ravens UDFA Rookie RB out of Florida Mark Thompson.
A nothing career at Florida…two years of sporadic use. A shoulder shrug Pro Day, but a big dude (6’1”/230+). I kept hearing how good he looked in camp, then I saw him…then I rushed to the college tape. Then, I fell in love. You will too. Watch this below and try not to fall in love. I’m trying to find out more on Thompson on why so ‘meh’ at Florida – Gator fans, send me some info!! Deeper scouting report to come.
The play that happens at the 2:09 mark is why I can’t wait to wake up and go to work every day because I might discover something like this that I hadn’t caught before.
2) 2nd-year DE/DT Chris Wormley – has he arrived? Does he ‘get it’ yet? My computer scouting models love him as a high upside DT and a solid DE. I’ve heard good things about his camp, but I want to see it on the big stage after a very nothing rookie 2017.
3) LB Tyus Bowser – future OLB star. Does he even play? If not, then the team is taking him more seriously by not lowering him to play in this game. If he does play, does he wreck shop in this game because he’s better than most everyone playing in this type of game?
4) WR Breshad Perriman – I’m assuming he’s fallen low enough that he’s playing in this game, and playing a lot…to see if he’s worth the Ravens even keeping. When he’s in the right mind…he’s too good for this type of game. Is he getting his career back or has he given up? Tearing up this game (or not) should be a clue.
5) Rookie RB De’Lance Turner – people have been murmuring about Turner along with Mark Thompson. Some are with Turner as the UDFA RB gem, I’m with Thompson. Turner reminds me more of a WR playing RB. Thompson reminds me of Marshawn Lynch. Turner tends to remind me of a strong/solid-framed WR after the catch running the ball.
1) I’m hoping we’ll see rookie WR Anthony Miller. He’s another buzz of camp, but I never see ‘it’ when I watch him. His stats say he’s sweet, but my eyes say he’s very mortal. Will I apologize tomorrow or celebrate myself? I’m interested to see if I’m the one missing this.
2) WR Tanner Gentry is a classy, professional receiver. I hope he gets a chance to shine here, but the likely QB play probably squashes him.
3) RB Ryan Nall. He’s another rock of an RB. Very underrated, very strong. Not sure he’s enough of an athlete or instinctual runner to make it to a starting RB someday. Or, maybe, he shows a glimpse of being next-level ready here. And that would be showing off for another team because no way he’s making this roster unless injuries hit.
4) RB Taquan Mizzell – a guy who should be a 3rd-down RB somewhere already. A really nice receiver out of the backfield. WR-like. This might be his type of game with bad QBs checking down.
5) Rookie DT Bilal Nichols – he has some indicators of being a DT force. If he does, he should flash the first signs of it here.
The current line is Ravens -2.5. I’m going to guess that the Lamar Jackson talk/excitement, and the general dismissal of the Bears in general pushes this line to the Ravens favor. I would have expected more/a bigger spread with Jackson playing some and the Bears starters not playing.
Random thoughts on why I am betting the Ravens with some confidence…
The three QBs working for the Ravens are better than the Bears QBs. We’ll probably get Lamar Jackson for 1-2 series, and maybe not at all, but then veteran RG3 for most of the first half. Josh Woodrum will run the entire second half…and Woodrum is the best QB on either depth chart except for Mitchell Trubisky. You’ll see…again. Woodrum tore up the preseason last year, and because football people are great at their job, the Bears went and got Tyler Bray on purpose and Jon Gruden traded for Christian Hackenberg on purpose (then cut, but still has Geno Smith and E.J. Manuiel). However, Woodrum has been bouncing around all over, looking for work, mostly squatting with the Ravens.
The Bears will roll stable Chase Daniel with reduced weapons, but he’s the most savvy/experienced of the QBs playing…so the Bears may take an early lead with him. Eventually, they’ll turn things over to Tyler Bray, and he’s a disaster.
Daniel v. LJax/RG3 might be a push, but the Ravens non-starters on defense, their nice depth gives them an edge in that area (on paper). However, if/when it becomes Woodrum v. Bray -- it is all Woodrum. Let’s say a 10-10 game at the half, or 13-10 Bears…and then a 24+ to 17-20 win for the Ravens when Woodrum takes over and leads them to victory.
I believe Justin Tucker will kick for the Ravens, maybe…and if so you got 3-6 pts edge for the Ravens right there.
Baltimore has better RB talent going in this game, equal/better WRs, a better defense with the 2nd and 3rd+ team, a better kicker (if Tucker wants to work) and all the advantages at QB.
I’d bet the Ravens to win by 4-10+ points, but not a lot because you can never know who’s playing for how long. Again, this is just handicapping training camp for us and a reason to keep watching this game that will be dull otherwise. Just bet $25 or so for fun.
Don’t worry about watching this game seriously. Go out and have fun. I’m here, as always, watching the preseason for you and I’ll recap it for you as your humble servant tomorrow.
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