It's been a painful six months for NFL enthusiasts, as we haven't seen a meaningful professional football game since February's Super Bowl. While the excitement of the free-agency period and draft kept us occupied over the offseason, there's nothing quite like seeing players in action.
Luckily, the wait is over.
On Sunday, the Buffalo Bills square off against the New York Giants in the annual Hall of Fame Game from Canton, Ohio.
Not only is this our first glimpse of the NFL's new season, but there's plenty that has changed since last year. While we're gearing up to see these two teams take the field, let's preview the game's most important details.
2014 Hall of Fame Game Information
When: Sunday, Aug. 3 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio
Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
There's one rule change in particular that may catch your eye after one of these teams scores the game's first touchdown. The ensuing extra point will actually be kicked from the 15-yard line rather than the two-yard line, lengthening the distance of a traditional extra-point attempt from 20 yards to 33 yards.
So, what's the cause for this change?
The NFL is experimenting with this in an effort to increase the interest in the point after touchdown (PAT).
While the move may seem considerable, a 33-yard attempt is still considered a chip shot for NFL kickers. This is just an experiment with the PAT, and it will only last through the first two weeks of preseason—it will be moved back to the two-yard line thereafter.
We'll get our first glimpse of this change during the Hall of Fame Game.
What to Expect
Most starters play on a very limited basis during preseason, a fact that is even more noticeable during the Hall of Fame Game.
The contest is the first of five preseason games for both the Bills and Giants, and both teams' starters should only be expected to play for a series or two. However, that certainly doesn't mean the game will be boring. After all, other members of the teams will be playing their hearts out in an attempt to make the final 53-man roster.
Keep a keen eye on little-known rookies—whether they were late-round picks or undrafted free agents—because these players have been known to surprise with big plays in early preseason games.
Both the Giants and the Bills can be categorized as two teams looking to take significant steps forward this season. New York finished third in the NFC East last season with a 7-9 record, and Buffalo wound up in the gutter of the AFC East with a 6-10 record.
The Giants went very heavy on offense in the draft, selecting wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in the first round, center Weston Richburg in the second and running back Andre Williams in the fourth.
Unfortunately, fans of the team will have to wait to get a glimpse of the first-round pick, as he won't play due to a hamstring injury, according to Kimberly Jones of the NFL Network:
NYG WR Odell Beckham said tests showed blood in hamstring. He's frustrated & he knows Tom Coughlin is frustrated. OB won't play Sunday.— Kimberly Jones (@KimJonesSports) July 29, 2014
While Beckham may not be in action, Richburg is currently fighting for a starting spot on the team's offensive line—whether it be at center or guard—and should expect to see some time on Sunday.
Williams should also see a fair share of work due to some terrible news for the team. Running back David Wilson won't play on Sunday, and his return to the NFL is questionable due to ongoing problems with his neck, according to NFL Around the League:
Giants RB Wilson reportedly 'needs a miracle' to return to the field http://t.co/hwMs0U77g1— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) July 31, 2014
Williams now finds himself behind Rashad Jennings, Peyton Hillis and Michael Cox on the team's depth chart, and he'll be looking to move up the ranks quickly.
The Bills went heavy on the offensive side of the ball early in the draft as well. The team gave up a future first-round pick for the right to move up to the No. 4 spot in the draft and select wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
So far, the move appears to be paying off, as multiple reports from Bills camp have noted the impressive practices from the receiver. His highlights included a 98-yard touchdown grab from quarterback EJ Manuel, according to the Bills' official Twitter account:
Buffalo went heavy on the offensive line as well. In an effort to protect EJ Manuel, the team drafted offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio in the second round and guard Cyril Richardson in the fifth.
Kouandjio is already slated as a starter and shouldn't see many reps. However, Richardson is aiming to earn the starting gig at right guard and will most likely see a fair amount of reps.
Not all of the attention will be on the offensive side of the ball for Buffalo.
During an offseason workout, Bills second-year linebacker Kiko Alonso tore his ACL and is expected to miss the entire season. To make matters worse, the team's linebacker Nigel Bradham has been suspended for the first week of the regular season. All of a sudden, a big strength of the team has become a questionable area.
The Bills drafted Preston Brown in the third round this year, and he could begin to make a move for a starting role during the Hall of Fame Game. Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated is certainly looking out for him:
Preston Brown yo. RT @MikeGarafolo: Wait, hang on: ONE-game suspension for LB Nigel Bradham. Sorry.— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurke_SI) July 30, 2014
Keep an eye on Buffalo's linebacker corps, as this unit is most certainly in flux.