The Buffalo Bills and New York Giants have a lot of puzzle pieces strewn every which way to gather up at the 2014 edition of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.
Buffalo heads into a second year with EJ Manuel under center and hopes to actually win more than six games in a season for the first time in four years. New York would just like Eli Manning to stop throwing to the opposition and for the running backs behind him to remain healthy.
In other words, a fifth preseason game is perfect for both sides.
It is early, but bettors on the hunt to make some coin have a chance to warm up as well before the regular season gets under way. Let's take a look at some things to be wary of when it comes to putting precious coin on the contest.
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
Spread: Buffalo (-2, via Oddsshark)
First things first—preseason is actually more difficult to wager on than the regular season because of the many different faces who will see playing time and the vanilla schemes utilized by both sides of the football in order to not give anything away for the upcoming season.
The first thing bettors will notice is that Buffalo is wildly deep at running back. C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson remain a dynamic one-two punch, but even Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon having proved effective in past seasons. The former especially seems to give the Bills an edge in the depth department based on past performances:
It is the opposite story for New York, a team that will be without David Wilson for an unknown amount of time. Rashad Jennings is criminally underrated after seemingly wasting away as Maurice Jones-Drew's backup in Jacksonville, but behind him are Peyton Hillis and Andre Williams—a washed-up former Madden cover star and a rookie, respectively.
The quarterback debate is a wash as Manning and Manuel will not see a ton of time. Backups such as Ryan Nassib for New York and Thad Lewis for Buffalo will not overly impact the game.
But one fresh, high-profile rookie might. (Normally this would have said two, but Odell Beckham Jr. will miss the contest due to injury.)
He is, of course, No. 4 overall pick Sammy Watkins. The Clemson product has done nothing short of dazzle in camp, something that will surely translate to the field as long as Buffalo's quarterbacks can get him the ball quickly at the line of scrimmage after the snap.
Matthew Fairburn of Syracuse.com provides just a glimpse at the body of work Watkins has put in so far, and against notable competition, too:
Sammy Watkins just blew by Stephon Gilmore for a 98-yard touchdown from EJ Manuel. Perfect throw, and Watkins wasn't touched.— Matthew Fairburn (@MatthewFairburn) July 31, 2014
For Watkins, Sunday's contest is a way to announce his arrival at the pro level and put on a show for former Bills wideout Andre Reed, who is set to be inducted into the shrine in Canton.
"I definitely want to go out there and put on a great show for him," Watkins said, per John Wawrow of The Associated Press. "And I want to get a win. That would just start the team up and build confidence for everybody."
Defensively, both rosters seem to tout sound depth, but how they react to the short passing game and what is sure to be plenty of carries by a bevy of backs is hard to discern at face value.
Which team wins?
What bettors can discern at face value, though, is that Buffalo has an edge in the offensive depth department, if not outright when one considers how banged up the offense around Manning is already at this stage.
Perhaps from a subconscious standpoint, Tom Coughlin and Co. might even take it a bit easy in order to not encourage further injuries. After all, they still have to battle through the normal four preseason games after Sunday's showdown.
With Sammy Watkins doing damage on short receptions and a number of talented backs wearing down the New York defensive front, feel wise to roll with the Bills in this one.
Prediction: Buffalo 21, New York 14