Two teams that fell way short of expectations during the 2015 NFL season will try to turn things around this year starting with Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. The Indianapolis Colts vs Green Bay Packers matchup is listed as a pick’em at online sportsbooks with the total sitting at 36 points.
The Colts were a major disappointment last season with franchise quarterback Andrew Luck playing just seven games due to an assortment of ailments ranging from a shoulder injury to a lacerated kidney to a partially torn abdominal muscle. Indy ended up finishing 8-8 and missed the postseason for the first time since 2011, the year before Luck was drafted.
Luck still signed a massive six-year contract extension worth $140 million in the offseason with $87 million guaranteed, and head coach Chuck Pagano also inked a deal to remain with the team despite the poor campaign.
Meanwhile, the Packers did make the playoffs for the seventh year in a row but placed second in the NFC North for the first time since they won the Super Bowl following the 2010 season. Green Bay finished behind the Minnesota Vikings, who won 20-13 at Lambeau Field in the regular-season finale to win the division.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers did not have wide receiver Jordy Nelson last season because of a torn ACL, and his top target has already experienced a setback with his knee during the recovery process. The Pack’s offense definitely suffered a year ago without Nelson on the field.
Rodgers is the +425 favorite (bet $100 to win $425) to take home his third NFL MVP award with Luck listed at +1200, tied for the sixth choice with Carson Palmer of the Arizona Cardinals behind Ben Roethlisberger (+750) of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cam Newton (+800) of the Carolina Panthers, Russell Wilson (+800) of the Seattle Seahawks and Tom Brady (+900) of the New England Patriots.
Newton won it last year for the defending NFC champions while Brady is the only other two-time winner besides Rodgers, and he will miss the first four games of the regular season for New England after getting suspended for his role in the Deflategate scandal two years ago.
Regardless, neither Rodgers nor Luck is expected to play long to start the preseason in hopes of avoiding injury. The most important thing in the preseason is to rest starters as much as possible and be ready for Week 1 without any significant setbacks.
The Packers open the regular season by visiting the Jacksonville Jaguars as consensus 4.5-point road favorites at the sportsbooks, the first of two straight road games for them. Green Bay visits Minnesota in Week 2 as the Vikings open the new U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday Night Football.
The Colts also have a tough home matchup with the revamped Detroit Lions sans retired wide receiver Calvin Johnson as five-point chalk in Week 1. Both Green Bay and Indianapolis are favored to win their divisions at -140 and +140, respectively.