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Hall of Fame Game: Jets-Browns Preview, Pick

Never mind that franchise quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson won’t sniff the field Thursday night, the annual Hall of Fame game provides starving fans with live football – and a chance to get in a little action for themselves.

The Cleveland Browns are the “home” team for the preseason kickoff event against the New York Jets in Canton, Ohio, with kickoff scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

QUICK PICK The Jets have held steady as 1.5-point favorites, and given the heightened expectations, kicking off the preseason with a victory would provide a little extra spark. The line has held steady at BetMGM, where New York has drawn 53 percent of the spread-line bets and 59 percent of the handle.

The Browns have been the more popular play on the moneyline, drawing 59 percent of the total bets at +105, while the Jets have been backed by 53 percent of the money at -125 after opening at +100.

Out of the primary markets, we’ll take the Jets -1.5 points.

BATTLE OF BACKUP QBs Zach Wilson hasn’t instilled much confidence in Jets fans through his first two NFL seasons, but he will get the starting nod in the preseason opener while Rodgers sits out. Rogers hasn’t taken a preseason snap since 2018, and it’s possible that his first snap for the Jets could come in the Sept. 11 season opener against Buffalo.

Meanwhile, the Browns are going even deeper down their quarterback depth chart with plans to start Kellen Mond, who is battling for a roster spot. Cleveland won’t play starter Deshaun Watson or backup Joshua Dobbs, instead splitting playing time between Mond and fifth-round draft pick Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who is expected to debut in the second half.

Mond was a third-round draft pick in 2021 by Minnesota, where current Browns coach Kevin Stefanski used to be the offensive coordinator. “I think Kellen’s done a great job,” Stefanski said. “There was a period of just getting to know him early in the season last year. So he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. I’ve been very impressed with him both in the meeting room and on the practice field. And the fun part for our players, as you know, is to play these games. So I think Kellen’s excited about the opportunity.”

NAME TAGS, PLEASE With both teams having longer training camps and an extra preseason game, the Jets and Browns are expected to take cautious approaches with their starters. The second half could look more like a USFL all-star game than an NFL contest.

KEY STAT The Browns will make their sixth appearance in the Hall of Fame Game, with former All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas being enshrined into the Hall on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Jets will make their first appearance since 1992 with cornerback Darrelle Revis and defensive lineman Joe Klecko also headed for the Hall.

RULES WATCH This will be the first game with the new rules that places any fair catch off a kickoff or safety at the receiving team’s 25-yard line. NFL owners agreed to a one-year trial of the rule, the same as the one used in college since 2018. Players can still return free kicks in an attempt to get beyond the 25-yard line, but the rule’s goal is to reduce injuries suffered on those plays.

THEY SAID IT “I’m really good when it comes to the cerebral side of football and being able to grasp a playbook, go out there and execute. But this is my first time having to call plays in the huddle, having to get it in a headset and being able to spit it out, and we don’t have the shortest of play calls, so that’s probably the number one thing I’m going to be focusing on for sure. Making sure I can get guys lined up and making sure that everybody’s on the same page.” — Thompson-Robinson on his NFL debut –Field Level Media


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