Odds on fictional prop “To Appear As Featured Team on the 2019 Season of HBO Hard Knocks”

Friday, 15 February 2019 16:32 EST

Let’s face it: Hard Knocks is just not good tv. Even when at its best, namely the coverage of last season’s Cleveland Browns, HBO’s longest-running series (!) is little better than a train wreck watchable only if one completely gives in to one’s worst rubbernecking tendencies.

As NFLbets pointed out when reviewing an early episode of the Browns’ C-level Shakespearean shenanigans, Hard Knocks is yet another series which proves that “reality TV” is an oxymoron. What little football we are actually shown reveals next to nothing about the overall shape of the team going into the following season, but rather provides a shallow deep dive into the chosen personalities of that year’s series, quite a few who turn out to be scrubs anyway.

For NFL bettors, the most crucial bit of knowledge to be gleaned from Hard Knocks is the production’s initial decision, i.e. which team features on the show. Whereas franchises had some element of choice in the decision to allow HBO crews serious access to certain aspects of training camp when the show returned in 2007, this right was taken away for the 2012 season. Since then, the league orders a team to do Hard Knocks based on three criteria:

• A losing record the previous season;

• no turn as featured team on Hard Knocks in the previous 10 seasons; and

• a head coach in his second year or beyond with the club.

Thanks to the introduction of this criteria, betting against the Hard Knocks team has been easy and is only getting easier. The following are the featured teams in the series along with each team’s record for the given season.

2007 Kansas City Chiefs: 4-12.
2008 Dallas Cowboys: 9-7.
2009 Cincinnati Bengals: 10-6, bounced in the wild card game by the New York Jets.
2010 New York Jets: 11-5, lost in conference championship.
2012 Miami Dolphins: 7-9.
2013 Cincinnati Bengals: 11-5, beaten soundly at home in wild card game.
2014 Atlanta Falcons: 6-10.
2015 Houston Texans: 9-7, crushed 30-0 at home in wild card game.
2016 Los Angeles Rams: 4-12.
2017 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 5-11.
2018 Cleveland Browns: 7-8-1.

So there you have it: A composite record of 83-92-1 since the relaunch and 49-62-1 in the past seven seasons, representing average regular-season records of 7-8-1 and 7-9, respectively. Notable, too, is that the only Hard Knocks team ever to win a playoff game were the fluky-ass 2010 New York Jets, and they did so twice.

The advice to the NFL bettor is clear, then: Betting against the Hard Knocks team – certain to be overhyped and over-backed at sportsbooks in over/under win total props, as with each of the last three featured squads – should at least break even, and if they sneak into the playoffs, pile up the Moneys against them.

Sadly, no sportsbook offers the prop “To Appear As the Featured Team on the 2019 Season of HBO Hard Knocks”, so NFLbets just made some odds up. Collect ’em, trade ’em, bet ’em with your friends!

New York Giants +120. Eli Manning, who clearly needs more tv exposure, leads the storylines here as he presumably heads into the sunset and/or faces a challenge for the starting job from a high draft pick QB. Throw in Rookie of the Year Saquon Barkley, some maniacal pass-catching genius named Odell Beckham Jr. for star power and North America’s biggest sports market and this sounds like a winner to us.

Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders +180. In any other year, this would be a no-brainer, with Jon Gruden the head inmate of the asylum – an asylum with a 10-year-old playbook, no less – in the Hue Jackson mold. However, two factors weigh against the Raiders: Gruden ain’t getting fired even if his team goes 0-16 , so there’s always 2020, the team’s inaugural season in Las Vegas; and secondly, Mark Davis et al may not even know where the team’s training camp will be by the team HBO production crew needs to start location planning.

San Francisco 49ers: 5/1. So you’ve got Jimmy Garrapolo trying to live up to his nascent superduperstardom and quite possibly of a prima donna wide receiver, gold to Hard Knocks, on the team in Antonio Brown, but … not a lot more other than a desire to fan faltering fandom in Santa Clara a bit. Any chance of, likesay, reclaiming Colin Kaepernick…?

Detroit Lions: 12/1. As much as we would love to see Matt Patricia instilling Belichick-level loathing in his players while receiving absolutely zero Belichick-level respect, the sad truth is that the Lions for some reason don’t even have the lovable-loser appeal of the Browns. Any one of the above-listed teams will be chosen before Detroit, we’re certain. In fact, the only worse choice (by far) would be…

Washington:100/1. Let’s see here … progressives are taking over Washington, Millennials are a growing faction of NFL fandom (not to mention the HBO audience) and, o yeah, *IT’S THE F*#@*^&ING 21ST CENTURY*. So HBO execs are going to greenlight a series they’ll have to subtitle with a racial slur? Yeah, surrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre.