It’s that time of year when speculation can begin on which team HBO will choose for this season of Hard Knocks. Any team can volunteer, but certain teams can be forced to participate based on their recent performance. Here’s a quick rundown of what is required of the teams that can be forced:
- Have not been on Hard Knocks in the last 10 years.
- No playoff appearances in the last two years.
- A returning head coach.
The five teams that meet that criteria this year are the 49ers, Giants, Lions, Raiders and Redskins. Here are the odds for each:
Which team will be featured on Hard Knocks for the 2019 season?
Related: NFL Betting Guide
Let’s make the case for and against each team and decide which one gives us the best odds.
Oakland/Las Vegas/Santa Clara/London/Other Raiders
For: The Raiders don’t have a home stadium in 2019. They’re in line to move to Las Vegas, but not until 2020. They could try to make another year in Oakland work. They could try playing in UNLV’s stadium. They could share the 49ers’ stadium. They’re reportedly exploring London. The drama around this decision would make for some interesting TV.
There’s also Jon Gruden, who spent 10 years as a media personality before returning to the Raiders. Seeing him on TV again would be a big selling point.
Against: Some might want to see what’s going on with the Raiders in the “can’t look away” sense. Others could view this as too much of a mess to watch. But that is a small concern. The Raiders are favored for a reason. They have the most compelling storylines among the five options.
New York Giants
For: The Giants have the sixth overall pick and, though there isn’t an obvious option, they could draft Eli Manning’s replacement. The battle between Manning and the new guy would be an interesting centerpiece to New York’s training camp.
They also have one of the league’s biggest personalities (Odell Beckham Jr.) and one of its best young stars (Saquon Barkley). Being one of the New York teams also doesn’t hurt.
Against: Pat Shurmur is arguably the least interesting head coach on this list. He has three seasons as a full-time head coach and has never won more than five games. He’s not known for having a big personality like some of the other coaches on the list. The head coach is always one of the stars of the show and Shurmur isn’t exactly Rex Ryan.
For: Matt Patricia is an interesting subject. He has connections to Bill Belichick, the coach for whom fans have the most curiosity. He also told a reporter to sit up straight at a press conference. That sounds like a potentially entertaining Hard Knocks coach.
Against: Detroit’s roster is free of superstars. After Matthew Stafford, they have Ezekiel Ansah, Kerryon Johnson and Kenny Golladay. They’re all fine players, but they don’t have the star power of the Giants’ roster. Ansah might not even be with the Lions since he played on the franchise tag this year. A Detroit Lions Hard Knocks would have to be carried by Patricia and Stafford. They may have interesting free agents, draft picks, and players fighting to make the end of the roster, but that’s true of every other team on this list as well.
For: Alex Smith’s recovery is already garnering interest. It will be fun to root for him getting back to full strength, or at least intriguing to see the recovery process.
The running back situation will be interesting, especially if Adrian Peterson returns. Seeing how Peterson interacts with Derrius Guice leading up to his regular season debut would be fun to watch.
A Redskins Hard Knocks would no doubt feature Reuben Foster, whose domestic violence charges were just dropped. That’s another story many viewers would find relevant.
Finally, the Redskins had the best record of any of the Hard Knocks finalists. That’s despite a mountain of injuries that derailed their season. The Redskins could be the choice for those who want to see a good team instead of a rebuilding one.
Against: For those who have little interest in off-the-field stories, the Redskins probably aren’t for you. There’s Dan Snyder, Reuben Foster, Doug Williams’ comments about Foster, the team name controversy and the rumored courting of Colin Kaepernick, to name a few. Their Washington, D.C. location could also lead to segments not related to football. It’s fair to wonder if the NFL would cross the Redskins off of their list to avoid bringing extra attention to such issues.
Because of their 7-9 record, the Redskins have the lowest draft pick among Hard Knocks participants. They’re less likely to have one of college football’s household names on their roster.
San Francisco 49ers
For: The 49ers have the highest draft pick among Hard Knocks finalists (second overall). They may try to trade it since they already have their quarterback, but as of now we can expect them to have one of the best players in the draft.
Despite their record, the 49ers might be a decent team. They were destroyed by injuries, most notably Jimmy Garoppolo’s torn ACL in Week 3. They lost Jerick McKinnon in the preseason and Matt Breida was hurt all season. They were a popular choice to win the NFC West or be a Wild Card this year and they may be again if everyone returns.
One topic already being discussed is the 49ers signing Earl Thomas, which would reunite him with Richard Sherman. Sherman alone could be reason enough to tune in, but adding Thomas would be especially noteworthy. Even if the 49ers don’t add Thomas, they have a ton of cap space. They’re well-positioned to add a top free agent.
Finally, let’s revisit a topic from the Raiders section. What if the Raiders do end up sharing Levi’s Stadium with the 49ers? That would be yet another interesting segment worth watching.
Against: Those looking for a bombastic coach won’t find him in Kyle Shanahan. While Shanahan is thoughtful and direct, he likely won’t have the type of high energy or quirks that viewers have come to love from certain coaches.
San Francisco 49ers (+1000). Strange that the 49ers have the longest odds considering they have nearly the same level of intrigue as the Raiders. The NFL will probably choose the Raiders thanks to Gruden and the team’s move, but the 49ers are the best bet by far.
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