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Hall of Fame Game: honor or headache?

Hall of Fame Game - Dallas Cowboys v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

For fans, the Ravens squaring off against the Chicago Bears in this year’s Hall of Fame Game means the welcomed early return of football, with training camp and the preseason starting sooner for the teams competing in this Thursday’s contest. However, has playing in the Hall of Fame Game lead to successful regular season campaigns or have teams that got a jump on football-related activities suffered? This article examines how Hall of Fame Game franchises have recently fared, beginning with the 2000 season (Note: the Hall of Fame Game was cancelled in 2011 and 2016).

Teams that participated in the Canton kickoff finished with a 263-249 regular season record, for a 51.37 winning percentage. Exactly half of the franchises were able to record winning seasons, but just seven (or 21.88 percent of teams) claimed their divisional crown after playing in the Hall of Fame Game.

Only 37.5 percent of Hall of Fame Game squads went on to appear in the playoffs, and of the 12 teams that made the postseason, six made it past Wild Card Weekend. The St. Louis Rams in 2001 were the lone organization to compete in the Super Bowl in the same year as playing in the Hall of Fame Game.

Between the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals, last year’s match up, neither won their division and both failed to make the playoffs. The Cardinals finished with 23 players on injured reserve in 2017, six players above the league average last year. In 2015, the Pittsburgh Steelers appeared in Canton and ended the season with 20 players on IR, also six more than the NFL mean.

The margin between triumph and defeat can be razor thin in the NFL, with several factors impacting outcomes. The added reps and snaps associated with being selected for the Hall of Fame Game can benefit younger players learning pro playbooks and adjusting to the speed of NFL play. However, the rigors of training camp and extra game action ultimately leave players vulnerable to injuries.

Last year, Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown suffered a hamstring injury in the first quarter of the Hall of Fame Game. Fortunately for Brown, and Dallas, he still appeared in all 16 games in 2017. In 2015, Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham went down with a knee injury. The injury ultimately ended his career and brought attention to the notoriously bad field conditions at Tom Benson Hall Of Fame Stadium, which lead to the cancellation of the 2016 contest.

As with all preseason games, Baltimore will have to hope they leave Canton unscathed and with a better perspective on which 53 players can provide the greatest impact for the Ravens in 2018. Otherwise, the Hall of Fame Game could prove to be more horrific than honorable.