Modern-day sport can feel like something of a closed shop for supporters watching on from afar, with those who are idolized out on the field often operating inside a bubble that few are able to penetrate. Fans long to know what their heroes get up to behind the scenes, in their mansions locked away behind 20-foot fences and on training pitches that allow them to let down their hair away from prying eyes.
For the most part, only the briefest of glimpses are offered into this world – whether in a social media post or officially-sanctioned interview – but in the world of NFL, ‘Hard Knocks’ delivers a break from the norm.
Rules regarding team selection mean that serious Super Bowl contenders like the defending champion LA Rams – who are +1000 in sport betting at Betfair to go back-to-back in 2023 – or the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills, who boast plenty of support within betting tips, are never going to take center stage when it comes to fly-on-the-wall documentaries. But with this said, there are intriguing storylines to be found.
What are the criteria for ‘Hard Knocks’ selection?
Any team can volunteer to figure on the popular series but, as it can be considered a little intrusive for coaches and players trying to keep their focus locked on end results, few put their names forward. Many others are ruled out in any given calendar year by certain stipulations that remain in place.
Any team working with a first-year head coach will not be considered for selection, which takes plenty out of the running as a revolving-door policy is embraced. Similarly, any team that has made the playoffs in the last two years will also be overlooked. There will also be no repeats over the course of a ten-season period.
America’s team is back.
— HBO (@HBO) August 3, 2021
In the present, there are nine sides preparing to start afresh in 2022–23 with a new coach at the helm: the Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, Las Vegas Raiders, and Houston Texans. That means these are out of the picture.
There are a further 18 teams that have made the post-season in one or both of the last two years, including the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, and Cleveland Browns. So, that is them gone as well.
Who could figure on ‘Hard Knocks’?
Just five names are left in the hat, but two of those – the Los Angeles Chargers and Atalanta Falcons – must also drop out of the reckoning due to having figured in ‘Hard Knocks’ productions from 2020 and 2014, respectively.
— NFL (@NFL) September 17, 2021
With a list of 32 whittled down to just three, cameras are either going to be heading to Michigan, Charlotte, or the Big Apple, with only the Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers, and New York Jets left in contention.
Said outfits boasted a collective record last season of 12-38-1, but there are notable subplots to be found and some big names to focus on.
It is not always the most glamorous of teams that produce the best television, and supporters around the world will take as much interest in the goings-on at Ford Field or MetLife Stadium as they would Lambeau Field or Gillette Stadium. Whichever team it is, everybody will be straining for a peek behind the most guarded of curtains.