Thursday, Aug.8, 8 p.m. (ET)
Pointspread: Atlanta -2.5
Total Line: 37
Cincinnati will take its first step towards a third-straight trip to the postseason this Thursday night in its preseason opener. It got there the past two seasons as a wildcard team in the AFC with a 9-7 straight-up record in 2011 followed by a 10-6 SU mark in 2012. This team has its sights set on the AFC North title in 2013 as it truly believes the talent is there to get past both Baltimore and Pittsburgh for the division crown.
Offensively, the duo of quarterback Andy Dalton to wide receiver AJ Green has been the driving force for the past two years, but the addition of Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert through the draft should make the passing game even more potent this season. The real strength of this Bengals’ team is a defense that ended last season ranked sixth overall in the NFL.
The Falcons are another team with big plans this season after making it all the way to the NFC Championship Game last year. They won the NFC South with an overall record of 13-3 and knocked-off Seattle in the Divisional Round before a 28-24 loss to San Francisco as 3.5-point road underdogs cost them a trip to the Super Bowl.
With quarterback Matt Ryan signed to a long-term deal and future ‘Hall of Fame’ tight end Tony Gonzalez back in the fold for one more season, the pieces are definitely in place for another long run this year. Throw in wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones and you have the makings of one of the most prolific passing games in the league. There are some question marks with Atlanta’s defense after it was ranked 24th in the league in total yards allowed last season, but it was ranked fifth in points allowed.
Free NFL Pick
Neither team will play its starters too long in this opener, so the final outcome will come down to which one has the deepest roster. I would have to give the slight edge to Atlanta in that department. Coupled with the fact it is playing at home, the free NFL pick in this matchup is the Falcons minus the 2.5 points.
Atlanta 24 Cincinnati 16
DJ is a freelance writer that concentrates on his true passion in life; the world of sports. He produces a number of articles each week for BangTheBook.com as well as a select group of other websites that specialize in providing the most up-to-date information for the sports gaming industry. His goal is to write insightful articles on a wide variety of sporting topics that can provide an edge to today's sophisticated online player.