Atlanta Falcons Host Bengals In NFL Preseason

By: Michael Robinson | Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Cincinnati Bengals visit the Atlanta Falcons to start Week 2 of the NFL preseason on Thursday night, and just staying healthy could be one of their primary objectives.

This duel from the Georgia Dome will start at 8:00 p.m. (ET) on FOX. The Don Best odds screen has Atlanta as 4½-point favorites with a total of 38, both moving up a point from the opening lines.

Neither team is getting a lot of ‘future odds love’ in their respective conferences. Cincinnati is 23/1 to win the AFC, ranking 12th among the 16 teams. Atlanta is a better 12/1 in the NFC, but that still just ranks tied for eighth.

The Bengals won their preseason opener over the Jets last Friday, 17-6 as 1-point home favorites. However, while they won the battle, they appear to have lost the war with a plethora of injuries that could affect their regular season chances.

Four Cincinnati starters were injured in the opener in guard Travelle Wharton, linebacker Rey Maualuga, defensive end Carlos Dunlap and safety Taylor Mays. Wharton is out for the year with a knee injury, while Dunlap (knee) and Maualuga (knee) are both expected out for Thursday. Mays should play despite being dinged with a concussion.

Quarterback Andy Dalton made the Pro Bowl last year as a rookie. He’ll be looking to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump and was 4-of-9 for 54 yards against the Jets. Dalton should play a bit more than the first quarter from last game and should be followed by the capable Bruce Gradkowski and far less impressive Zac Robinson.

Dalton doesn’t have the strongest of arms and his receiving weapons are suspect outside of wideout A.J. Green and tight end Jermaine Gresham. Brandon Tate and Armon Binns are two underwhelming candidates for the No. 2 receiver role.

Running back is also an issue Thursday. Cedric Peerman had two rushing TDs against the Jets, and he’ll need a similar performance with BenJarvus Green-Ellis (foot) and Bernard Scott (hamstring) both expected out. Cincy could end up missing departed running back Cedric Benson more than initially thought this season.

Atlanta had the opposite result in its opening preseason game, a 31-17 loss to Baltimore as a 1-point home favorite last Thursday. That final is a bit misleading as the Falcons led 17-7 midway through the third quarter before Curtis Painter threw three TDs against the third stringers and lower.

Note that Atlanta has lost 6-straight preseason games (1-5 ATS).

Quarterback Matt Ryan was 9-of-13 for 155 yards in the opener, also having one touchdown and one interception.  He’s going to have more pressure on his shoulders this year with the up-tempo offense under new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.

Ryan and the Falcons already have great weapons with Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez as receiving targets. Small but shifty Jacquizz Rodgers is a good complement to the bruising Michael Turner out of the backfield.

Expect the Atlanta starters to be very good at the outset again on Thursday with Chris Redman, John Parker Wilson and Dominique Davis following Ryan in the quarterback rotation.

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