The NFL is officially back! Well, sort of. The NFL preseason doesn’t really compare to the regular season in terms of talent and excitement, but for desperate football fans that have gone over five months since the Super Bowl, it helps to scratch the itch.
On Saturday, the 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame class will be honored in an enshrinement ceremony. The weekend’s festivities kick off on Thursday when the Denver Broncos meet the Atlanta Falcons in the first game of the 2019 NFL preseason.
Date: Thursday, August 1
Time: 8:00 pm ET
Location: Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, Canton, Ohio
National TV: NBC
Streaming Apps: NBC Sports App, NFL App
Spread: Denver -2.5
Total: Over/Under 34.5 Points
Denver Broncos Notes
The Denver Broncos went 6-2 straight up and 5-2-1 against the spread in eight preseason games over the last two seasons under former head coach Vance Joseph. Unfortunately for the Broncos, that success didn’t translate into the regular season as the team went 5-11 in 2017 and 6-10 last season. Joseph was fired this offseason and replaced by former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
According to the Denver Post, Vic Fangio hopes to use this game to challenge his players. He plans to put his rookies into difficult situations like single coverage on defense to see how they handle it.
“As we stand here today, it’s not that important,” Fangio responded when asked if getting the win was important. “We want to win, but we know there are bigger fish to fry in the game, meaning we need to get evaluations of these guys to help us pick the best 53 for the team.”
One of these evaluations will come at quarterback, where Kevin Hogan will start and rookies Drew Lock and Brett Rypien will follow. Hogan and Lock will be battling for the backup spot behind starter Joe Flacco while Rypien is hoping to play his way onto a team as an undrafted rookie.
Atlanta Falcons Notes
Vic Fangio won’t be the only coach in Thursday night’s preseason game that isn’t worried about winning. Under Head Coach Dan Quinn, the Atlanta Falcons are 1-9 straight up and 0-10 against the spread in their last 10 preseason games. That stretch includes a current run of 0-8 SU and ATS over the previous two seasons.
The Falcons had a disappointing 7-9 finish in 2018 despite another strong season from Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. Atlanta was hit hard by injuries last season with seven different starters hitting the injured list throughout the year; the team’s main goal this preseason will be to enter the regular season with as many healthy bodies as possible.
Olamide Zaccheaus has been turning heads at training camp as an undrafted rookie out of Virginia that the Falcons picked up as a free agent. The 22-year-old could have a chance to shine with his former Virginia Cavaliers quarterback Kurt Benkert also on the team as an undrafted free agent.
Needless to say, predicting preseason games is far from an exact science. It is even more of a crapshoot when it is the first game of the season. These games tend to be low-scoring affairs as seven of the last eight Pro Football Hall of Fame Games have seen the two teams combine for 40 points or less.
Expect another low-scoring affair in this one. Atlanta has scored seven points or less in four of its last five preseason games. Even if Fangio is challenging his players with tricky schemes in Denver’s preseason opener, defense will be a clear point of emphasis in his regime as head coach.
This probably won’t be the game that the Falcons break out of their preseason slump in.
Prediction: Denver 17, Atlanta 7