Pre-season week 2 NFL Picks– Friday games
Atlanta Falcons @ NY Jets -1.5
The Jets play their first home game of the season tonight, up against a rejuvenated Atlanta side, who won their first pre-season game last week, at home verses Tennessee.
Todd Bowles side were soundly beaten 23-3 in Detroit, and of tonight’s fixture said “I expect to see us a little more polished than we were in week 1, a little more calm hopefully”. He also stated that the tackling “had better change”, and the team must get better week by week.
Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the week 1 starter, but still needs pre-season reps to start gelling with his receivers, but played just one series last week.
I expect to see him play more, perhaps a quarter, and then the back-ups will take the field, including rookie Bryce Petty and new free agent pickup Matt Flynn.
Flynn was released by the Patriots in early August, and arrived with his new team last Friday. He should be good enough to see off Petty as QB2, and you have to wonder after his latest injury, will we ever see Geno Smith return as the starter in New York?
Offensive lineman D’Brickashaw Ferguson has been less impressive in recent seasons, and could be helped by former Seattle guard James Carpenter. Ferguson has been stuck playing with average guards since Alan Faneca’s departure, and Carpenter looked good vs the Lions, which may spark Ferguson back into life.
The Jets starting secondary is a big concern going into the season, as they have made some high profile additions, but were torched by Matt Stafford and the Lions receivers last week. The communication was bad, so it will be interesting to watch the improvements of Darrelle Revis and Antonia Cromartie when they come up against Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White.
First round draft pick Leonard Williams will be one to watch tonight, after featuring in 13 snaps last week in Detroit. He was credited for a QB hurry on Pro Football Focus, but scored a -1 overall. Muhammad Wilkerson has been ruled out with a hamstring injury, so Williams is expected to start at defensive end with Stephen Bowen.
Atlanta’s starters are set to feature in more than the 10 snaps played vs Tennessee in week 1 of the pre-season. Head coach Dan Quinn said “Everyone will play a little longer, especially members who are competing to be on the first unit. Whether it’s longer or shorter will be based on their position”.
Quinn is also looking for an improvement in the rushing attack, which managed just 69 yards on 30 attempts against the Titans. He is looking for good combination blocks from the offensive line, and for the ball carrier to “hit one gap at a time and make their cuts”. Michael Ford had the majority of the carries last week, and the top two RB’s on the depth chart, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, are both expected to sit. I expect a combination of Ford, Antone Smith and Jerome Smith in tonight’s match-up.
Tackling is a priority vs the Jets, and Bowles said “Defensively, I want to keep emphasizing our tackling and our mindfulness to go after the ball”.
The Falcons have spent a major portion of practice working on their red zone offence, so I expect them to be effective in this area of the field if they get inside the 20, regardless of which unit is on the field.
I am high on Atlanta this season, and now with the injury concerns in Carolina, are favourites to win their division. They are underdogs today, and probably rightly so. However, I always like to back the better team, especially if they are getting points (or a point!) so I will take the Falcons for a small ‘pre-season’ style bet.
I have no feeling either way in this one, but if the Kansas City starters do play a full half, they should get past the traveling Seahawks, who are set to dedicate far less time to their first string, and give the youngsters some more time on the field. The Chiefs are a three-point favourite, just for playing at home, so I am not sure I could take them against the spread in this one.