Two of the Super Bowl favorites for the 2013 season are set to face off in Week Two of the preseason. The Baltimore Ravens will host the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night.
The clubs are led by two of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL, both of whom are coming off of big paydays. This offseason, Joe Flacco signed a $120.6 million contract to stay with the Ravens, while Ryan agreed to a $103.75 million extension a few months later. Both are also coming off breakout seasons. Flacco led Baltimore to a Super Bowl victory. Ryan threw for a career-high 4,719 yards and 32 touchdowns, leading Atlanta to the NFC Championship Game.
Both signal callers should get much more time on the field in exhibition game No.2. Last week, Flacco completed seven-of-nine pass attempts, but threw an interception against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ryan completed six of nine passes for 89 yards and didn’t turn the ball over.
Flacco will look to connect with his top receivers, who didn’t make many plays in their preseason debut. Torrey Smith, Tandon Doss, Jacoby Jones and Deonte Thompson had just three total catches and will look to improve on that against the Falcons. Baltimore is looking for production to replace Anquan Boldin, who was traded to the San Francisco 49ers.
The Falcons receiving corps is the least of their worries. With Julio Jones and Roddy White on either side of Ryan, the tandem may be the best in the league. More importantly for Atlanta, Stephen Jackson should receive his first significant action with the club. He picked up only eight yards on five carries in the preseason opener.
It was only one exhibition game, but the Ravens didn’t seem to be negatively affected by losing key members of their defense. Without the retired Ray Lewis or veteran Ed Reed, Baltimore allowed 16 points against the Bucs, causing four turnovers in the process.
For the Falcons, their defense may be the greatest obstacle in making a run to the Super Bowl. Atlanta’s defense wasn’t impressive in 2012, and the trend continued in last week’s contest against the Cincinnati Bengals. They gave up 34 points, including a 71-yard punt return for a touchdown. Osi Umenyiora will get his first extended action with the club. This season, he’ll look to replace John Abraham and his 10 sacks from a year ago.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET. The contest can be seen locally in Baltimore on NBC and in Atlanta on CBS. Viewers outside of those markets can watch a live stream online with a subscription for NFL Preseason Live.
Betting Odds: Baltimore-4.5, 41.5
Prediction: Baltimore 30, Atlanta 20